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Why I Love My Sidekick 3

Despite my love of the RAZR’s slim form factor, I finally grew sick of the horrible Motorola UI. I use a Blackberry 8700g for work and was hesitant about switching from the RAZR to another phone with a QWERTY keyboard. After about a week of using the Sidekick 3 I am totally hooked. Even more amazing, I have gotten over the fact that I am probably outside of the Sidekick’s target market.

The Sidekick is only slighter larger than the Blackberry. The thickness is roughly equivalent, with the Sidekick being slightly thicker. The Sidekick is a bit heftier than the Blackberry and it shows if you try to slip it discreetly into your pocket.

Below is a quick summary of how the two devices stack up. Look, if you have to have Exchange synchronization and enterprise application support, there is no contest — the Blackberry wins. If you want a device that is more fun to own and raises the bar for all around communications, go with the Sidekick.

Overall Intuitiveness (Advantage: Sidekick 3)
I have owned a lot of phones. This is, without question, the most intuitive and zippy interface I have ever used. The combination of the trackball and the D-pad make navigation a breeze. The icons are all very easy to understand and moving among menus and sub-menus is really easy. The OS is very responsive — it seems to leap into action with every click. I also found the device very zippy when switching between applications and multi-tasking.

More importantly, the contextual actions are great. For example, adding people to your address book is easy from almost any context — call log, email, text message, or any other medium. I could write a whole post about why I think that this is one of the most intuitive and generally awesome phone interfaces I have ever used, but I won’t. There is no competition along this dimension.

The overall impression you get is that the Danger folks spent a lot of time thinking about how to build an integrated experience, not just how to cram the most features on a device. The extra chrome put on the device to make all of the features work well together is impressive.

Keyboard (Advantage: Sidekick 3)
The rounded, well-spaced keys of the Sidekick 3 are much more comfortable and usable than those found on the 8700. I found the overall responsiveness, keyboard layout, and ease of use of the Sidekick 3 keyboard to be superior.

Email (Advantage: Blackberry 8700)
The Blackberry makes its living on email and it shows. Aside from the embedded @tmail account that comes with the Sidekick, I had a hard getting my external POP accounts to function in real-time. I experienced lags of 30-90 minutes in receiving email on my Sidekick 3. Also, the relatively paltry 6 MB mailbox fills up quickly if you aren’t diligent about emptying the trash.

Web Browser (Advantage: Blackberry 8700)
Sadly, the Sidekick 3 browser did not quite measure up to the speed or page rendering I got from my Blackberry. One big strike during my testing — the Sidekick 3 browser was not able to open Google despite several calls to the tech help folks at T-Mobile. The Blackberry has a faster, better browser based on my unscientific testing. That being said, the Sidekick 3 browser is certainly capable for most web activity.

Instant Messaging (Advantage: Sidekick 3)
The IM experience on the Sidekick pretty much blows everything else out of the water. It is the first device I have used that really replicates the desktop experience. Buddy icons, emoticons, and the entire user interface for MSN, Yahoo, and AOL IM products is faithfully rendered on the Sidekick 3. I would say that I now do about 50% of my IM activity on my Sidekick, even when I have a PC handy.

Camera (Advantage: Sidekick 3)
For a 1.3 megapixel camera, the Sidekick 3 takes good pictures outdoors in natural light. Indoor pictures were a bit grainy and despite the presence of a flash and night mode I couldn’t get a decent picture in low lighting.

Phone Quality (Advantage: Tie)
Both devices work fine as phones. I preferred the Sidekick’s phone navigation a bit better and found the speakerphone to be a bit less tinny. I found the voice quality to be a bit higher on the Blackberry, both in terms of my ability to hear other callers clearly and their ability to pick up my voice.

I didn’t want to compare music players because the Blackberry doesn’t have one. The Sidekick 3 music player is serviceable but not great. It works well in a pinch but won’t have you tossing your iPod anytime soon.

Having owned a lot of devices, I would say that the Sidekick 3 sets a new bar for integrated entertainment. If you are not an email junky but more of a multimodal communicator (meaning that you use email, IM, and text with equal facility), it’s tough to beat the Sidekick. Sure it’s bigger than a RAZR — you can’t get all that functionality for free.