Review: Samsung Sidekick 4G From T-Mobile
I was in the market for a new mobile phone last year, after having more or less worn out my OG Droid. Seeing I use my phone a lot for mobile IT work, so a good dedicated keyboard was hugely important for me. After some research, Samsung’s Sidekick 4G (model SGH-T839) stood out head and shoulders above the crowd for it’s five row keyboard – very similar to the original HTC Dream / G1 keyboard. The hardware specs are middling, but my needs are also middling so this wasn’t a tragedy. I would have liked a larger screen and a camera flash, but unfortunately if a good keyboard is your main criteria, the field is pretty sparse. So here’s my take on the good, the bad and the ugly after using it for 9 months:
- A Caveat
- Unlocking & Rooting
- User Interface / ROM
- Keyboard & Trackpad
- Microphone & Speakers
- Camera & Picture Quality
- Battery Life
- Hardware Overview
- Full Tech Specs
Firstly, a caveat: I am using this phone in Canada, so most of the native T-Mobile features aren’t available as I’m on a different network. In Canada, WIND Mobile and Mobilicity operate on the same 1700/2100 band (AWS) as T-Mobile and allow users to bring their own phones. I went with WIND solely because they have a slightly broader coverage of the Edmonton metro area. Their customer service is definitely sub-par, but they are actually quite experienced with Android phones and got me up and running very quickly.
For those who are interested, I bought the phone off of eBay for $215; the seller was a total sweetie 🙂 Be forewarned that if you buy it from an actual eBay store (for instance, thegizmotrader) you’ll have to pay the shipping company to act as your import broker. For UPS, this is an outrageous $40 that you pay to UPS over and above what you actually pay to the seller for shipping and handling.
Unlocking is dead simple, it took me two minutes. There’s good documentation here for Windows users (Linux users should be able to follow the same guide and adjust accordingly). A less technically savvy person might have to fumble around a bit longer, but even so I would expect the average user to be able to unlock this bad boy in under thirty minutes.
I found the native UI to be laggy and ugly in the extreme, and since I couldn’t use most of the T-Mobile features anyway I dumped the native ROM and tried out several alternates. All of the ROMS are based off of the T-Mobile ROM as the hardware APIs aren’t available for building one from scratch, but they are heavily tweaked and optimized. I eventually settled on Glorious Overdose as the best of the lot – clean and zippy interface, all the bloatware stripped out and extremely stable. Kudos to ayoteddy and sduvick!
The buttons are well spaced out and have great clicky tactile feedback, and it’s very easy to thumb-type very quickly on them.
The laser touchpad is pretty decent, but it can be a bit slow to respond. It can also be used as a button to click on screen elements instead of using your finger by simply pushing on it. It’s way better than a D-pad, but I still find the original G1’s trackball to be the best mouse substitute.
The handset microphone works very well, people had no trouble hearing me and reported that the sound was of excellent quality. Ditto for the speaker, excellent sound and quite loud. The speaker phone, which I use a lot when I need my hands free to work when doing technical support, is decent but not spectacular; sound is a bit tinny.
I can recommend the BlueAnt Q2 Bluetooth Headset for use with the Sidekick. It’s feature packed, inexpensive, and works even better than my original Plantronic Voyager Pro. It has a native Android app that also enables some nifty features like reading your SMS messages to you over the headset as they come in!
The camera is definitely middle of the line at 3MP, but the video quality is decent at 720×480 @ 30 fps. The biggest disappoint is the lack of a flash; it will take pics under low light conditions like at a night club, but the results are usually rather grainy. Pictures are of decent quality in good lighting conditions, and the focusing and shutter speed are good.
A basic VGA cam, it handles video conferencing apps like Skype well.
Mediocre to poor, depending on your use. Definitely not for heavy use, as it won’t make it through the day without a charge. I keep mine plugged in at the office or in the car, and usually have ~85% battery at the end of the day. However, with heavy use and no on-the-go charging, it usually dies by dinner time. Even with light use you’d still need to charge it over night every day to ensure you had enough power for the next day.
Definitely not a powerhouse, but again good enough for an average user or technical user like myself. If you want a gaming platform, this is not your phone (though video and audio are quite good). It has only a single core and 512MB of RAM. If it wasn’t for the fantastic keyboard and the nifty pop up screen, this would be in the ‘cheap free phone with sign up’ category.
GPS often takes two to five minutes to lock on, somewhat longer than average in my experience. However once locked, it rarely loses it.
Radio is excellent, I get a 3G signal even in the concrete elevator shaft in my office building. The phone is in fact 4G capable, but most carriers in Canada don’t have much coverage for 4G as of yet.
(credit: GSM Arena)
|General||2G Network||GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900|
|3G Network||HSDPA 1700 / 2100|
|Status||Available. Released 2011, April 20th|
|Body||Dimensions||127 x 61 x 15 mm|
|Display||Type||TFT capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors|
|Size||480 x 800 pixels, 3.5 inches (~267 ppi pixel density)|
|– Optical trackpad|
|Sound||Alert types||Vibration, MP3, WAV ringtones|
|Memory||Card slot||microSD, up to 32GB, 2GB included, buy memory|
|Internal||1 GB ROM, 512 MB RAM|
|Speed||HSDPA, 7.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps|
|WLAN||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot|
|Bluetooth||Yes v3.0 with A2DP|
|USB||Yes, microUSB v2.0|
|Camera||Primary||3.15 MP, 2048×1536 pixels, autofocus|
|Video||Yes, D1 (720×480 pixels) @ 30 fps|
|Features||OS||Android OS, v2.2 (Froyo)|
|CPU||1 GHz Cortex-A8|
|Messaging||SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM|
|Browser||HTML, Adobe Flash|
|GPS||Yes, with A-GPS support|
|Java||Yes, via Java MIDP emulator|
|Colors||Matte black, Pearl magenta|
|– SNS integration
– T-Mobile TV
– MP4/H.264/H.263 player
– MP3/WAV/eAAC+ player
– ThinkFree Office document editor (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), PDF viewer
– Google Search, Maps, Gmail,
YouTube, Calendar, Google Talk, Picasa integration
– Voice memo
– Predictive text input
|Battery||Standard battery, Li-Ion 1500 mAh|
|Stand-by||Up to 456 h|
|Talk time||Up to 6 h 30 min|