Reviewed October 18, 2008 by Ton Zhang, Senior Editor
When T-Mobile rolled out its 2008 major software update for the T-Mobile Sidekick devices, we got a taste of it on the Sidekick LX loaded with the new software. But with the release of the new Sidekick 2008, we are having the full course. T-Mobile has simplified the Sidekick line and is currently offering the new Sidekick, the Sidekick LX and the Tony Hawk LE (Limited Edition). The newest hardware is simply called Sidekick and since it has the 2008 software many users and retailers call it Sidekick 2008. Powered by the new software, the Sidekick 2008 can record, play and share video, has an upgraded 2 megapixel camera, offers Spanish UI for the first time and cuts the body size to a smaller and slimmer form. To add more appeal to the youth market, the new Sidekick comes with three inter-changeable covers and you can go online to choose and design your own shells.
The T-Mobile Sidekick 2008 (Sharp PV210) is a GSM quad-band phone that works on T-Mobile network in the US exclusively. The full QWERTY device has the signature swivel design, back-end support for messaging, integrated Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP Bluetooth stereo audio support, microSD card slot with a 512MB starter card included, 2.6-inch WQVGA display and an enhanced web browser for surfing.
The biggest hardware change on the new Sidekick is the size. Measuring 4.72 x 2.26 x 0.71 inches, the phone is noticeably smaller and slimmer. The size change effects several other hardware aspects of the phone: the battery got smaller, the camera flash is gone and the screen size is smaller. The full QWERTY keyboard is smaller as well, but is still very useable. For folks with smaller hands, the new keyboard might even feel better. The button layout is unchanged but the buttons are smaller than those on the Sidekick LX. The Sidekick 2008 has the same swivel display design, but the screen size is now 2.6”, down from the 3” on the LX. This isn’t as bad as it sounds because the screen resolution remains the same, and this means you will see same amount of content on the screen, just in smaller fonts or size, and it might even seem sharper. Besides the front buttons and controls, you get the same top shoulder buttons, charging port, 3.5mm audio jack, volume buttons and the power on/off button. The camera lives on the back without a flash, and the battery, the SIM card and the microSD slot live under the battery door. You don’t need to take out the battery to access the microSD card slot as you do with SIM card.
One of the most attractive design changes on the new Sidekick is the flexibility on the phone’s cover design which should appeal to young mobile phone users and fashion conscious users alike. No longer just navy blue, the new Sidekick packages gives you an extra shell and T-Mobile offers hundreds of custom-designed shells categorized in Fashion, Sports, Urban, Seasonal and much more. On top of these featured designs, you can actually come up with your own designs and make them into shells for your Sidekick. Like that photo you took on a trip? Put that on the cover of your phone! With these options, the choices are limitless. To choose a design or make your own, visit www.sidekickshells.com.
Phone and Messaging
Compared to the Sidekick LX with the 2008 software update, the new Sidekick offers little change in phone and messaging features. Like the LX, the Sidekick 2008 gets decent but not super strong RF. In well-covered areas, the Sidekick gets full signal strength and in fair coverage areas, the phone gets about half of the full bars. The Sidekick has good voice quality on both incoming and outgoing ends and it did not drop a call on T-Mobile in our tests. The phone supports common call management features such as caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding and 9 speed dials. The phonebook can store a maximum of 2000 entries. Like most of today’s T-Mobile phones, the Sidekick supports myFaves feature.
The Sidekick has a full duplex speakerphone that’s better than the one on the LX. It has very good in-call voice quality, making the Sidekick a decent conference call/group call phone. Like the LX, the new Sidekick has Bluetooth v2.0 and it supports both mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets. We tested the Sidekick with several Bluetooth mono headsets including the Jawbone 2 and the Jabra BT530. The Sidekick LX didn’t get along with the Jawbone 2 at all, but the new Sidekick 2008 got along with the headset just fine. The voice quality on both incoming and outgoing ends was quite clear and volume was loud. The DSP worked fine on road noise but failed on wind noise, and the range between the Sidekick and the Jawbone 2 was about 10 feet. The voice quality was also good using the Jabra BT530 Bluetooth headset. The outgoing voice was a bit better than the incoming voice in terms of clarity, but both were good and loud. The DSP was very effective through the Jabra with both road noise and wind noise and the range was about 10 feet also.
The new Sidekick offers the same strong messaging options including email with AOL, Yahoo! Mail and POP3/IMAP email clients onboard; and Instant Messaging with AIM, ICQ, Yahoo! And Windows Live Messenger. You can send SMS and multimedia messages in audio, photo, graphics and video (up to 2MB clips) formats.
Fun On the Go
With more and more feature phones and BlackBerry devices adding strong multimedia options, the Sidekick covers the basics. While it lacks that something special (like TV or on-demand video features), it does give you good music features that include a built-in media player that can play WAV, MP3, AAC and WMA with no DRM protection. We tested songs ripped from CDs in both iTunes and Windows Media Player formats, and they played fine on the Sidekick. Music playback through the phone’s speaker is decent. If you want better sound quality, the Sidekick comes with a 3.5mm wired stereo headset that has good audio quality and loud volume. Stereo Bluetooth headsets sound even better. We tested the Sidekick with the Samsung SBH-500, and found the sound was full with strong bass and the volume was high. The built-in Media Player can also play video clips in 3GP and MP4 (simple profile) formats. You can store music and videos on the built-in microSD card and the card slot supports SDHC. We tested 4GB and 8GB cards with the Sidekick, and all worked fine.
