Best money I’ve spent all week…

Last night I got to thinking about my Sidekick. As I was using it and trying out the phone features I held it up to my head to make a few phone calls. Afterwards, instinctively I wiped off the screen. It’s what I did with my Nokia, it’s what I do with our cameras here at the office. I don’t want to get dirt, oil or other grab imbeded in the screen or in the cracks and crevices of whatever I’m using. Then it hit me. This thing is practically a PDA right? I wonder if they sell those clear pastic adhesive sheets are screen protectors. This thing has a fairly large screen, I’d like it to be protected. So, after running a few errands, Lauren and I stopped off at Worst Buy to look in their phone section. Well, their not a T-mobile affiliate, so they only carry Version and Sprint accesories, which is such horse shit. Why they couldn’t carry a car charger or headset for anyone else is beyond me. Anyway, I didn’t find anything T-mobile specific, but I did find some for PDAs. They’re by a company called Fellowes (link here) and they call them WriteRight – Micro Thin Screen Protectors. They came in different sizes, but I got the “universal” size so I could trim them as nessisary. I went home, slapped one on my Sidekick and from now on I don’t have to worry about the screen… unless of course I sit on it. I also brought them into work and slapped a few on my boss’ phone as well as the cameras. There were 12 sheets in the box and I’ve got at least 8 left. Not bad for a few bucks.

Sidekick II – Second Impressions

After delving deep into the phone once it was activated (which actually only took 2 hours instead of the 48 it mentions), there’s quite a few features that are both great and confusing at the same time. With a little practice, I was using the phone like a pro by dinner time. The learning curve is really flat lined and once you get the hang of how one app works, the other all work similarly. So, what are the pros and cons of this thing… well, I’ll tell you.

– On initial startup and when the phone rings, the multi colored LEDs under the D-Pad go nuts and produce a trippy AND customization light show. I have mine set to glow, HAL9000 like, pulsing in and out of reds and oranges.

– The scroll wheel is your friend. The little wheel on the right is the most important button on the phone, with one hand you can do anything. I like that.

– The keyboard is easy to use. Even my big meat hook thumbs can get in there and hit the right keys 99% of the time.

– Security in the phone of an innovative “combonation lock” as well as a password for more sensative data.

– Multiple sound levels without going to a menu. The volume buttons used for a phone call double as switches to change the sound levels of the device. Also, the phone has like 10 customizable levels from “extreme maximum loud” to “the led flashes and the phone is silent”.

– Email and AIM are easy to set up and use. Plus, a free email account tied directly to the phone doesn’t hurt.

– Email can support multiple formats (pop, imap, exchange, etc) as well as different levels of SSH!

– Once configured, speed dial is accessable without opening the keyboard through the use of the green “phone” button and the scroll wheel.

– Calandar, Notes and ToDo list are syncable to your computer and are actually handy apps.

– The “ring” menu concept is nicely executed and well designed. You can’t exactly get lost in it.

– Sound quality of the phone is excellent and the speaker phone setting is loud and clear.

Those are some of the highlights. There’s other little things that I like, but these are what come to mind. Now, there are a few things I think they can improve on (or change all together)…


– To unlock the phone takes two buttons pushed nearly simultaneously, meaning you need two hands. Not that easy for one handed use.

– The power button is really un-sensative. You’ve got to REALLY push on it to turn the phone on/off.

– The ringtones are few and far between and mostly crappy. Anything outside of the phones defaults you have to pay for ($1.99 per tone) and 99% of them are rap, r&b or soul. There’s a few under the “alternative” and “rock” categories I might use, but I don’t want to pay $1.99 to have my phone shout “We’re on the hiiiiiighway to hell!” everytime it rings.

– It comes with 1 (!) game and it’s an astroids clone. Pathetic. There’s no bejeweled clone and all the others, like the most pathetic version of Battleship I’ve ever seen, cost $5.99 each.

– Email is displayed as folders (inbox, saved, drafts, sent and trash), which is nice, but there’s no way to go strait to your inbox for example. There’s also no way to hide the unused folders (drafts?) and/or folders you don’t use (I don’t save “sent” email). Why should I have to scroll through those to get at my inbox?

– There were no instructions on how to import SIM card phone numbers. It was a feature burried about 5 menus deep. And when it did import them, it imported things like “Chip Cell” as “Cell, Chip” in all caps with the number in the wrong field. I had to retype half my imported numbers.

– In the phone book, you can assign photos to your callers… which is nice… except you can’t import photos. So, you have to have a photo of the person on your phone, taken with your phones camera. That wouldn’t be a problem except the phone only holds 36 photos and you can have 2000 contacts in your phone book. Also, if you want to use pictures for your contacts, you can’t delete them. Meaning, if you have 30 people with photo contacts, you only have 6 pictures left on your camera at all times. Very Weak. The alternative are the built in “buddy icon-ish” cartoon characters. They are perhaps the gayist anime icons ever.

– The web browser is slow. Useable, but slow. The phone downloads the page and then transforms it into a readable and properly formatted size for the sidekick. That’s neat, but it takes a minute or two each time. Bookmarks become very important so you can skip directly to what you need.

– The camera is pretty sad. The color sucks, it’s a very low resolution and it can’t take a picture without direct sunlight to save it’s life.

