Sidekick ID Hands On

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The Sidekick ID: Don’t Call It a Comeback

The Sidekick line is an odd animal. It’s not smartphone nor is it a fashion phone, but it seems to straddle the line between the two so precariously that it becomes everything to everyone. I’ve used the SK3 since it came out and found it to be the best messaging phone I’ve ever used, bar none. Symbian, WinMo and Linux have nothing on Danger’s dead-simple OS and services and form factor.

The SK3 is big, ugly, and immensely practical, yet it is popular with almost every demographic. It’s the young-people’s Blackberry and the older person’s dumbed-down email phone. What, then, is the Sidekick ID. This streamlined messaging phone does almost everything the SK3 can do, with a few glaring exceptions, and is aimed squarely at the folks who can’t afford — or don’t want — an SK3. I’m certain this audience exists, but do they want the SK ID?


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T-Mobile sent me the SK ID and I immediately cracked open the SK3 for a quick comparison. As expected, the SK ID has no camera or Bluetooth. Fair enough. The device is about as big as the SK3 with a smaller screen and it is considerably lighter and looks — but doesn’t feel — like a plastic toy, especially with the bumpers installed. These bumpers will eventually come in multiple colors and styles, making them more of an accessory than a structural element. Look for a video of the various bumpers later today.

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In the box.

The SK ID costs $99 with a 2-year contract and comes gray covers and bumpers. Its removable plates cost about $20 per set and will be available online and from retailers when the phone hits the streets on April 25. As soon as I opened the box I was drawn to swap out the gray plates with a set of blue plates. While I originally doubted the value of this feature, it’s clear that everyone will want to do the same thing — that’s part of the SK ID’s charm. Like the beepers and Nokias of old, this thing is begging to be stuffed into a fancy case or clad in clear plastic.

The buttons are quite interesting. The SK ID still has a directional pad/earpiece on the left side of the phone and a small squirrel wheel. All of the other buttons are completely covered in flexible plastic. The screen is about 2.5-inches wide, much smaller than the SK3’s, and quite dim. The default theme, a blue style with the ubiquitous SK guy and girl, looks almost washed out. It’s clear that Sharp, Danger, and T-Mo took some liberties with the individual pieces of hardware that make up this phone to get the price below $99. This does not mean that it is cheap or flimsy — quite the opposite. This SK ID actually feels sturdier — and has a better hinge — than the SK3.

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SUP LOL STFU

The keyboard is almost the same, with a bit more space between keys and a clearer font. The call and hang-up buttons are a bit close to each other, but otherwise the entire phone is solid.

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If you have an SK3, you won’t want the SK ID. It’s not for you. At $99, this phone is priced for the same folks who might get a RAZR, but instead pick up a hot little messaging phone. The UI is exactly the same as the SK3’s. The only real difference is there is no camera or MP3 playback options. Instead, Danger has added a photo album feature that lets you move emailed photos to your album. It is also MyFaves compatible. There is also no memory-card slot nor is there a USB port. Big whoop, right? Trust me. I didn’t miss it.

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Baby, Momma

N.B. I’ve been trying all morning to get SK service to pop up on the phone, to no avail (it takes 2-48 hours apparently), but it works with the standard Danger Web interface. Most of the features are off-loaded onto the network, so the SK ID holds almost no contacts or account information and instead downloads the lot from Danger’s servers.

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Overall, I’m not disappointed by the SK ID, but I’m not amazed. It fits into a place between “standard” phones like the Motorola RIZR with limited messaging features and the high-end gear offered by T-Mobile and the rest of the carriers. Nothing, not even the Dash, is as easy to use out of the box as Danger’s OS. If you don’t expect to use Bluetooth or a camera — which I suspect knocks folks over driving age out of the running — then the SK ID is a great device. The ideal audience, then, is someone in junior high, and I have no trouble seeing the value of this phone with such a young and fickle audience. Older folks, stay away. There will be phones for you soon, or, if you want messaging without hassles, just get an SK3. If the SK ID is your style, I can recommend it without reservation.

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