- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 1, 2002

The second I heard the sound, I knew what it was. Anyone anyone who has been on AOL for more than 15 minutes would know the sound: a door creaking open, to let me know an instant messaging "buddy" was online.
But the sound didn't come from a PC, or a Macintosh. It came through the earphone of a $199 combination cell phone/PDA/wireless messaging device called the Sidekick. Developed by Danger Inc., a Palo Alto, Calif., firm, it's being released on the market today by T-Mobile, the former VoiceStream wireless company.
There's a range of software built into this little wonder: Web browsing, e-mail, a to-do list, notepad, calendar, address book (holding about 1,250 names), and a couple of games. But it also has a version of "IM," AOL's instant messaging, client software, so I can message my friends easily.
Where's the tiny keyboard you'd need? Well, rotate the screen up and two things happen: one, the image on the screen rotates so you're not reading things upside down. The second is the appearance of a miniature keyboard, ready to take your IMs, e-mails and even your Web page requests.
Not every Web page will display properly on this device, but enough do to make the effort worthwhile. IM-ing on the Sidekick isn't something I'd want to do all day, but it's quick in a pinch. If I were still in junior high, it might have great appeal, unless it ended up in the teacher's desk drawer.
Along with these functions, the phone works very well, and you can send and receive the popular SMS (short message service) text messages that have swept Europe and are making inroads here. The phone itself and the data services are based on the Global System for Mobile, or GSM, as opposed to older analog cellular and digital PCS (Personal Communications Service) systems.
That means that sometimes call coverage can be spotty. There's one bend in a road near my home where PCS calls are sometimes dropped. On that stretch of road and shortly beyond, the GSM phone quit twice. That's not a big issue users quickly learn where "dead spots" are around town but it's something worth considering, and worth asking T-Mobile about in relation to your locale.
Among the truly beautiful features of the phone is its Web-based synchronization (which works with Microsoft Outlook on Windows as well as Entourage on Macs) and Internet-friendly data entry for the calendar, to-do list, and address book as well as for configuring the mobile device. In six years of actively looking for a way to move data from a desktop computer to a hand-held, I've found nothing that is as adaptable, as easy and as consistently good as the Sidekick's approach.
Did I mention the camera? There's an optional, miniature camera it plugs in the headphone jack, would you believe and the device will hold about 35 pictures. You wouldn't want to put these color thumbnails in a magazine, but they're good for adding faces to the name cards in your electronic address book and, in a pinch, can be used to document a car accident or some other situation where you need a quick photo.
If the makers are looking for ways to improve this product, I can suggest one: Add a basic calculator program to the available software. My other cell phone has one; the Sidekick should, too.
But this is not a deal-breaker. The relatively low price, the $39.99-per-month service plan of unlimited Web browsing, AOL IMs and e-mail, 200 "anytime" cell minutes and 1,000 weekend minutes, should satisfy most users. That it all comes in a stylish and very functional package is a plus, a big plus. Information is online at www.tmobile.com.
E-mail MarkKel@aol.com or visit his Web page, www.kellner2000.com. Talk to him live Fridays from 5-6 p.m. EST on www.adrenalineradio.com.

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