Jewish World Review Jan. 7, 2005 / 26 Teves 5765


Sidekick II a star, other items for new year

By Mark Kellner

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | It was either at the intersection - or waiting for my Hyundai Santa Fe to be fixed - that I decided that Danger's Sidekick II, available from wireless carrier T-Mobile (www.t-mobile.com), is a real star.


The $300 (list) device, available for less when you sign up for a service contract, is a color-screen marvel. It's a capable mobile phone, yes, and a rudimentary PDA; you can keep appointments and addresses in order on the Sidekick II.


The best is yet to come, however: for $60 per month, you get 600 voice minutes (10 hours of calling) and unlimited e-mail and Web browsing. That's where the "star power" of this device comes in.


On Christmas Day, I was at an intersection in Lancaster, Pa., realizing I had plotted directions to a relative's house from the wrong starting point. What to do? I fired up the Sidekick, used its Web browser, and got the right bearings to get on my way. Yes, I could have done this with the Motorola cell phone in my other pocket, or even - gasp - asked directions, but the Sidekick got me to Yahoo! Maps quickly and let me use the information already stored there. The browsing "experience" (i.e., the screen layout) was close enough to a regular PC that everything was familiar.


Then, last week, I had about two hours to kill when waiting for my car. Sitting in a nearby Starbucks, I was able to send AOL-based instant messages to my wife, coordinating our schedules, and to write most of last week's column, using an e-mail message as a rough-and-ready word processor. No, the thumb-friendly keyboard of the Sidekick II isn't the equal of a desktop, and there's no spell-check on the device, but I did a lot better than I would have with the e-mail and IM features of my other cell phone.

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In these two cases, the Sidekick II was more than a convenience, it was a lifesaver. Although it is positioned as something for young adults, it's adaptable to many situations and offers enough power for a business user, as I've noted in earlier discussions of previous Sidekick models.


Two caveats, however: The device lost its charge rather quickly; this may be a case of an overworked "review unit" that's going back to the manufacturer this week, or it may indicate another flaw. My advice: get power cables for both the car and home and keep them handy. Also investigate repair options for the device.


The built-in camera (not a clip-on like earlier models) is still roughly 640-by-480 resolution. It's nice, and a flash is built-in, too, but it's not that great indoors; my Motorola v505 (stet) does better indoors and out in taking pictures.


As much as I like the Sidekick II, I might just wait until the Sidekick III arrives before jumping in. Others may be very happy with this device now, and it's certainly worth investigating. Device maker Danger is to be commended for this product, as is T-Mobile, which once again brings a surprising, serviceable device to market with attractive service plans.


RAPIDWEAVER A MAC GEM - The $34.95 a user invests in RapidWeaver software (www.realmacsoftware.com), won't turn a Mac user into a Web-slinging powerhouse, but it should be more than enough for many home and small business users to create dynamic, attractive Web sites that can share all sorts of information, including, as the maker says, your "thoughts, photos, movies, files" and so forth. The program is VERY easy to use, is supported by a bunch of folks offering templates and other add-ins, and should fit the bill quite nicely for many folks. It's well worth examining, in my opinion.

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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.

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