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printed July 25, 2014
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Review: Samsung Sidekick 4G

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Is It Your Type? Body The Three S's  

Sidekicks have never been small phones, and the Sidekick 4G is no exception. It is thick and bulky, but thankfully not too heavy. It feels chunky in the hand, though build quality is pretty good. The plastics are of decent quality and the seams are even around the entire device. Its size will be obvious when put into a pocket. There's no escaping the bulk.

As is typical to the Sidekick form, there are four buttons placed in the corners on the front surface, with the screen in the middle. There's also an optical mouse placed between the Back and Menu keys on the bottom of the front.

Samsung made some critical errors with these controls. The two buttons on the bottom are the Back and Menu keys. The home key is in the top-right corner, and the user-configurable Jump Key is in the top-left corner. When the Sidekick 4G is used in portrait orientation, the Home button requires real effort to use, and forces users to extend their thumb all the way to the top of the to device. Every other Android device I can think of puts the Home button below the screen, where it is easy to get to. Samsung should have ditched the optical mouse -- which is useless and buggy on the Sidekick 4G -- and put the home button there, instead. Crummy button placement aside, these four buttons have satisfying travel and feedback. (Admittedly, the Home button isn't as awkward to use when the S4 is used sideways in landscape orientation.)

Speaking of which, the swivel S4 screen you know and love is totally gone. Instead, Samsung opted for a more traditional hinged design. When held sideways, the Sidekick 4G's display will pop open with but a nudge from your thumbs. The hinge feels strong, and the display is at a comfortable viewing angle. TheSidekick 4G4 has some ridged, grippy patches on the back, which fall directly under your fingers when holding the S4 in landscape mode. These give the Sidekick 4G a solid feel in the hand and should help prevent the Sidekick 4G from slipping out of your grasp.

The keyboard calls upon the ghosts of Sidekick keyboards past for its offset layout and key design. It has five rows -- including an entire row for numbers -- and the offset keys mimic the look and feel of a real, PC-style QWERTY keyboard. They keys, while small, have great definition and a good shape. Typing feels natural, and I found my thumbs flying across the keyboard after a few moments. It has a dedicated "@" key and the comma and period get their own buttons, but there aren't other shortcuts, such as "www" or ".com". There's also a dedicated button for voice actions and a dedicated emoticon key. When pressed, it shows 10 emoticons at a time, which can be inserted by pressing the emoticon on the screen, or the corresponding number key.

The volume toggle is on the left side of the phone. It's easy to find and use, and has good travel and feedback. The 3.5mm headset jack is above it, in my least favorite spot, right in the corner of the Sidekick 4G. The power/lock button is also on the left side, near the bottom. It's a somewhat unusual spot. Most devices put the power/lock key on the top. With the Sidekick 4G, however, you'll find it is perfectly placed for use when the device is open in landscape mode. It falls right under your thumb.

The camera key is on the right side of the Sidekick 4G (or the top, when in landscape mode). It has great travel and feedback, and the two stages -- one for autofocus, one for the shutter -- are well defined. The microUSB port, covered by a hatch, is also on the right.

The microSD card slot is located under the battery cover, but thankfully not under the battery itself. The cover isn't too difficult to pry off.

 

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