T-Mobile Sidekick 3 Hands-on

The first question is this: Should I upgrade to the Sidekick 3? The answer is this: Yes. The second question is: Why? The answer will be found in the next few paragraphs.

T-Mobile Sidekick 3 Hands-on

Yes, friends, the Sidekick 3 is here. I've sat on this for almost three weeks. I showed it to some people and one person, who shall remain nameless, offered me $3,000 cash for it on the spot. Everyone else was in awe. One guy couldn't get enough. He just kept opening it and closing it like some kind of totemic object, like something that landed from outer space just to give him pleasure. So that's the power of the SK3 and that's why it's so hard to write about.

First things first. I won't go into speeds and feeds, because all that info is already out there. First, it's made by Sharp. Not a big deal. The basic info: removable battery, miniSD slot, Bluetooth, USB syncing, 1.3-megapixel camera, and a beautiful display. Expect to pay about $200 with contract. What doesn't it have? A video recorder (yet), GPS, DRM music player (yet), Wi-Fi, FM tuner, and video playback (yet). Otherwise, you have a smaller, lighter Sidekick with great GPRS speeds and an excellent interface.

T-Mobile Sidekick 3 Hands-on

The SK3 was designed for email and IM. That's about it. Everything else, even the phone, is kind of gravy. So let's talk about that first. Email and IM work as advertised. IM is simplest. The SK3 supports AIM, MSN, and Yahoo Chat. Type in your username, password, and you're set.

Email is a bit more difficult. Luckily, I have an excellent test bed because all of my Gizmodo addresses are almost completely inundated with spam. Therefore, an IMAP connection is very dangerous because I could end up with thousands of emails per day, a hard task for even some smartphones. That said, set up is just as simple. There are settings for encrypted and unencrypted POP3 and IMAP. Just type in your info and go. The phone picked up most of my emails in batches and the MiniSD card adds extra space for storage, although I often verged on filling up the SK3 with my junk.

Little notifier icons in the top right corner inform you when you have a message in IM, mail, or SMS/MMS. Messages appear in a little bubble for a moment before disappearing, so you can assess the value of emails and messages before reading. There is an airplane mode that turns off the wireless and basically lets you browse your mail like a madman but little else.

T-Mobile Sidekick 3 Hands-on

The trackball is a real winner. It lights up with all the colors of the rainbow—actually about 10—and is one of the best user interface tools I've seen on a phone. Phone manufacturers take note: Please let this be a rule, not an exception. Use the trackball, if you can. It is very important.

The interface allows you to go forward and back, just with the trackball. The keyboard is a bit cramped but I was able to walk down the street and send emails and IMs, so that's fine. The battery lasted one full day. From 8am until about midnight, it was ready to rock and roll. However, all that work did drain things considerably and Bluetooth chunked out the battery even more.

Voice quality was fine and reception as about as good as can be expected. One pet peeve—it would lose its GPRS connection and only a full reboot would get it back.

The audio player doesn't support any DRMed content yet, but it's nice enough. Nothing special. The camera takes pictures which you can then send to your friends. Big deal. However, unlike your friends, you'll actually be able to get IMs and email using an impressive and intuitive interface.

Is this a smartphone for business folken? No. It is for the young and the young at heart. It is a cool device, less boardroom than the Blackberry and less geekout than the MDA. Buy a gluegun and some sparkles and you can be belle of Paris Hilton's coke party. Wrap it up in some Fiddy skins and you've got a rapper's delight. Have it play some Fall Out Boy and you're ready for the lacrosse team. It is a chameleon, and a charming one at that.

The SK3 will be available to T-Mobile customers on June 28 and to the rest of the rabble in the T-Mobile stores on July 10.

So go ahead and buy it. Go ahead. We won't stop you. If you love the Sidekick, this is a major improvement. If you have an older Sidekick and are thinking about upgrading, feel free. The experience is generally better and worth it. Sure, you won't be able to find it—and no I won't sell this one—and it's going to be the hottest phone of the next few months. Then something else will come along. But won't it be great to feel it in your hand for the first time? To swivel up the screen and cry tears of techno joy? It's rare to have a device that engenders such desperation and such a feeling of fulfillment when it is finally owned. But remember, dudes, it's just a phone.