The T-Mobile Sidekick III falls short

It took a mediocre two weeks to realize that the T-Mobile Danger Sidekick / Hiptop III brings very little to the table in comparison to its predecessor – the Sidekick II. Generally speaking, new releases posses features and conveniences lacking from previous incarnations. Although the Sidekick III brings the added convenience of a [paltry] 1.3 MP camera, Javascript browser support, MP3 player, MSN Messenger, and a more compact housing footprint, there is little else to gloat about.

User interface shortcomings

sidekick buried menu items

The Sidekick / Hiptop III utilizes a single trackball for navigating menu items, links, or settings. The addition of the trackball alleviates the inconvenience of vertical / horizontal only navigation by adding the option to jump to items in a diagonal fashion. A most welcomed feature had Danger not decided to make use of the addition by burying applications into sub menus.

Habitual users moving from the previous Sidekick II will – as I was – feel somewhat disoriented now that popular applications are buried into sub menus [requiring a little more thumb action]. As far as productivity is concerned, Jump Shortcuts are the only way to access your favorite features without having to explore the interface for programs.

Browsing at a snails pace

sidekick browser and javascript

Unsure of what I may have been thinking what with my excitement over the press announcements of the Sidekick III, I’ve come to the realization that the browser is just as slow as the previous version. Maybe even slower now that the device supports Javascript. Loading, the device chokes on the single Mint script, leaving me with no other option but to wait for the device to recover from locking up after loading the front page.

Why the device lacks EDGE support [in the Greater Seattle area] is beyond me. Knowing that the previous release was plagued with slow load times, T-Mobile & Danger should have attributed the GPRS internet connection as the root of the slowness issue. EDGE claims to have improved on loading times yet I have seen little change in the performance of the browser. Due to the speed alone, I rarely, if ever, load the browser for anything outside of directory assistance or directions.

IMAP? More like INOT going to work correctly

sidekick mail settings

In an attempt to stay actively in touch, the greatest use of this device is the included POP/IMAP mail client. There are a handful of shortcomings which I was hoping the SKIII would improve upon with this latest release. Sadly, the mail client has very much remained unchanged from the previous release:

  • No support for your own outgoing mail server. Every message is handled through Danger servers. This means that you will not have any local copies of messages sent from the device using – what you assumed to be – your own mail server. The only workaround is to CC messages to your personal account for archiving. This applies to both POP & IMAP.
  • The idea behind IMAP is that a user can access messages on a central server from a mobile device ala SKIII while retaining the message state (message marked as read from the mobile device will be shown as read from a desktop client). Despite toying with the available options within the SKIII for IMAP/IMAP SSL, the mail client failed to aknowledge or reflect unread / read messages. Again, with no support for you own outgoing mail servers, you can forget about retrieving sent messages unless the CC trick is used.

AIM – No way to hide

sidekick instant messaging

One of the strongest features which helps this device sell is the integrated IM functionality. With support for AIM, MSN, and Yahoo, most thumb tap happy messaging users will undoubtedly fall in love with the device. Unlike the MSN application which allows active users to hide their online presence by opting to be shown as offline, the AIM client offers no such functionality. Being the most popular messaging service, you can imagine the inconvenience of being online 24/7. Of course, there is the option of signing off, but how would contacts leave messages?

Why didn’t Danger implement the ability to set status to “Away” while allowing users to continue communicating with select users. If contacts do leave messages, the only option available to check messages is to remove the away message.

The trick: Set your away message and rotate the display partially to expose the reset button. Reset the device with a paperclip. Once the device boots back up, your status will display whatever away message you set prior to reseting the device while allowing you to communicate freely without the away message box restricting functionality.

Missing sync – You can say that again

Anyone interested in syncing their Sidekick III with local productivity solutions can nix expectations from the “I hope I can” list. The Sidekick / Hiptop III is very much as closed as its version II sibling was. The included USB cable does little else aside from mounting your device as a Flash drive from which to transfer images and music from the device. Check out my previous post on what to expect with the Sidekick III & OS X. The only solution to managing your day with the SKIII is by utilizing the desktop web interface or a 3rd party application developer.

Would I recommend the Sidekick / Hiptop III?

The Sidekick III is anything but professional. As a whole, the Sidekick / Hiptop III is a solid casual messaging device. With email, instant messaging, and text messaging, there are no excuses for staying out of the loop with friends & family. My hope is that future revisions of this device will accommodate the needs of users in search of a little more control over their communication options. Text message threading, personal outgoing email server configuration, a developer API without having to jump through network loopholes, and alternative AIM status messaging options are a just a few features that I would love to see in the Sidekick 4.

Discuss - 18 Comments

  1. kristin says:

    As a sidekick2 & sidekick3 user I think the submenu’s is a HUGE bonus. If you purchase a lot of games & applications like I do you’ll quickly get sick of scrolling forever to find what you’re looking for on the sidekick2. With everything categorized into groups on the sidekick3 it is actually less thumb usage.

    The browser wasn’t updated at all as far as I can tell. I never used it before and still dont.

    The messengers are lacking other options too, such as basic security preferences. I prefer to disallow people who aren’t on my list to message me, but I have huge problems with aim & yahoo on the phone because of random people messaging me.

    The calendar needs some work. The online interface is handy but there is no way to link it with any ical files, which is a huge drawback.

    Besides these things I’m still in love with hiptop. I’ve been using sidekicks for a little over a year now and will keep using it for now at least for moblogging :).

