The Sidekick may have achieved infamy as Paris Hilton's hacked phone, but despite T-Mobile constantly telling us about how popular it is in the US, it's never really caught on over here. Now T-Mobile is trying again with the Sidekick Slide, which is slimmer and smarter than the previous device and now manufactured by Motorola instead of Sharp.
The phone is free on T-Mobile's Flext 30 and Web'n'walk tariff.
The Sidekick is a sort of BlackBerry for idle youth. It lets you send and receive email, use instant messaging, browse the Web, listen to music and play games. The software the device runs on is designed by a company called Danger and unlike a normal mobile, the contents of its memory is constantly synced with a central server over the mobile phone network. If you lose your device you won't lose all your contacts, pictures and other files.
Previous Sidekicks were manufactured by Sharp, but the Slide is made by Motorola and the company has certainly done a good job of the reworked design. The handset is around 25 per cent smaller than the previous model and a good deal slimmer too.
When you slide up the phone's screen, a small Qwerty keypad is revealed and this makes it a breeze to compose emails or text messages and to enter Web site addresses. For navigating the menus, you can either use the conventional directional pad on the left hand side of the handset, or the mini trackball on the right, which is similar to the ball used on the BlackBerry Pearl.
The main menu is a sort of carousel that you rotate to get to the feature you want to use. It's pretty easy to understand and is presented with colourful and cute graphics, although when you enter some of the menus, things aren't as immediately obvious as they could be.
As well as picking up email from a T-Mobile account tied to the device, it can also be set up to fetch mail from three different email accounts, so you really can use it to manage all your email traffic. You can also read email attachments in common formats like Word and PDF.
As well as email, the handset also has instant messaging built-in. Naturally there's a camera too, an organiser and a good music player. You also get a games menu with one relatively simple game pre-loaded. However, new games and applications can be bought and downloaded directly on the device via the Sneak Peak menu.
The Slide's call quality was excellent and it also had very good reception. The battery life isn't bad either for this type of device. You'll get around 6 hours 30 minutes of talk time out of it, although if you really use the Web browser or music player, this will obviously be reduced significantly.
The Slide may be considerably smaller and slimmer than previous Sidekicks, but we certainly wouldn't describe it as a small handset. It's actually larger than many PDAs, so it's going to be a tight squeeze to fit it in the pocket of your skinny jeans.
Perhaps surprisingly for a device that relies so much on its connection back to the central server, the Slide is not a 3G phone. Instead it uses slower GPRS or Edge connections. The slower connection speed is especially noticeable when using the browser, as image heavy pages seem to take an age to load. The Danger server software reformats pages to fit the device's screen, but while sometimes it does a good job, on other occasions the formatting gets messed up, leaving you with lots of scrolling to do to find information you want to view. Also the browser doesn't support Flash content so you can't view YouTube clips, for example.
The phone's camera has a fairly low 1.3-megapixel resolution, so the snaps it takes aren't great quality. It also lacks a micro mirror for taking self portraits and there's no flash for shooting in darker conditions. Rather bizarrely, it can't shoot video either.
To make the most of the music player and give yourself more breathing space on the storage front, you'll have to invest in a microSD memory card. However, files stored on the memory card aren't automatically backed up to the server -- only the files stored in the onboard memory are.
There are plenty of great things about the Sidekick Slide, available for free on T-Mobile's Flext 30 and Web'n'walk tariff. We love the push email and instant messaging features, as well as the automatic data back-up. However, the lack of 3G or Wi-Fi support and its rather bulky dimensions means it feels rather dated and is not quite as desirable as it could be.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Jon Squire