Sunday, April 30, 2006

Pre-loaded music? EDGE? Improved screen?

A tipster sent this in...not sure if its true, but it does verify my information and does suggest a few things that COULD be true, so I am going to share it. It's possible that Danger is truly still tweaking the screen (maybe because of this blog?) and perhaps they really will push back the release. I am sticking with June because that is what my sources say, but we will have to wait and see.

"I am a research developer from Danger. Regrettably, it is not coming out as soon as you would like. Due to a number of technical issues, its release has been postponed at least until September. The good news is that it does have an MP3 player, it is pre-loaded with over 2 GB of songs, it includes an automatic credit payment processor (i.e. you can swipe it/use it as a credit card and it gets charged to your T-Mobile bill at certain participating locations, including, we have included EDGE II (yes, even faster than EDGE), we have fixed the voicemail problems; we have addressed the issue of screen resolution to the satisfaction of all test subjects, and finally, we have added a new dynamic to-do list function that we hope will double your productivity."

Saturday, April 22, 2006

New Sidekick 3 Pics

These are the pics that were submitted to the FCC by Danger for approval. It's getting close to launching, I was told it will be a June launch. Now you can see the little nipple/mouse closer and you can see verification of what I said about the 1.3 megapixel camera.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Replies to the Non-believers on my Sidekick 3 Review

I have been surprised by the many people who don't believe this review. Though I understand to a degree since I did not offer any new pictures, I did offer up details on new features that had not been confirmed anywhere else like the SD slot, the music player, bluetooth and very specific details about changes to the operating system appearance and its functionality. I also want to offer some responses to the thousands of questions I have seen or received regarding the unit.

1) No I am not a Danger employee, but Danger has been floating prototypes and demo units around for a number of months now and I got my hands on one.

2) Sharp is manufacturing the Hiptop hardware for Danger.

3) If the resolution of the screen is actually going to be improved, it WAS NOT on the unit I had. I suppose it's possible that Danger would upgrade the screen quality/resolution on the final production model, but why would they be demo'ing and testing units with the same old screen. It was so obvious that the screen was the old one that it was almost as if the old Sidekick was "trapped" inside the body of this new Sidekick 3.

4) I don't have a release date, but typically a company winds down inventory on an old product before the release a new one. Given what T-Mobile reps are saying, it makes sense that we would see a new one in the next 60 days or so.

5) I call the review official because I have not seen a full review of features/software/hardware of the Sidekick 3 anywhere else on the Internet and since I had the unit in my hands, I deemed my review "official." I haven't seen a single comment elsewhere on the operating system. I can also tell you that the operating system interface now uses darker colors, lots of greys and deeper tones and the opening graphic is much different now.

6) Yes, its time for some new leaked photos and I suspect we will see them soon, but I wasn't in a position to take pictures of the product, only to use it and test it and play with it. Believe me, I wanted to take some new pictures. Perhaps I could do some sketches of the new operating system?

7) Ultimately, the Sidekick 3 does feel a little smaller, but it seems THICKER. You can verify this when you have it in your hands. Frankly, in the day of the RAZR and the SLVR and the Motorola Q, I was expecting the Sidekick 3 to be thinner.

8) Let me clarify on the AIM integration. You are still separately logged into to each IM client, but they work together in an integrated format with little icons that show where each person on your buddy list is on.

9) Let me reiterate two things: People will not like the tracball/mouse/nubb. It was a gamble and a real departure to move in this direction and the feedback will be very negative on it. Additionally people will make fun of the screen quality. It was great 3 years ago, now its antique and low res. Many will upgrade for bluetooth and the music player, but many will not as the Sidekick 2 form factor is ultimately better.

In summary, the Sidekick still has two traits that make it great, AIM and a great web browser. The question is, can the Sidekick 3 make it with those two strengths now coupled with Bluetooth, SD and a music player?

Friday, April 07, 2006

The First Official Sidekick 3 Review

Sidekick 3 Review

Brief background on me and Sidekick 1. I have followed the Sidekick since it first came out. I was a big fan of the original, buying one a few months after it was released. I felt it offered superior functionality over the Blackberry, Palm offerings of the time. I liked the "soap-bar" form factor and even though it was a little thick to fit nicely in my pocket, I became addicted to picking it up and sliding the screen up to access email, the web, and its slick little web browser. Even the fact that it was black & white was no bother to me, the ease of use made it the first phone that I really loved.

Fast forward to the Sidekick 2. Nice, slimmer form factor. Buttons moved around. New type of wheel. Keyboard and buttons take some getting used to, but overall it’s a slick phone and a welcome improvement from the first Sidekick. In short, it was a hit. We saw a flood of new applications on the Catalog, the speakerphone was nice and it felt more like a phone and the instant call ‘pick up’ and ‘hang up’ buttons improved the whole calling experience. The AIM application was super sweet, and upgrades to the operating system that downloaded automatically offered slick feature enhancements that made the Sidekick 2 incredible.