So, there you have it. Good phone, good email and phone features, it’s just a little weak on the “extras” and if you’re buying a phone like this, it’s really the extras that are supposed to make it or break it right? Well, for me it’s perfect. Just the right blend of what I need with a few extras to make it fun to use. I won’t be taking photos like crazy, but email and text messages will fly.

Oh, and if you want to send me an email directly to the phone, you can send it to my usually nickname at tmail dot com. If you can’t figure out what my usually nickname is, I probably shouldn’t be telling you.

Matt out.

Double Talk

“Conspiracy theorists and civil libertarians, fear not. The U.S. government will not use radio-frequency identification tags in the passports it issues to millions of Americans in the coming years.

Instead, the government will use “contactless chips.”

That is why Homeland Security is engaging in doublespeak, to dupe Americans into accepting RFID tags on their passports, said Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Program.”

Gotta love that. Read More. Thanks Wired.

SideKick II – First impressions

Well, will wonders never cease. Apparently T-Mobile came through. I guess shipments got delayed because of the holiday weekend. The tracking numbers show that they were delivered yesterday. I stand corrected.

So, the instant I caught sight of the DHL package on the doorstep I immediatly ripped it open. Inside were three boxes, two containing my boss’ new V600’s and a slightly larger one with my Sidekick II in it. I figured I’d give everybody a run down of the phone, from the outside at least, while I wait for it to charge. The manual suggests 4+ hours of charging, so when I get home I’ll turn it on and play with all the features. I’ll give a full review tomorrow once I’ve had a chance to play with it more. For now, it’ll just be my first impressions. Click the thumbnails to see the larger images.

First off, after getting through the packing peanuts and whatnot, the first thing we find is a standard product box, the kind you’d get it you purchased the phone from a store. The box is decorated in “urban flava” to appear hip to the youngins.

Inside the box are the standard assortment of ads and flyers for other crap you don’t need along with the phone and its components. Included with the SideKick II is a hands-free earbud (I refuse to call it a “headset” unless it covers both ears) cord, a standard charger, the phone itself…

…a nifty leather pouch with beltclip (it actually feels sturdy and useable)

…and more manuals and documentation than the space shuttle.

I was impressed with the feel and weight of the phone right off. It feels sturdy and well built, not flimsy and plastic like the Treo I’ve held.

It’s also not a whole lot bigger than my pervious phone, the Nokia 3390.

Sliding the screen up with your thumb reveals the haralded qwerty keyboard. The buttons are the small “chicklet gun” type and appear to be sealed from the elements and grim. They have a nice tactile feel and your hands rest easily on either side for perfect “thumb typing”.

Lastly, on the back we have the very large speaker phone, the camera lens (right most circle), the flash (left) and mini-mirror for taking self portraits (middle).

There you have it. After the Sidekick gets a good full charge I’ll pop in my sim card and call customer support to activate the phone. Hopefully that shouldn’t take too long. After that I’ll have to check out what MegaTones and HifiTones are available for it. From all the message boards I’ve seen, the Sidekick is aimed directly at the urban black teenage market and apparently so are all the wallpapers and ringtones. Hopefully there’s something other than rap available. I wasn’t expecting MegaTone support (actual clips of music), I thought I was stuck with HiFiTones (instrumental pieces of the same music). That was an unexpected surprise. Also, from the press release last month from Danger, they’ve gotten certified as a Java platform by Sun and will be rolling out a new OS via the network later this summer. It’ll be downloaded automatically. It’s supposed to open the platform up a bit and lead to more games, programs and a wider variety of compatable media (ringtones and screensavers, etc). As it stands now, without hacking it you’re limited to whats in the “pay for download” menu on the phone itself.

We’ll see how long Matt keeps his unhacked… bets range from “he hasn’t done it already?” to “by the end of the week”. 🙂

Sidekick Update

Well, T-Mobile customer support is either on crack or just plain lazy. Both are equally annoying. My boss ordered the new phones last Monday with customer support telling him they’d be there by Thursday. Guess what SHIPPED on Thursday? Yup, the phone. We’ll be lucky if we get them this week.

In the meantime, I’ve taken to the web to find out every trick and tip out there for my new SideKick 2. Apparently I can hack the shit out of it. If you download a developer’s SDK from the Danger (manufacture’s) website, you can do all sorts of crazy shit with it. Out of the box it doesn’t suppoer mp3 or mmf ringtones, only Poly and Midi. Unlocked, you can play anything you want. You can even use Java J2EE and Apache Ant to compile custom programs to run on the thing. I’m also on the lookout for a discontinued program called Hiptones XP. It’s apparently THE hack for the sidekicks but Danger got pissed, threatened to sue and now it’s gone underground. If anyone can find something like that online, it’s probably me.

This is gonna be good.

The only thing I need to figure out is a way to upload pictures to my journal. There’s a WordPress hack that lets you add images in-line within the “Blog by Email” feature, but to use it you have to have an unsecure pop3 account, something I don’t want. You also have to set up Cron jobs to automatically check that unsecured email account, something else I don’t want to fool with. So, I wonder if some sort of FTP program might be possible, I’ll have to keep digging. I’ve already found small communities of Hiptop/Sidekick developers making interesting programs.

Matt out.