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Remember the Hiptop: A Sidekick retrospective

CNET editor Nicole Lee remembers the Danger Sidekick through its various incarnations.

On July 1, T-Mobile announced that it has ceased the sales of the two most recent Sidekick models, the Sidekick LX and the Sidekick 2008. More importantly, it appears that Danger, now owned by Microsoft, will no longer be making any more Sidekick handsets. There have been some rumors that T-Mobile might continue the Sidekick franchise with Android-based models, but the ones with the proprietary Danger OS is effectively dead.

This is a bittersweet end for me, as the Sidekick was my first-ever real smartphone. I owned both the Sidekick II and the Sidekick 3, also known as the Hiptop by Danger. Even though it was so bulky that I had to carry it in my bag, I fell in love with the kick flip swivel and its impressive QWERTY keyboard. To this day, I think the Sidekick keyboard is one of the best physical phone keyboards I've ever tried.

It was the first phone I used that gave me constant unabated access to e-mail and instant messages. The Web browser allowed me to quickly search for information while I was out and about. I was also enamored by its app store, even though we didn't call it that back then. I remember I downloaded a few games and even an SSH app so I could access my UNIX shell account at the time. You didn't know the Sidekick was so geeky, did you?

To add to that, the Sidekick was also the first-ever smartphone to incorporate cloud services. Indeed, all your contacts and applications were synced to T-Mobile's servers, so that if your handset was ever wiped clean, you could restore it just by entering in your log-in information. Of course, the system was imperfect, as was exemplified by the massive server outage last year, as well as the various successful attempts to hack account information (remember the Paris Hilton debacle?), but it was a big selling point at the time.

Even as I moved on to the BlackBerry and eventually to the iPhone, it was interesting to see the Sidekick evolve into its varied incarnations. Eventually, it became clear that the brand was struggling, especially after the Microsoft acquisition of Danger. Still, that didn't diminish the fond memories of the Sidekicks I've owned. I even have my old Sidekick 3 lying around, just as a memento. Is it odd to have emotions about old hardware? If so, just call me a weirdo, I won't mind.