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Tech Report – T-Mobile Sidekick 4G

If it’s possible to be nostalgic for a smartphone, then T-Mobile’s original Sidekick – first launched in 2002 – would be a worthy candidate. Beloved by parents and teens alike for its affordability as well as its many cool features, the Sidekick spawned dozens of would-be imitators, including Nokia’s N-Gage, the Palm Pixi, and Microsoft’s Kin.

Running on a Java-based operating system known as DangerOS, the Sidekick was one of the first smartphones to be built around instant messaging and social networking applications, thereby appealing to a younger audience that believed mobile phones were for texting not talking. Later versions included the SK3, the Sidekick iD, and the Sidekick LX, all from Sharp, and the Sidekick Slide from Motorola.

Danger was ultimately acquired by Microsoft, and the Sidekick took a back seat as the Redmond-based giant put all its mobile resources into developing the Kin. The fact that the Kin itself was discontinued late last year may have something to do with the decision by T-Mobile and Samsung to dust off the Sidekick brand and give it another chance.

Although the new T-Mobile Sidekick 4G will still be aimed at teens, with texting and social network integration two of its many features, parents should be aware that this version offers a whole lot more than that. First, the Sidekick 4G runs Android 2.2, with access to the tens of thousands of apps in the Android Market. Second, Sidekick 4G users will be able to buy or rent from the thousands of movies and TV shows in the Samsung Media Hub catalog.

Video streaming movies and playing downloadable games will be particularly appealing to kids due to the lightning-fast T-Mobile 4G network, but that could also lead to some hefty costs. T-Mobile has stated that these downloads will be charged through the regular phone bill, so parents may only learn of these expensive purchases after the damage is done.

Lastly, the Sidekick 4G has a front-facing camera and can make video calls using the Qik Android app. Again, even if you were OK with your child making video calls on his or her smartphone, it is likely to be another big data drain.

On the positive side, T-Mobile has announced that the Sidekick 4G will come with a service called DriveSmart, which helps prevent distracted driving by providing automated incoming call and message management. There will also be a DriveSmart Plus service, which gives parents advanced controls and the ability to activate the service automatically.

The Sidekick 4G is expected to be available later this spring. It will come with a choice of matte black or pearl magenta. No pricing or service plan information has yet been announced.

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