If you thought the Danger Hiptop (aka T-Mobile Sidekick) was going to meet your data and voice needs you re half right

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If you thought the Danger Hiptop (aka T-Mobile Sidekick) was going to meet your data and voice needs you re half right

 

Today T-Mobile began selling the Sidekick. The Sidekick is created by Danger, a Palo Alto, California based company. The device actually became a hot topic of conversation over a year ago, picking up steam in April of this year when it gained approval from the FCC.

 

Billed as the most affordable integrated device on the market at $200, the Danger quickly gathered a following of passionate people ready to spend the money to gain access to their data. Things like email, AOL IM and Web browsing were all part of the promise. The Hiptop didn t flaunt a high profile OS, high resolution color screen or blazing speed. It pushed access to data and voice service at an affordable price.

 

My impression was always that the Hiptop was designed for the corporate market, for those on the go who wanted a tiny device for keeping in touch. The Hiptop certainly seemed to fit the bill. However, something changed.

 

Danger decided the device was to be marketed to the masses, not just the business users. When the device debuted today with T-Mobile, you have to see some folly with that logic. The pricing plan, yes there is only one, is $39.99 per month with unlimited data access. Doesn t sound so bad does it?

 

Oh, you want voice with that?

If you expect, as I did, that the Hiptop will meet your needs from a voice perspective, then you are wrong. While never promoted as a cell phone, we were told that the Hiptop would have phone abilities. So why does the Sidekick plan from T-Mobile only include 200 peak minutes? Everyone raise your hand if you use your cell phone less than 200 minutes per month at peak times. Ok, so the rest of you have a cell phone in case of emergency, I understand.

 

I put a call into Danger s PR department (at the time of this article T-Mobile s PR had not returned my call). I talked though my concerns with Susan Moseley. She was understanding and admitted that the Sidekick really wasn t designed for heavy phone use. I expressed my thought that 200 minutes a month is not heavy. She countered by pushing the device as a tool primarily used to accessing data. If you want to use the phone, it can do that too, just not very well.

 

So who is the Sidekick targeting?

A few paragraphs ago I said that Danger and T-Mobile wanted to position the device for the consumer market. How many consumers use under 200 minutes a month? How many of those really have a burning desire to get their email on the go? If they don t talk on the phone, I draw the conclusion that they really don t need email that badly either.

 

So the average consumer won t really need this device. On to the business user. He/She has a cell phone and for the purpose of this discussion, let s assume this person uses over 200 minutes of talk time per month. The Sidekick is then immediately ruled out as an option for an integrated device. The per minute charges for the airtime alone would make any CFO cry. Also keep in mind the Sidekick requires a one year contract, a total of over $500 per year after taxes and fees. So you need two devices and two bills. $40 for your data service which is unlimited in the first year, but has scaling fees after that, and $50 or more for your phone service. But wasn t the point to have just one? Danger argues no.

 

Who should buy the Sidekick?

I m struggling to answer this question. There are many wireless connectivity options for PDA owners. You can buy the PCMCIA card from Sprint or T-Mobile. You can connect your PDA via Bluetooth to your cell phone or PC. Sony and Palm have sleds that will get you online for some models.

 

Another choice. Scrap the PDA and use the Sidekick. Wrong again, the PDA features are limited and it runs a proprietary OS.

 

What about Blackberry? It seems to meet a number of these needs. The device is a touch more expensive, but I m not seeing major differences when compared to the Sidekick.

 

At this point, unless you have a strong need for data access on a small monochrome screen with a mini keypad, I don t see this device as a viable option. I m so unimpressed at this point with the pricing plans that I have no intention of buying it for review. T-Mobile listen to me! You need to offer a plan with more voice minutes so people don t get screwed if they go over 200 minutes. Your target audience will most certainly go over 200 minutes. Danger did say that this initial launch with T-Mobile is exclusive. We speculated six months ago that Cingular would also carry the device, and this looks like the case after this initial period with T-Mobile expires. Hopefully Cingular will be more forward thinking with their service offering.

 

Disagree with me? Post your thoughts below.

 

Brian

 

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