Coming at T-Mobile's Sidekick 3 with no preconceptions, it's difficult to know who it's aimed at.
Previous Sidekicks, comprising phone, web browser and emailer, have been hugely popular with bright young things. The Sidekick 3 ticks all of these boxes and adds digital audio (after a fashion), but its design is a little clunky and it feels plasticky and brittle in the hand.
At 130x59x22mm and weighing a mighty 182g the Sidekick 3 is neither small nor light. But then, with a squarish 2.6in screen and a full qwerty keyboard, you would expect nothing less. At the touch of a button, the Sidekick 3's fascia spins through 180 degrees to reveal the screen and keyboard.
When you're placing a call, the Sidekick 3 can be held to your ear like any other mobile phone. Call quality is solid enough. But most functions are accessed with the flip-out screen, well, flipped out as described above. In this mode it looks like a miniature typewriter or one of those portable games machines you could buy in the 1980s. In other words, not cool.
The screen continues this retro theme. With 240x260-pixel resolution it barely merits the term screen (if you like impressionistic painting this is the phone for you). But the paucity of the display at least softens the blow when you boot up the web browser. Mobile phones rarely do the internet well. In fairness to the Sidekick 3, this is not the fault of this particular model, and some websites are better prepared for mobile browsers than others. On the other hand, the Sidekick 3 is a tri-band GSM device, and you gets what you pays for.
With the Sidekick 3 in front of you in full qwerty keyboard mode, you have three main controls under each thumb. To the right there are the by-now traditional green and red phones, to start and finish calls. Between them is a tiny trackball that's quite fun to use.
Under your left opposable is another, square navigation pad, which is also a speaker. More important is the button below. Like the iPhone's homepage switch, this always takes you back to the main function menu. It's a real boon. Above is a switch that takes you to a contextual drop-down.
The Sidekick provides AIM instant messaging and an email address that belongs only to the phone (as well as the potential for three further POP3 accounts). So if you live your digital life only via the Sidekick 3 you're in luck, but don't expect it to operate as an office PC peripheral.
You can, however, access T-Mobile's calendar and contacts via the web. Online is increasingly becoming a favoured option. Naturally, T-Mobile's software nothing like as sophisticated as Outlook, but it may suffice for non-business users. And for the uninitiated, the Sidekick 3 makes hooking up with this web-based data a cinch - although it's by no means a speedy process.
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