So the friendly people at T-Mobile recently provided me with a Sharp/T-Mobile Sidekick LX to review. After unboxing it, I played with it for a couple weeks. The result? My first time using a Sidekick. The verdict? A mixed bag.
The Sidekick LX is a deceptively large device. But it’s relatively light, and it’s well proportioned – its extra size is only noticeable when placed side-by-side with other phones. It looks thin, but it actually matches the T-Mobile G1 in the X dimension.
Build quality is fine – it looks and feels a lot better than other Sidekick devices I’ve sampled, with tasteful chrome accents and a lovely purple-ish color on this “orchid” model. I wouldn’t call this phone attractive, but it’s not offensive either.
At 854×480 pixels, the 3.2″ WVGA screen steals the show – it’s absolutely stunning! The keyboard is excellent except for the spacebar, which lacks tactile feedback. Perhaps this was a problem specific to my unit?
It’s the first Sidekick with 3G, GPS, and a 3.2 megapixel camera (with auto-focus and flash). It also features a 3.5 mm audio jack, a mini-USB port (for charging/mass-storage), a micro-SDHC card slot, and Bluetooth (with A2DP stereo audio) – only WiFi is missing.
At the risk of being called a heretic by some, the Sidekick LX reminds me of the Blackberry, especially the Java-based front end, the server-based back end, the fonts, and the trackball.
It’s a pretty intuitive user experience right out of the box, but some things (like the use of tabs and shortcut keys) are inconsistent from app to app, and performance is sluggish at times.
Amusingly, I often tried touching the beautiful, large screen, especially while using the reasonably decent web browser and maps app… Maybe it’s time for a Sidekick with a touchscreen?
My only major concern with the Sidekick platform is the dismal selection of apps in the store – there are only a handful of apps, most of them cost money, and none of them are truly compelling.
Before I dive further into the details, take a look at my summary video.
Messaging is the Sidekick LX’s raison d’être. In addition to the usual SMS, push email, and IM support, it’s one of the first devices in the world to include native Facebook, MySpace and Twitter clients – this is a very good thing.
The email client is so-so. I was able to get Gmail up-and-running quickly and easily, but I was unable to get my hosted POP3 account working, despite entering the correct information. Notifications are not push-like, with significant delays (several minutes at best).
IM is disappointing. The client only supports AOL, MSN, and Yahoo! protocols – there’s no Google Talk or Jabber, which is what I use.
Although not quite as polished as on the iPhone, the Facebook client is pretty nice. The Twitter client feels a bit unfinished – the user interface lacks consistency, and there’s no support for uploading pictures. I can’t comment on the MySpace client since I don’t use the service.
With a 3.2 megapixel sensor, auto-focus, macro, LED flash and geo-tagging, the Sidekick LX camera boasts respectable specs. It improves upon the T-Mobile G1 camera with better color balance and light metering.
The resulting pictures are quite pleasing, yet a bit lacking in level of detail. There’s visible noise as well as a strange yellow halo in the middle of pictures taken in low-light, but it’s possible the latter was specific to my device…
No accelerometer means no auto-rotation, and video recording is limited to QVGA (320×240 pixels at 30 fps).
The Sidekick LX includes a nice music player which, unfortunately, sounds rather poor compared to the current crop of media-capable phones. Playback is also hampered by occasional glitches (with VBR MP3 files) – hopefully, this can be fixed with a firmware update.
On the plus side, the standard mini-USB & 3.5 mm audio connectors, and the micro-SDHC support make it easy to transfer, store and listen to music.
Beyond being user friendly and well equipped, the Sidekick LX provides very good battery life and call quality, even if reception lags slightly behind the T-Mobile G1 and Samsung Memoir in the same calling area.
If you’re an existing Sidekick user, the Sidekick LX is definitely the best Sidekick available today and is absolutely worth considering. But if you’re looking for a feature-packed phone in the same price range ($199 with 2-year contract), I think the T-Mobile G1 is the smarter choice.