Hand-dialling voice calls isn't the point of the Sidekick II, though. You'll be using the built-in address book to speed-dial your contacts. Other built-in software includes a Web browser, AOL Instant Messenger, email (you get an email address with your Sidekick II contract), SMS and MMS managers, a calendar, to-do list, notes software, camera manager and an asteroids game called Rock and Rocket.
The Sidekick II supports Java, and so you can work on filling the 16MB of storage that is built-in to the device with downloads and your data. You can't expand on the storage though, as there is no room for memory cards. Also note the absence of any kind of music player. Don't bother to think about downloading one, because the Sidekick II only outputs mono sound (a mono earbud is supplied with it).
As part of your ownership of the Sidekick II you get some Web space. This provides secure backup of data stored on the Sidekick II and backups happen automatically. Email sent to and from the Sidekick II, calendar entries, to-do items, and notes and photos taken with the camera are all sent automatically to this Web space, which is password-protected.
This is a useful feature, because if you enter a new contact's information into the Sidekick II it almost immediately becomes available at your Web site and you can get at it from anywhere with Web access.
But there is a downside. If you want to share diary and contact information between your handset and PC, look for another device, because it's painful with the Sidekick II. To get your contacts from PC to Sidekick II, for example, you have to export them as a 'tab delimited' data file -- this is a standard format that your software should support -- then use the import feature at your Web space to get the data in. It synchronises with the Sidekick II automatically.
It's pretty straightforward, and as a one-off is acceptable. But if you want to keep copies of your ever-changing diary and contact book in sync on your desktop and mobile device, you'll find this convoluted procedure tiresome.
There's a good range of fairly funky tunes and beeps for use as message and call alerts, as well as a spoken 'new message', which we found irritating after just half a dozen times. A selection of light patterns flash across the large navigation pad that sits on the left edge of the device as part of the alert system, and if you are in a quiet mood you can choose just the light patterns on their own.
The camera has a maximum resolution of 640x480 pixels for images (plus 160x120 and 320x240), as well as no ability to capture video and no zoom. There is an LED flash, though. We found image quality in darker conditions poor, but acceptable in both natural daylight and well lit indoor situations.
As a voice call handset, the Sidekick II is a mixed bag. Neither us nor the people we phoned experienced any problems with call quality, but holding the Sidekick II to our ears felt very un-phone-like.
For SMS and mobile email, however, the Sidekick II is an excellent device. Its relatively large screen is great for scrolling through messages, and the keyboard is pretty good for typing on -- fast and relatively easy to use.
Battery life could prove something of a let-down in the real world. With just 2.5 days of standby time quoted by T-Mobile and 4.5 hours of talk, you'll have to stay near mains power at all times.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide