Cool Tool Friday: The Danger (T-Mobile) Sidekick 2

I usually stay away from hardware on Cool Tool Fridays, but this week, I can’t resist. After having my Sony Ericsson T616 quit on me about two weeks ago, I’ve been madly searching for a new phone/PIM device. The timing was all wrong because the new Treo 650s are due out sometime next month (as is the Sony Ericsson P910), both of which I had my eye on. I’ve never owned a “smart phone” before (combination PDA and mobile phone), so I thought it was time I gave it a try.

But I needed a phone now, and couldn’t wait for products to finally ship, and for exclusive agreements with carriers to expire, etc. So I went to the AT&T store, and had a look around. I ended up walking out with the “top of the line” Nokia device which even the employees drooled over: the 6620. It was a great phone, which I’d been watching since its introduction a couple of months ago, and I found I immediately liked the Symbian OS. The problem was Mac compatibility. Usually, Nokia’s Symbian devices are very Mac friendly, and I have no doubt that Apple iSync will eventually support the 6620, but as of now, the only “integration” you can do is to transfer vCards via Bluetooth (which only works marginally well since no phone number types are preserved).

Although I loved the phone, it wasn’t doing me any good as a PIM device, and it’s primary feature — streaming video — was too expensive for me to justify, so I decided to return it, and simply replace my T616 with the updated Sony Ericsson T637.

The T637 is a decent phone. It’s very small, very light, and has a solid feature set (bluetooth, IR, etc.). It’s also fully supported by iSync. What really sealed the deal, though, was the IM clients. The T637 comes installed with AIM, ICQ, and Yahoo! Messenger — the three services I use on a regular basis. I loved the idea of always staying connected via IM, and I found my old T68i thumb-board interfaced perfectly with the T637.

I used the T637 for a few days, and was relatively happy with it except for:

  1. The camera was really bad. I don’t really care that much about cameras built into phones (that’s why I have a separate digital camera), but this was so bad that I couldn’t even use it to take pictures for wallpapers.
  2. Sending instant messages was $.10 per message! Paying per IM defeats the purpose of IMing, in my opinion. No :), or “lol” or “brb”, etc, if you have to pay for it.
  3. The phone had the same flimsy feel as the T616, which had just broken on me, and had gotten difficult to see due to massive amounts of dust under the screen.

I did some additional research, and came across the Danger Sidekick 2, sold exclusively though T-Mobile as of right now. A couple of very positive reviews from people I trust had me interested enough to take a chance, so I am now a few days into my 14 day evaluation, and so far, I think the Sidekick is the coolest device I’ve ever used. I won’t go into too much detail since there are already several great reviews out there, but I’ll mention a few of what I consider to be top features:

  1. The best key (thumb) board I’ve ever used on any device. Even better than my Sony Clie UX50.
  2. Cool flip screen.
  3. Nice form-factor. It may appear to be a little large at first, but I actually think the size is perfect. (I don’t like phones that are so small that you can’t even pin them against your ear with your shoulder.)
  4. For a single price, I get unlimited data (web browsing, email, instant messaging).
  5. Always connected AIM and Yahoo! Messenger clients. (No ICQ, though.)
  6. Auto synchronization of PIM applications with T-Mobile’s online application.

This is a very different type of device which is easy to find faults with at first: no bluetooth, no IR, no huge library of 3rd party applications. But after using it, you begin to realize that Danger was really thinking outside of the box when they designed and built this thing. You don’t need bluetooth and IR since updating information on the web updates your always-connected device in real time (amazing!). And no, I can’t download a carb counting application or a tip calculator like I could with a Treo or Pocket PC smart phone, but the Sidekick either comes with or makes available all the basic applications I need, and they are better than many of their counterparts on other platforms. And finally, being a Mac user (primarily), I really appreciate the platform independent nature of the Sidekick. Whether I’m using Windows, Mac, or Linux, I can manage my information in the exact same way, from wherever I happen to be.

The Sidekick is a unique little device that certainly would not suit all smart phone users, but it’s by far the best solution I’ve used — in the last two weeks, anyway.

What mobile phone/PIM “solutions” are you into?