Sidekick LX 2009 Review

Sidekick LX 2009 Review

The Gadget: The Sidekick LX, a slightly larger and feature-heavy Sidekick with 3.2-megapixel camera, a larger battery, 3G, GPS, larger screen, and the same rotating screen with chiclet keyboard underneath.

The Price: $US200 with two-year contract

The Verdict: It’s nice! The flip-out screen, nicely-designed keys and generally usable interface may be attractive to people who’ve never used a Sidekick before, but the Sidekick LX is clearly aimed at people who are already familiar with the platform.

Although it’s larger than the Sidekick 2008, the screen is bigger, the keyboard is better and the UI is improved. The home screen now has larger icons and more fluid animation, but is still so decidedly “Sidekick-like” that longtime users will have no problem adjusting.

The addition of GPS integrated with Microsoft’s Live Search finally brings some kind of map/direction finding to the platform. Although the GPS works alright outdoors (indoors is iffy), the actual usage is awkward. You have to manually tell the phone to find your location, then open up Live Search and select “my location at 9:53 AM” to do anything with it. This is one step in the opposite direction of how we think GPS on phones should work. There’s also plenty of privacy settings that control what can touch your location data, probably because the Sidekick is very popular with kids.

Its keyboard is also noticeably improved from the SK 2008. Each individual key is lower to the ground, but is easier to type on. All the other standard Sidekick keys (back menu, call, etc.) are where they should be. And that horizontal blue LED on the bottom of the screen that lights up when you get an incoming call is really cool looking.

What I don’t like is how the mini USB charging port is now on the bottom right, compared to the top left on the Sidekick 2008, and how it gets in the way of usage while charging. The flip mechanism is also slightly worse, in that now you have to push up toward your face, instead of out away from you, in order to get the screen to open. Perhaps it’s not so much “worse,” but just “different”. And the fact that you have to open up the battery plate to get to the microSD card is annoying.

That 3.2-megapixel camera is so-so for something you carry on you at all times, but it’s not astounding, as the sample shots above show. T-Mobile’s 3G connectivity is still T-Mobile’s 3G connectivity—as in, it’s not that great—but if you live in an area with coverage, it’s better than NOT having 3G.

As for voice calls, the quality is fine, but I hear slightly too much of my own voice when having a conversation. Nothing you’d really be aware of unless you switched phones a lot.

Overall, Sharp did a pretty good job with the build quality other than the fact that they mucked up and placed a few things in weird places, and Microsoft’s Danger did a good job further refining the Sidekick interface. If you were a fan of the Sidekick before, there’s no big reason not to upgrade to the LX. But if you’ve never been interested in Sidekicks in the past, this definitely isn’t going to lure you over. [Sidekick]

Improved keyboard, sturdy body
Who’s going to turn down GPS and 3G, even if it doesn’t work as well as it does on other phones
General UI improvements are welcome

3.2-megapixel camera is decent, but not great

Strange design decisions like placing the microSD card inside the shell and placing the charging port in the way of your hand