  2. Derek says:

    What?! I can’t stand the nested menu items. I definitely think there should be a preference that would allow users to toggle the option on & off. I try to minimize purchasing extra apps so the applications menu is somewhat sparse with the nothing else but the Calculator.

    I honestly believe having the todo list and notes app at the top menu level was a lot more convenient than the secondary menu level.

    Krisin, I should have know you would chime in with your raves about the device 😉

  3. kristin says:

    To each her own! LOL

    I do think the menus should be editable. I use the calculator, moneyclip, terminal client, and clevernote on a regular basis.

    I also own almost half of the games that are available. I’m constantly having to “uninstall” and “reinstall” the games since there are a limited amount of blocks available on the device.

    I have a 2 gig card in mine, and can’t use it to store apps or games, only photos and music! It’s terrible.

    PS. I’ll kick yer butt in navy commander any day.

  4. Derek says:

    Those games on the SK are so counterproductive. I seriously used to waste away the majority of the day because half of my attention would be on the game, and the rest would be on the current real world task. More often than not, the game would continue to absorb more and more time.

  5. Anshul says:

    Wish the sidekick was available in Singapore.

  6. Noah says:

    Hmmm… I don’t know where you got the impression that it doesn’t support EDGE. Check out the PhoneScoop review on YouTube, you’ll see a web browser showdown between the II and the 3 and there is no contest about EDGE and loading times. I’ve seen those kinds of speeds, too. Perhaps it’s a coverage issue?

    But yes, the script support does tend to hang the page and it’s probably better to just turn it off in the preferences.

  7. Derek says:

    Thanks for the catch on that error. I meant to include that local network support for EDGE seems to be lacking as pages load as slow as my previous SKII.

    Noah, did you end up picking up one of these things? I remember awhile back you mentioned that you wanted one of these to replace that BB.

  8. Noah says:

    Sorry, wrong Noah… but that’s okay, we *do* look alike as first names. 🙂

  9. Derek says:

    Sorry. When I respond to comments via the SK3 I’m often too lazy to double check URLs. Won’t happen again 😉

  10. ray says:

    I was thinking of switching to T-mobile cuz of the SKIII…but I’m not sure anymore.

    This kinda like what happened to the new canon 30d, not much improvement over the old 20d.

  11. Xero Remains says:

    Is this by any chance the device that you couldn’t talk about because of the NDA?

  12. Derek says:

    No this is not. The Sidekick can’t be anymore of a publicly known device as it is. Danger / T-Mobile definitely do their best to make sure that this product was in high profile hands before release.

  13. karla says:

    All I have to say about the skIII OVER RATED!!! I have a juicy couture as well and all the applications I had on it GONE! The mobile journal, bowling, my favorite billiard game…and if that’s not enough…my ringtones which include songs not available to sidekick 3. I know this for a fact because when I put the sim card back in the II their available…humm…is this improvement…I beg to differ… and lets not talk about the key board or phone material if u drop it once u will be assed-out. Atleast the rubber grips on the II cushioned falls landing sideways but this peace of plastic has 0 protection. Lastly DIto….on the web browser comment it’s slowe and this stupid phone freezes a lot.
    — karla NYC

  14. theopolis says:

    I recommend the mda. it has camcorder, touch screen, faster browser, and the option of receiving email from outside servers.

    I was waiting on the sk3 but it took too long so I bought the mda. when the sk3 finally came I kept it for about 3 wks and took it back.

  15. Ruth Currier says:

    i would like to get a msn messenger for my sidekick3 …

  16. tritone900 says:

    I appreciate the review/comments of the SKIII. I feel the same way – that the device works well for casual emailing, texting, and IMing. I feel that it falls short of it’s full potential. I love the simpliciy/elegance of the OS, and their model of having everything backed up and accessible on a remote server (e.g. as soon as you save something like a note or task on the website, the chage shows up immediately on the device.) However, I agree that the browser is still REALLY slow (especially compared to a device like the Pearl on t-mobile’s EDGE network), their is little (no?) support for OSX now, etc. When you compare the hardware specs (size, weight, screen resolution) to current offerings by other manufacturs, it seems like the SKIII was outdated back when it was released last summer.

    I think the device has so much potentail for other markets – say consultants, small business owners, etc who don’t need or don’t have access to an Exchange server but want a device that syncs to their calendar, does eamil well, etc. Why can’t t-mobile/danger offer different levels of service and charge accordingly? I would gladly pay an extra $10 a month to have more email storage capacity and more device memory. Why not develop a set of apps like a simple word processor that saves as .doc files that you can send as well as open as email attachments? (to be fair the sidesheet program is a nice app and a step in the productivity direction.) And why not create some more themes – some that give the OS a more “professional” appearance? Seems easy enough and people would pay for this.

    I know that the device is marketed towards teens and 20-somethings (and into the 30-something range too I belive), but it wouldn’t take much effort on t-mobile/danger’s part to make this device appeal to more groups. I had have had all of the SK models (I, II, and III) the day the became available. The SKI was pretty revolutionary, and the SKII was a very nice improvement (especially the quality of the hardware), but the SKIII falls short I think. Yes, it does do IM, text, and email pretty well, has some nice games, and has an OK music player and camera, but it could do so much more (and be lighter/thinner) too.

  17. […] is not indicitive of any extreme improvements upon the “II”. In addition, 5thirtyone reports much disappointment with the improvements in the Sidekick 3, making it clear that my gushing review is mostly about […]

  18. oz says:

    so how exactly can i set my away and chat at the same time without interupting my away message?