Smartphone search completed with SideKick II

Continuing from my last post on buying a new smartphone, I settled on the SideKick II from Danger through T-Mobile. There were numerous reasons for this decision. Iâ??ll outline them below, but after a few days of using the SideKick, I can honestly tell you it just blows the BlackBerry away in terms of both productivity and overall communication use. Mark Cuban probably sums it up best with this quote:

To all you corporo types out there that like the Blackberry, you have no idea what productivity is like â??till you play with one of these bad-boys.

Basically, if you havenâ??t tried the SideKick as a replacement for the BlackBerry, you really are missing a lot. The best analogy I can provide is that Danger, the company that makes the SideKick, is the Apple of smart phones. The SideKick is really that intuitive and easy to use, especially for email and web browsing.

I wonâ??t rehash standard product details as you can find them here (Dangerâ??s product name for the SideKick is the HipTop). I will highlight those that really make this a standout device. First, though the size may turn off some, I like the feel of the SideKick for typing on the QWERTY keypad. Itâ??s the best Iâ??ve tried and the keys are spaced enough apart to really allow for speedy typing. I can actually write well on this thing. Yes, compared to the newer mobile phones out there, the SideKick is large. But thatâ??s not the correct comparison. Put the SideKick against its real competitors such as a Treo or BlackBerry and its about the same size and weight although in a slightly different configuration (long rectangle versus tall rectangle?)

The web browsing is outstanding. Again, this is likely the best in class. I particularly like the fact that the SideKick browser now has JavaScript as well as cookies. Cookies let you retain your browsing state and username / password combinations. I now don’t have to retype these at every site like I’ve had to on other mobile browsers. This gives a more desktop browsing feel to the device.

Another useful feature is that all your data is backed up constantly on your T-Mobile account page including pictures, contacts, emails, events, and notes. This is done even if you are using the Intellisync software with your desktop.

Several people asked me if it was annoying to swivel the screen to reach the keypad to make phone calls. It really isn’t since all of your speed dial numbers, recently called numbers, and call logs are accessible without opening the screen. In addition, a small numeric keypad is displayed on screen that you can scroll though and hit the numbers if need be. The speakerphone is very loud and clear, so I’ve found I use that feature quite often now.

Overall, everything is there, just where I need it and anticipate it to be. Thatâ??s hard to quantify or even really describe well, yet you know itâ??s a good user experience just by use. The SideKick comes close to a desktop experience for many of the apps. For example, if you start typing in a name for email or phone, a list of matching records from the address book instantly appears letting you choose who you want to contact. This is very smooth and better than what some are used to in Microsoft Outlook. It’s the little touches that really stand out on the SideKick.

As far as negatives, Iâ??ve already mentioned a few and no device is perfect. Aside from the size, there are some other noticeable items. First, while the calendar and contacts storage size is very generous, the tasks are limited to 50 items. When I try and sync via the Initellisync software (an extra $9.99 download), it chops off my 80+ items and only imports 50. Not a big deal, but Iâ??m probably not alone in having an extensive task list in Outlook. This is especially true if you try and follow a productivity system like Getting Things Done (GTD). The camera is also decent for a camera-phone, but is useless in low light even with the included flash. Again, not a deal breaker for me, but Iâ??ve never had a camera in my phone before so I had low expectations for this feature anyway. Finally, and this was the only big one for me, there is no Bluetooth in the SideKick II. I read itâ??s rumored for the SideKick III, but it’s not there now. I currently use a Jabra Bluetooth headset and have come to value its convenience. You can get a Bluetooth for non-Bluetooth phones adapter, but built-in BT would be much, much better. Finally, the ability for more customization and applications would be appreciated. The operating system is built on Java, so there’s no reason why Danger couldn’t open this up a bit more and make it easier for companies developing applications. Currently, all applications created for the SideKick have to be approved by Danger and then added to their download catalog. If you’re not a developer, you can’t just connect your SideKick via USB and load up new apps. If they changed this, Danger could really open up a larger market of business users. Personally, all the programs I need are already on there.

If you’re a new customer to T-Mobile, you can get one via Amazon for free after rebate.

Other great reviews of the SideKick I used while researching included:

CNET
PCWorld
Gizmondo
MobileMag

So, if you’re in the market for a new smartphone, do yourself a favor and check out the SideKick.

Tom currently works in developer relations for IBM Watson. A serial entrepreneur, he's been the founder of numerous startups including Investify and StatsMix, a Techstars alumni company. Tom lives outside Boulder, Colorado and in his free time he's an avid rock climber, skier, and trail runner.

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