Review: Danger Hiptop (a.k.a. T-Mobile Sidekick)

Here are my impressions of the recently released Hiptop from Danger, Inc. (which is branded as the Sidekick by T-Mobile, but that name isn’t anywhere near as cool). I became interested in the Hiptop after some people from Be (including “The Smartest Man Alive”) began working there… For quite some time the company was very hush-hush about what they were working on, but for awhile it seemed like they were developing clever flash animations.

For those who don’t know, the Hiptop is all of the following: Cell Phone, Web Browser, Email Client, AIM Client, PIM, and Arcade. And unlike most “Convergance Devices”, this device is actually pretty good at all of these functions. I am going to structure this review a bit differently than my earlier ones, mostly because there is so much to cover.

  • Phone – The Hiptop makes a good cell phone, but not spectacular. Sound quality on both ends is great, and the address book functionality is second to none, but the lack of a regular DTMF pad makes it difficult to dial numbers who aren’t in your address book, and it also makes voice mail jail type services difficult to use (since you need to leave the keyboard open). I think this is the price you pay for the usefulness of the rest of the device. Remember, this isn’t a phone with internet access, it is an Internet device with a phone.
  • Web Browser – Sure, the screen is small, but for looking at web pages on the go, the Hiptop’s web browser works like a champ. Danger’s proxy servers reformat web pages and compress images (grayscaling them as well), so download speeds are punchy enough. The browser doesn’t support Javascript or Java, but it gets the job done on most sites. It renders real HTML, not WAP or any of those mobile variants, so you have a much richer selection of what is available to you. One thing I wish it would do is try to linkify phone numbers in web pages so it was easier to look up a number and call it.
  • AIM – I am not big on Instant Messaging, but the most popular one among the bunch is AOL’s variety. I played with it a bit, talking to a few friends at once, and it seemed to work as expected. It would be nice if you could take a picture with the Hiptop’s camera and send it to whoever you were conversing with, but it doesn’t seem that this is possible now. You can talk to 10 different people at once and have 200 people on your buddy list (and apparently that limitation exists on the computer-based clients as well). I don’t have much to say about this other than it works pretty well.
  • Email – Well, I have written about this a bit already in my journal, but the Hiptop’s email client works very well. Sending and receiving mail is a breeze, and it is nice to have a ringtone fire off when you receive a message (makes me feel important). The Hiptop even has a PDF and .DOC viewer built in so you can read those kinds of attachments (haven’t tried this out). Lots of people want IMAP support (it only supports POP3), but this isn’t a huge deal for me…
  • Phone Messages/SMS – I have never used SMS, and given the choice between it and just having people email me, I don’t see why I will.. SMS has never excited me much, so I haven’t really played with it at all.
  • PIM Stuff (Address Book, Calendar, To-do, and Notes) – I lumped
    these categories together since they seem to overlap a bit. I have replaced
    my Visor with this phone, so that should give you an idea of how well these
    functions work. The web-based desktop they provide for you to manage this
    data away from the Hiptop is quite nice too. I used it to import all of my
    Palm contacts with relative ease (some of the categories got munged, but it
    only took a little while to straighten that stuff out). A few gripes,
    though: Apparently reminder alarms don’t keep annoying you until you
    address them. This isn’t a good thing, for me. In the address book you can
    set a birthdate for the person, but that birthdate doesn’t show up in the
    calendar, which is retarded. You are limited to 20 notes, but that isn’t a
    problem for me. I couldn’t import my Palm calendar data, but it wasn’t that
    extensive in the first place. Needless to say, though, that many people
    will find this annoying.

All in all, I this is one of the coolest toys I have played with in a
long time. As the second generation of products such as these (with things
like RIM and Treo being the first real generation, IMHO), things will only
improve in the future… But for now, this device does everything I could
expect it to, and more… I highly recommend giving it a look if you are
interested in devices such as these.

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