April 28, 2009
When I first saw the T-Mobile G1, one of my first reactions mirrored a thought I had when I saw the original Sidekick; it was that it was going to be difficult to design a play-through case for the device. Sure enough, most of the cases at Only1.com designed for T-Mobile’s champion smartphone are of the pouch or flip variety, but there is at least one play-through option: the pictured aluminum option that the site has on sale for $25.
You have to admire the lengths the designers went to to accommodate the awkward shape of the phone, but it seems that using G1 with this additional metal faceplate dangling off would just add to its already somewhat cumbersome experience.
And speaking of the Sidekick, now that the Sidekick LX 2009 edition has been announced, I wonder if T-Mobile purposely wanted the G1 to look less like the average horizontal side-slider so as to further differentiate it from the now Microsoft-powered QWERTY device..
Tags: Sidekick, T-Mobile G!
February 24, 2009
In researching my next Switched On column, I came across this excerpted video of a talk at Stanford almost exactly five years ago by Danger co-founders Andy Rubin, Joe Britt and Matt Hershensen. Looking back on the looking back, I found some interesting tidbits.
Danger’s first product concept was called the “Internet sponge”, It was to be a keychain device that would bring down information from a portal (Yahoo, Excite, etc.) and be so inexpensive ($6) that portals could give it away as a loyalty play. One cool feature was that two people who had these devices could touch them to exchange contact and perhaps other information.
Five years later, the portal wars have been replaced by search wars between Google and Microsoft. We also have well-accepted push technology (RSS) and inexpensive options for broadcasting data from Ambient and MSN Direct, but clearly old Palm-style PC syncing is no longer good enough. No company has successfully implemented peer-to-peer information exchange via devices on a large scale, however, and such functionality might be a good fit for a social networking Web site such as Facebook or LinkedIn. I would have rather that Palm had implemented information exchange based on physical device contact rather than charging. This would have been a worthy successor to a platform that allowed users to exchange contact information via infrared. (Wouldn’t it be cool if digital cameras could exchange photos by letting via simple physical contact?)
There are many other fun points for mobile industry followers, including an admission about how voice on the Sidekick was an afterthought (and incredibly hasn’t improved much since its inception) and how Danger fought against being too closely aligned with T-Mobile (which happened, at least in the U.S.). The segment about delighting your customers’ customers in creating consumer products, complete with Blackberry references, reminded me of Peek (even though the Peek device is not distributed through carriers and dispenses with the Sidekick’s signature opening mechanism).
Tags: Danger, Internet sponge, Sidekick, Stanford
September 28, 2008
Three highly respected voices in the handset industry have personally described the G1 to me as “a Sidekick for grownups.” One reason for the comparison is that Andy Rubin (no relation), Google’s senior director for mobile platforms, also founded Danger Research, which developed the Sidekick.
Sure enough, there are some similarities such as a scroll ball (which came to Sidekicks in their second generation) lodged into their somewhat chunky profiles and extension of the screen above the keyboard to signal a horizontal orientation. (The Sidekick, of course, does not change orientations.) Both devices also have a Java foundation. However, at least from the initial time with the device had at the G1 launch event as well as from an industry context, I’m not feeling the analogy for a few reasons:
- Android is an open platform whereas the Sidekick was essentially a closed platform.
- Android has support from multiple carriers whereas the Sidekick has essentially been T-Mobile’s baby.
- The G1′s user interface, which takes advantage of its touch screen, is nothing like that of the Sidekick, which never had a touch screen. Thankfully, like the iPhone and others, the G1 has a soft keypad, which enables you to dial without having to flip open the screen as on the Sidekick.
- Sidekick was really optimized around a messaging experience (There’s an old tale that Danger didn’t even want it to include a browser and added one only at the insistence of T-Mobile.) and was years ahead of the current rash of messaging phones such as the enV, Rumor, Blitz and others. Its browser was OK in its day, but it’s not in the same league as the G1′s, which is ready to take on modern Web sites. (Guess why.)
- Part of the Sidekick’s architecture involved server-side software that optimized the data experience. It’s a different 3G world now and the G1 doesn’t require that.
The G1 is definitely aimed at adults; I doubt we’ll see a Tony Hawk edition or one suffocating under Swarovski crystals. But with its gesture-savvy user interface and open architecture, it strikes me far more as an iPhone for geeks than a Sidekick for grownups.
Tags: G-Mobile G1, Sidekick
November 30, 2007
I’ve been thinking lately about the notion of “signature phones.” Lots of wireless operators have exclusives but it seems that some grow to be especially associated with that operator, ideally in an iconic way, even transcending specific models to extend to generations of products. They don’t have to be smartphones although they’ve tended to be. Here’s how I would assign them today:
- AT&T: iPhone (duh). This was probably ingrained from the introductory Macworld keynote.
- Verizon Wireless: Hasn’t historically had one, but the enV is gaining momentum as its Sidekick. Voyager definitely has potential here and VZW is promoting it.
- Sprint: While Treo was probably once a signature phone for Sprint, Touch may be the closest today although it may not be compelling enough.
- T-Mobile: Sidekick, although Shadow may be up and coming as a rival.
- Helio: Ocean
Overall, signature phones have been good for operators, but too much focus on them can distract from other benefits such as network coverage (which helps explain why Verizon Wireless has never let one emerge). There are also risks involved if the phone moves to other carriers (like Treo) or if another signature phone tries to take the industry in another direction (as the iPhone has done to the Sidekick). It’s interesting to note that none of these devices have been made by the top three global handset companies. Also, the concept may expire as U.S. operators move to more open access.
Tags: iPhone, operators, Shadow, Sidekick, signature phones, Treo, Voyager
October 24, 2007
Fall CTIA is the less device-centric of the two annual wireless shows. Some attribute that to it being bumped up close to CES, but I think it has more to do with the spring CTIA show coming on the heels of the even larger European 3GSM show, a handset announcement bonanza. So, there wasn’t that much really new on the device side of the show, but it did provide an opportunity to get hands-on with some recently announced products, particularly from Samsung and LG.
I liked Samsung’s Juke (differentiated form factor and inexpensive) and the BlackJack 2 is a strong contender to the Motorola Q9. I was less drawn to the somewhat chunky and industrially styled i760 side-slider, but a colleague has ordered one and is satisfied so far.
The LG Voyager really brings the ball forward from the company’s successful enV. It is by no means an iPhone-killer as it has been portrayed. In fact, it’s not even a smartphone at all. But it should be. It’s not so much that the Windows Mobile UI would dramatically improve the overall user experience, but getting a few decent communications (IM, Web) and media applications on the Voyager would make it a formidable Sidekick competitor.
LG is the only top-five cell phone company that doesn’t offer a smartphone. It would be interesting if they offered Symbian’s OS (they are a licensee) as it would be nice to have more options for that operating system in the U.S. market, particularly on the CDMA side.
As for the Sidekick, I had been more interested in the Slide than the LX (which I’ve dubbed the “Widekick”), but, having now seen them both, the LX is not appreciably thicker than the Slide. The Sidekick would definitely benefit from a touchscreen, if only to address its longstanding need to reveal the keyboard in order to dial a number.
Tags: Juke, LG, Samsung, Sidekick, smartphones, Voyager