Commentary From the Ruins of the Slacker Generation
Well, I am now an Android user.
I made the leap as a long-suffering BlackBerry addict recently for a few reasons. First and foremost was a desire to reduce expenses. When comparing T-Mobile’s plans and rates, we found that we would save $50 to $60 a month on our cell phone bill, and actually get a bit more than what AT&T was offering. The thing that tipped us over the edge was an online sale T-Mobile was having, where they were giving away Sidekick 4G smartphones for free with a new contract.
The Sidekick 4G is a pretty sweet smartphone. It runs Android, Google’s smartphone OS that has been making tons of waves over the past few years. It has a nice, spacious keyboard that is revealed after sliding up the 3.5 inch screen. I don’t know if there will ever be a device that will match the BlackBerry Bold / Torch keyboards, but the Sidekick’s is impressive, comfortable to type on, and the inclusion of the dedicated number keys is welcome. The arrangement for the Home, Back, Jumplist, and Menu buttons takes a little getting used to, as it is utterly unlike any other Android phone, but makes perfect sense after using the phone in landscape mode for messaging and navigation. The phone is a little on the long side, compared to what I have been used to, but still slides into my pocket comfortably. The 3MP camera on the back has no flash (boo) but at least has autofocus and takes decent pictures. There is a front-facing camera for video calls (powered by the Qik service). This works pretty well over WiFi; I have yet to try it over 3G / 4G.
Speaking of 4G, T-Mobile’s service claims up to 21MBs download speeds. I haven’t tested this to any great extent. 4G coverage immediately around my house is non-existent (I have EDGE coverage, but I use WiFi anyway). When I go out, I tend to have 4G more often than not. Web pages and social media apps load quickly; I haven’t done any concrete testing but 4G seems to be an improvement over AT&T’s 3G network (particularly on a BlackBerry). I don’t have any complaints about T-Mobile’s service so far. Voice coverage has been fine and calls are clear. I had a minor hiccup after my first day with the device where my phone wasn’t properly provisioned with a data plan, but T-Mobile’s customer service was very nice and quickly resolved the issue.
It is still early days with the Sidekick, and I plan on writing more about it after putting in more time with it. So far, I have been pleasantly impressed with it. There have been a few times where I have receive a “Force stop” on an application that has hung, but usually stopping and re-opening the app has gotten past this issue. One disappointment: Shazam does not appear to work on the Sidekick (it crashes as soon as I try to do anything in the app). Also, a few apps are not optimized for landscape mode, but these are few. From a tech / geek perspective, there is something refreshing about having a new device and system to learn about and tweak. I’m sure that will be a topic for another article down the road…