Overall, the phone is slow and laggy. Apps, especially games such as Angry Birds, take quite some time to launch. Sometimes they crash before ever launching, simply returning you to the app drawer or homescreen. For running on a 1GHz Hummingbird CPU, the Sidekick shouldn’t be a slouch – but it is. Almost everything moves slow. And we think a good bit of the slowness is caused by the rather lackluster Sidekick skin.
The only piece of the Sidekick Android theme we actually like is the modified lock screen which shows the time in a pretty nifty way. Text isn’t great looking throughout the included Sidekick themes, and colors are generally quite dark. While teens may enjoy this, or at least not mind it, we’re not sure anyone else would like it – we certainly didn’t. Samsung’s built-in “Feeds and Updates” widget can only auto-update never or once a day. We recommend you just stick to never.
Not all of the UI was optimized to be used in landscape format, which seems quite odd to us for being a Sidekick device. The dialer app can only be used in portrait, which is annoying since you may want to use the phone in landscape while on a call. Our biggest gripe regarding portrait/landscape use is the fact that the phone can only be used in portrait mode with the keyboard flip closed.
For those of you interested in Quadrant scores, we only got 967.
The rear camera, which lacks flash, clocks in at only 3MP. Even so, the images coming from the Sidekick were quite nice. With that said, the Samsung camera app is really slow (noticing a theme here?), and takes ages for an image capture to actually take place.
The Sidekick 4G packs an 1500mAh battery, which is more than adequate to get through a day with moderate usage. We were quite surprised, and impressed, to see Samsung include a standalone microUSB charger (along with a microUSB cable) with the Sidekick.
Voice Quality, T-Mobile, etc.
Voice quality on the Sidekick is phenomal. In fact, it’s the clearest and sharpest we’ve heard in quite some time. It really is a high point of the device for us. We were also quite impressed with T-Mobile’s coverage, often matching – or beating – AT&T and on par with what we see on our Verizon iPhone 4.
The Sidekick 4G packs an HSPA+ radio capable of 21Mb downlink speeds. Unfortunately, we never saw data speeds get anywhere near the theoretical maximum. In fact, we never saw data speeds reach anything over 1Mb down and 900Kb up. We tested the Sidekick just outside of Baltimore and outside of Philly, both areas which have HSPA+ “4G” coverage according to T-Mobile’s coverage map and the phone itself. Our Verizon iPhone 4 often hits the maximum real-world speeds seen with EVDO, capping out at 1.5Mb down easily. If you’re looking for super fast mobile data, we’re not sure T-Mobile is for you.
The Sidekick 4G is available for $99 on a two-year contract with T-Mobile.
At the end of the day, we’re not sure who would actually buy T-Mobile’s latest iteration of the Sidekick. While the keyboard is quite nice, we don’t think that alone is enough to overcome the device’s other shortcomings – especially its horrible performance. If you’re a tween or teen thinking this is the Sidekick you’ve been waiting to upgrade to, or switch back to, we can’t recommend this device at all. If you want a really great hardware keyboard, grab a BlackBerry. But if you really want a Sidekick branded device and can deal with slow performance, a rather annoying skin which doesn’t add anything useful, and slow faux-G data speeds, maybe the Sidekick 4G is the device you’ve been waiting for.