For Sidekick users who regularly use their phone’s camera, they should be happy to know that the new Sidekick 2008 ups the camera ante from 1.3 to 2 megapixels. One might not get excited about a 2 megapixel camera phone when the higher end feature phone market offers several 3 megapixel camera phones. But the Sidekick’s 2 megapixel camera takes very decent photos. The photos have good exposure, good color saturation and proper color balance. Even indoor shots look quite good for a camera phone in this class. While the photo quality is very good, the Sidekick’s camera software lacks the options that are the commonplace on today’s feature phones. There are four resolution options: 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 1024, 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 pixels, and you can choose where to save the photos (internal or the card). That’s it for camera options; no white balance, no effects, no additional shooting modes. Like the LX, the new Sidekick can record video with audio at 176 x 144 resolution up to 20 seconds in length. The video recording options are also limited compared to most feature phones on the market, but Sidekick users are happy just to have the ability to capture and send video clips as this is still a relatively a new feature on the Sidekick.
Gaming has become the new big thing for the Sidekick users. Like the LX, the Sidekick 2008 comes with adventure game Bob’s Journey Lake of Doom and you can download from a large library of current game titles over the air. Games usually cost between $3.50 and $7. The Sidekick’s thumstick and the d-pad are a perfect set up for gaming and the large screen is a big advantage for those gaming.
Web and Organizer
No terribly new changes on the organizer front: besides the phone book, you also get a calendar, Notes (up to 50 notes) and To-Do List (up to 50 tasks). But unlike the LX with the June update, our Sidekick 2008 didn’t come with an alarm clock. You can however purchase the software over the air for $2.99.
With the slimmer and smaller body, you get a smaller battery. The new Sidekick comes with a 1030 mAh Lithium-Ion battery instead of the 1540 mAh battery on the LX. The claimed talk time is down to 5 hours but the claimed standby time is up to 9 days. In our tests, the talk time was about 4.5 hours and standby was about 7 days.
Worth the Upgrade?
With an increasing number of celebrities seen with BlackBerry phones, the Sidekick camp needs to do something to jazz up the device and update the software. The new Sidekick aims to do just that. With the ability to create a new look for your phone any time you wish on a smaller and slimmer body, the Sidekick becomes attractive again to young mobile users who consistently look for way to express themselves. The 2008 software update added some features that many Sidekick users coveted for years. With that said, the Sidekick has strong competitions from QWERTY feature phones in addition to BlackBerry and other smartphones with full QWERTY keyboards. If you are a Sidekick loyalist and have any older device, the new Sidekick is definitely worth a look. If you have a Sidekick LX and don’t mind the bigger body, the 2008 software update will bring your device the current features.
Pro: Smaller size and inter-changeable covers are good moves to attract users. Large screen is nice for gaming and viewing photos and watching videos. The QWERTY keyboard works well with the messaging features. The browser is much improved and displays full HTML sites well in most cases.
Con: No voice dialing still. Limited camera options. Not a wealth of built-in applications and features.
Price: $149.99 with 2-year contract after discount and rebate. $299.99 without a contract.
Display: 65K color TFT LCD. Resolution: 400 x 240 pixels (WQVGA). Diag.: 2.6”.
Battery: Sharp rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery. 3.7V, 1030 mAh. Claimed talk time: up to 5 hours; claimed standby time: up to 9 days.
Performance: Internal memory: 64 NAND and 128 SDRAM. Phone book capacity: up to 2000 entries.
Size: 4.72 x 2.26 x 0.71 inches. Weight: 4.5 ounces.
Phone: Quad band GSM phone, 850/900/1900/1900 MHz bands. GPRS/EDGE for data. T-Mobile exclusive in the US. Supports over the air firmware update.
Camera: 2 megapixel camera with no flash. Image resolutions: 1600 x 1200, Can record video with audio up to 30 seconds. Video resolutions: 176 x 144,
Audio: Built-in mic, speaker and 3.5mm audio jack. Media player included for playing back MP3, AAC and WMA music files, and 3GP video files. Support vibrate (Buzz) mode. Supports Bluetooth A2DP. Can record voice notes.
Networking: Bluetooth v2.0 + EDR. Support profiles: OPP-Server, SDAP, SDP, Serial, GAP, HandsFree, OBEX; OPP, A2DP (stereo Bluetooth), AVRCP, AVDTP, AVCTP and GAVDP.
Software: Danger OS v4.7. Sidekick proprietary UI with Jump screen. PIM applications include address book, calendar, to-do list, notes and alarm clock. Media Player included. Bob’s Journey game pre-installed. Web browser and messaging include.
Expansion: 1 microSD card slot support SDHC. Comes with a 512MB card.
In the box: The Sidekick phone with battery, a SIM card, an extra shells, a 512MB microSD card, AC charger, mini USB cable, wired stereo headset, Start Guide and User Manual on CD.