Hands-on with the T-Mobile Sidekick 4G

The T-Mobile Sidekick 4G has a fun design and some excellent messaging features.

The T-Mobile Sidekick 4G made its first public appearance on the eve of CTIA Spring 2011 in Orlando and I was lucky enough to get my hands on it. As a former Sidekick LX user (and honestly, I kind of miss good physical keyboards), I was excited to check out Samsung's spin on this popular phone.

First things first: The Sidekick 4G's keyboard rocks. And it should; the keyboard is why the Sidekick series was so popular. The keys are nicely spaced, have a satisfying click to them and feel nice against your fingers. I was able to bang out a long message pretty quickly with very little error.

The touch display slides out easily and feels sturdy. The phone itself feels a bit plasticky-but so did the older Sidekicks. It is definitely aimed at a younger set and the fun, colorful design (well at least the magenta version) definitely reflect that.

In addition to the keyboard and the touch display, there are four hardware keys and an optical mouse. The Sidekick shakes up the standard Android hardware keys by adding a Jump Key rather than a Search key (in addition to Home, Back and Menu, of course). If you remember the older Sidekicks, you might recall the Jump Key, which takes you to a list of your favorite programs (which you can certainly customize).

The user interface is basically an updated version of the old Sidekick OS's, but with some Samsung touches here and there. TouchWiz it isn't, but you do have access to the MediaHub, which is found on Samsung's Galaxy line of phones.

Unfortunately Cloud Text (which lets you send texts across multiple devices, like your PC) and Group Text (which lets you send texts to multiple people at once) weren't activated on this particular test unit at the show. The 3-megapixel camera took decent shots, but nothing spectacular. Running on a 1GHz Hummingbird processor, the Sidekick 4G was fast and responsive.

This is the second phone we've seen tonight on T-Mobile, which was just bought by AT&T. I'm hoping the Sidekick has a similar inexpensive price for both the phone and the plan, like the Nokia Astound, which was announced tonight. Pricing and availability has not yet been announced for the Sidekick 4G.

Stay tuned for a hands-on video of the Sidekick 4G in action and more news from CTIA Spring 2011 in Orlando!

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Ginny Mies

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