Onto the Sidekick 3. First things first. The pictures below are not mine, they are from the Internet. I don't have any updated pictures, but what I do have are details that have not been discussed anywhere and that is the only gauge of the accuracy of this review. When the Sidekick 3 launches, you will know that all of this is accurate. These are the primary feature changes and they are significant so I will get them out of the way so you can stop salivating.

1.) It has a high quality 1.3 megapixel camera and a nice built-in flash.
2.) It has Bluetooth, which works very well.
3.) It has an SD card slot that sits on the top of the unit.
4.) It has a built-in MP3 player.
5.) Integrated AIM, Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger

Form Factor
The form factor is sort of a cross between the Sidekick 1 and the Sidekick 2 in that it’s still thin and long like the Sidekick 2, but it has a bulky feel in the center with carved edges like the original Sidekick. In a way, it almost seems bulkier than the Sidekick 2, when its released someone will measure exact stats and have the exact answer but I can tell you that some users will be disappointed in the width. The Sidekick 3 also does away with the bumpy buttons along with top and bottom edges. There are still buttons in those areas, but they are tucked in so they aren’t accidentally pressed like they often were with the Sidekick 2. All in all, the form factor is decent, but in the day of the Motorola RAZR, the Motorola Q, this form factor doesn’t look or feel as cutting edge as it once did.

Navigation Knob
The navigation knob on the right is one dramatic change for the Sidekick 3 and it is very unique. It is similar to the navigation “mini-mouse” that sits in the middle of the keyboard and looks like a nipple on many laptops, but it has a touch-sensitive element to it that allows you to slide your finger in a certain direction over the top to navigate in a particular direction. It offers a very fluid movement but it seems a little rickety at the same time because it feels “loose.”

Instant Messenger Integrates AIM, Yahoo and MSN
The Sidekick 3 took a hint from Trillian and has integrated AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger into one unified offering. The interface is clean and simple with the different icons from the individual offerings sitting next to each message to signify with platform a user is being messaged from. This is an incredible feature and will appease everyone who bounces back and forth between IM offerings daily. I expect GTalk interoperability can’t be far behind.

Changed Interface & Menu Groups
The interface is essentially the same. The applications are accessed via the same rolling wheel system interface that Sidekick users are familiar with. The difference is the icons are different than in previous versions, they are less cartoony and more cool. The colors in the interface are darker and the feel is different and when you click on an application because there is a cool little animation that follows. The other major difference is many of the applications are grouped together so you get a “communications” icon for example, that when clicked has multiple choices related to communication within a “mini-menu.”

Connecting your Bluetooth headset with your Sidekick is a piece of cake and the settings menu gives many options for users. I am not positive, but it seems like there are some settings that will allow your Sidekick to communicate with your PC via Bluetooth. It will interesting to see, but this is a much needed feature for the platform.

Exact Same Screen
On the negative side, the Sidekick 3 screen size is exactly the same as the previous Sidekicks which would probably be ok, but the Sidekick 3 screen also has the exact same resolution as the Sidekick 1 and 2, which is likely to be a problem because it makes the Sidekick 3 look a little dated. This will be the number one complaint on the Sidekick 3 as every cell phone maker in the world now has a high quality color screen.

Different Keyboard
The keyboard buttons are different too. They are all essentially in the same place, but they are a smoothe, clear plastic now that feel very different than when using than the Sidekick 1 or Sidekick 2. The upside here is the number keys within the QWERTY keyboard like on the Sidekick 2 are a cool blue/purple hue and light up nicely at night.

MP3 Player & SD Storage
One of the applications on the Sidekick is a music player. The interface is smoothe and the icon next to each song is a little green music note that makes it feels like Itunes. I know the green note that Apple uses is somewhat universal, but as you use this player, it feels like iTune sin your pocket. It’s a smoothe application and will be a huge hit with the music crowd that loves the Sidekick and frankly because of the size of SD cards now, some people will put away their iPod Nano and solely carry this around. Given that SD cards are now widely available in 1GB and 2GB sizes, this will be a big plus for picture storage and music storage on the Sidekick 3. There is also an application available for your PC that moves photos easily back and forth from your PC to your Sidekick. SD-based storage capacity will make this application a hit.

In summary, the Sidekick 3 makes a number of dramatic improvements that will enhance the experience for the user, most notably Bluetooth and a music player and an internal SD card. The primary issue I see is that there has been no enhancement to the screen in size or resolution, which won’t matter to some users, but will be an issue for many who would have like to have seen something a little more cuttin
g edge.