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Motorola Hiptop Slide review: Motorola Hiptop Slide

The Hiptop Slide is social networking heaven paired with average standard phone features. This is one for the kids.

Joseph Hanlon Special to CNET News
Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies.
Joseph Hanlon
4 min read

Sold in the US as the Sidekick Slide, it's apparently the phone of choice for Hollywood's party girls, Paris and Britney. Now Telstra is bringing the latest Hiptop to Australia's teenage party animals. The third in a growing series of Hiptop phones, the Slide is, as you'd expect, slightly smaller, and slightly lighter than its predecessor, the Hiptop 2. But the single "midnight-blue" colour faceplate option strikes a drab first impression for a market obsessed with colour and bling.


Motorola Hiptop Slide

The Good

Simplified Internet access. Excellent instant messaging including Yahoo and Windows Live. New MySpace application.

The Bad

Tiny keys in QWERTY keypad. Low quality camera. Only one faceplate colour option. Potential to be expensive.

The Bottom Line

Social networking heaven paired with average standard phone features. One for the kids.

A bright 2.4-inch display slides to reveal a QWERTY keypad comprised of annoyingly small keys for users with digits larger than those of the targeted teenage market. Even with tiny, girly fingers, we still predict you'll need your fingernails filed to a sharp point to accurately find the keys you are after without multiple excursions to the backspace key.

The interface is colourful and attractive and easily navigated using the Trackball joystick. This ultra-sensitive trackball did take some getting used to, even after adjusting the trackball movement to its slowest settings. After some practice though, it proved to be a fast and intuitive tool for speeding through the menus.

On first inspection, the Hiptop Slide may seem too large to be carried around comfortably, especially in your pockets. The size is, of coarse, necessary to accommodate the QWERTY keypad and makes sense when held with both hands to type messages. The sliding action feels smooth and solid, with the screen snapping into place when opening or closing.

While at its core the Hiptop Slide is a mobile phone, it's the additional communications abilities that will have the strongest pull to a younger market. Yahoo Messenger and Windows Live Messenger are given dedicated space in the top menu. Standard SMS and MMS functionality is extended with push e-mail. In addition, exclusive carrier Telstra has partnered with MySpace to include a mobile version of the social networking site on this latest Hiptop, though MySpace junkies beware, the service is available for a an additional AU$5 per month subscription fee.

In fact, perhaps a similar warning is pertinent to parents considering the Hiptop for their kids, with a wide range of pricey customisations but a few flicks of the trackball away from curious minds in the BigPond Catalogue menu option. It doesn't seem possible to turn this menu selection off, and we were downloading themes and ringtones in mere moments. A handy feature if you can afford it, but at AU$4 per ringtone, it's a dangerous one if you can't.

Connectivity options supports the text-based communication extras well, even with Internet access only available at GPRS (2.5G) connection speeds. Automatic network scanning means not tweaking settings manually and we didn't have any trouble in this regard with our test unit. Logging into the messaging software is, dare we say, child's play, and in no time we were wasting precious time chatting to friends on our Yahoo buddies lists.

For local connections, the Hiptop Slide makes use of Bluetooth 2.0 and USB 2.0, the latter also used to charge the phone, similar to using your computer to charge your MP3 player. Doing away with a conventional charger is a smart move and means users will be able to transfer the latest music from their PCs while the battery recharges. The Slide stores data, like music and images, with 128MB of internal memory that is expandable via a microSD card slot located under the phone's battery.

Text and instant messaging addicts depend on immediate responses, not just from their square-eyed counterparts but also from the technology. The Hiptop Slide is definitely fast and responsive. The top menu gives immediate access to each of the key messaging features, separating SMS and MMS from instant messaging, e-mail and MySpace.

Aside from the excellent messaging functionality, the rest of the phone is standard or below average. Making and receiving voice calls is good, but not great. During our tests we found the built-in speaker produced muffled results during calls, and again, the tiny keys on the keypad are less than ideal for regularly dialling 10-digit mobile numbers.

The 1.3-megapixel camera is another underachiever. The photos taken were lacklustre at best and these were snapped under bright florescent lights. Without a built-in flash, this camera is essentially unusable without decent exposure to natural light. This isn't such a big problem when you consider the usage it might get with the targeted teenage market, but you wouldn't want to take it on holidays.

On the plus side, battery life in the Hiptop Slide is quite good. During some light testing we were pleased with approximately five days standby, including some calls, messaging and photos. You can expect this figure to reduce significantly with heavy usage of the messaging services, but overall it's sufficient.

As a phone exclusive to Telstra, pricing will definitely be a consideration. AU$30 per month for unlimited data is good value but only covers instant messaging, MMS, SMS, e-mail and Web browsing. Voice calls and any extras you may want to download from the BigPond catalogue are an extra expense, as is MySpace at AU$5 per month.

The Hiptop Slide shares some similarities to other smartphones available, but the Slide shouldn't be considered as an alternative to a business ready PDA. This is one for the kids, who will love this phone if only for the messaging. The dark colours of the faceplate lack excitement, but shouldn't deter too many eager instant messenger users from the allure of always being connected. As a phone it's about average, and as a camera we wouldn't recommend it.