For the young set that get more of their chats in text than voice, T-Mobile is updating its unique Sidekicka combination phone and messaging device, with the emphasis on the latter. The Sidekick 3 ($300 with a two-year wireless plan, $350 with a one-year) adds an MP3 player, expandable memory, an improved camera, and Bluetooth support for wireless headsets.
Despite rumors to the contrary, it does not add support for corporate messaging networks, like Microsoft's Exchange. In fact, you could call it the anti-BlackBerrywhich also is a device designed primarily for messaging but is one meant for corporate markets.
No, T-Mobile wants to keep the Sidekick aimed at its niche market of 18-to-30-year-olds. That hasn't meant a huge market, but it has a loyal following.
"It's about the only thing out there optimized for instant messaging," says Avi Greengart, an analyst with the market-tracking firm Current Analysis.
With a faster processor, the third-gen Sidekick can also tap T-Mobile's high-speed data network, making it better for Web browsing as well as messaging. The MP3 player is a nice addition, though it can't play songs from iTunes or Windows Media files. While I'm still struggling to master its little trackball, the menu is simple and easy to navigate.
The Sidekick still shines best at messaging, able to handle 10 IM sessions at a time and with a wide, QWERTY keyboard for typing. This version is somewhat less bulky than earlier editions, but that comfortable keyboard means it's going to be bigger than other hand-helds. Unlike the phone I carry every day, there is no slipping this device into my pocket. It has to stay in a holster on my, well, side.