The teen-focused Sidekick from T-Mobile has historically been a popular alternative for parents to provide for the kids, and many have lamented the upcoming demise of the Sidekick service behind the phones. T-Mobile has announced the Sidekick 4G to fill the void this spring, but there are a few things parents should consider about the new Sidekick before getting them for the kids.
The Sidekick has long been a top seller for T-Mobile, as much due to the Sidekick service as the phone hardware. The cloud service kept user data safely backed up on Danger's servers, the company behind the Sidekick purchased by Microsoft. The failure last year of those servers, resulting in the loss of all user data (eventually restored), likely played a role in the shutdown of the Sidekick service. This forced T-Mobile, owner of the Sidekick product line, to go in another direction. That direction is Android with capable Samsung hardware. Colleague Matt Miller has the details on the new Sidekick hardware that is produced by Samsung and running Android 2.2.
This new product line is exciting and will appeal to parents looking for phones for the kids, but it would be wise to be aware of a few things that differ from the original Sidekicks. First of all, the Android platform is open, complete with the thousands of apps in the Android Market. It may be necessary to set some ground rules with the kids before setting them up to purchase apps at will. App costs can add up quickly.
Sidekick 4G users will be able to buy and rent movies and TV shows on the phones through the Samsung Media Hub. T-Mobile states those purchases can be charged to the phone bill so that could lead to some unexpectedly large phone bills from the kids. This service is particularly appealing to kids due to the fast 4G network, making video streaming painless until the bill arrives. If carrier billing is configurable, it might be wise to turn this off on the kids' phones.
Last but not least, the new Sidekick 4G has a front-facing camera and can make video calls using the Qik Android app. This is a nice feature that your kids will use with their friends also owning Sidekicks. While the thought of your kids video chatting at will may give you pause, it will certainly use lots of data on the network. T-Mobile has not detailed if the Sidekick 4G will have a special data plan, but even if the plan has no overage fees the carrier will likely throttle bandwidth once a monthly cap is exceeded.