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 But the single "midnight-blue" colour faceplate option strikes a drab first impression for a market obsessed with colour and bling.
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.