Let’s start with the basic hardware. The T-Mobile Sidekick 4G is based on a “Hummingbird” chipset: a 1GHz Samsung processor, coupled with a PowerVR SGX540 graphical processor. This is the same setup which drives much higher-end devices such as Samsung’s Galaxy S, and it boasts some of the fastest graphics performance on any modern smartphone.
And it shows. The Sidekick’s performance in everything I’ve yet asked of it has been glassy smooth, ranging from streaming video to light gaming. I haven’t put it through any more strenuous testing yet, but that will come later.
While the Sidekick runs on Android OS 2.2 (Froyo), it also has a customized user interface, and a couple of added navigation features. In other words, if you’re familiar with how existing Android devices work, you’ll still have a little bit of a learning curve getting used to this thing. Fortunately, it’s not that large. The differences are entirely cosmetic, so you don’t need to worry about existing Android software not working.
One thing that has been a mystery up until now is the amount of memory that the Sidekick 4G comes with — not only is this not listed in the online spec sheets, it isn’t found anywhere on the box or in T-Mobile’s official press material. I had to dig into the device’s settings to determine that it comes with a little under 500 MB of available memory out of the box. While not impressive compared to the multi-gigabyte figures boasted by higher end devices, this is still a lot more than most low-end Android phones come with. In comparison, the LG Vortex ships with less than 200 MB of internal memory available.
The Sidekick does also come bundled with a 2 GB microSD card — not a lot of memory, but enough to provide lots of space for apps and a certain amount of music. If you want more, you can also get yourself a much higher capacity card, up to 32 GB.
As you might imagine for a messaging-oriented phone, the Sidekick has some special features in that regard. The most obvious is that the keyboard actually includes shortcut keys for common emoticons, like the “:-)” smiley and “<3” heart.
Much more substantial though are the two T-Mobile specialty apps. “Group texting” lets you host a conversation by text messaging between multiple people, even on different carriers, all of whom are able to read and respond. “Cloud texting” is an extension of your T-Mobile account that lets you send and receive text messages through their website from other devices, such as a desktop or laptop, even if you don’t happen to have your phone with you at the moment. I haven’t extensively tested these features yet, and as of this writing, the “Cloud texting” website isn’t online yet, but I’ll have comments for that in the full review.
My first day with the T-Mobile Sidekick 4G could be summarized as “generally pleased.” It has satisfying hardware both on the internal specs and external design. It’s well thought out, and has the potential to stand out from the pack.
Over the next few days, I’ll be giving it a more complete and intensive examination, including battery life testing, in depth feature explorations, and a full roundup of all the positives and negatives.
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