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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 03/ 1/2011

T-Mobile to sink Sidekick on May 31

By Rob Pegoraro

T-Mobile surprised almost nobody by quietly moving to sideline the Sidekick, the formerly innovative line of phones it launched back in 2002 -- and which can rightly be regarded as Android's evolutionary ancestor.

The Sidekick's life will end May 31, when T-Mobile plans to shut down the over-the-air service that synchronizes users' contacts, calendars and other data.

The Sidekick's life began when it debuted as Danger Inc.'s "Hiptop", but T-Mobile had the good sense to rebrand it the Sidekick. The first Sidekick and subsequent models incorporated a slide-out keyboard, a basic Web browser and multimedia software, and a set of physical controls around the screen that operated in all of the phone's applications. Each Sidekick synchronized its data not to your computer but to Danger's servers, allowing a constant-over-the-air sync.

If that sounds a little bit like a primitive Android phone, it should. Danger was founded by Andy Rubin. After he was dropped as Android's Danger's chief executive in 2004, he started up a new smartphone-software firm called Android that Google promptly snapped up.

Meanwhile, the Sidekick begat the Sidekick 2, which begat the Sidekick 3, and so on. Each update brought incremental improvements to its software and hardware. For instance, the Sidekick 2 added a camera. But there were no major changes to the basic architecture. In particular, it continued to rely almost exclusively on "cloud" synchronization, without any easy offline backup option.

Microsoft bought Danger in 2008 for a reported $500 million. In 2009, a massive malfunction at Microsoft's servers left all those Sidekick users without any way of preserving their data if they so much as shut off the phone. After a few anxious days, Microsoft announced that it could rescue the threatened data, but the commercial viability of the Sidekick had already been lost.

The Sidekick software -- after an apparently disastrous rewrite that moved it to Microsoft's Windows CE code base -- last appeared in Microsoft's ill-fated Kin phones, which lasted only a few weeks in the market before getting yanked.

The Sidekick name, however, will live on; T-Mobile plans to ship a device with that moniker running Android.

Since then, the demise of the Sidekick platform has only been a matter of when, not if. Should you have one in your pocket or purse now--or, perhaps, collecting dust in a desk drawer or closet--I invite you to share your recollections in the comments.

11:17 a.m. Fixed an error in the paragraph about Rubin's role at Danger and added one about the future Android-powered Sidekick that I, um, forgot to write before.

By Rob Pegoraro  | March 1, 2011; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Mobile  
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Comments

The Sidekick LX is/was the best PDA with the most wonderful spacious keyboard that I have ever seen on a phone.

I could actually take notes during lectures with just using my 2 thumbs.

I have had my Sidekick LX since 2009 and previously had a Sidekick 2 which was purchased in 2005 so I am a very big Sidekick fan.

And, I am so beside myself as to what to do now. I had even bought another Sidekick LX as a backup last year, which will now also be worthless, since they stopped offering them for sale at T-Mobile over a year or so ago.

I am truly going to miss having my Sidekick which I keep hung around my neck when I am out and about, so it really has lived up to its name being my Sidekick.

T-Mobile says that they have an Android Sidekick available coming in the Spring, which begins in just a couple of weeks.

Hopefully the Android Sidekick will be available before 4/5/11 which is the last day that T-Mobile is offering 50% off a new phone along with a 2 year contract.

Either way, it will be very costly for Sidekick users, having to not only decide what other phone could possibly measure up to our beloved Sidekick, (hopefully the new Android Sidekick will), but to then have to purchase that other phone.

I find it absolutely reprehensible what Microsoft is doing, shutting down the web servers. They most definitely should be required to reimburse us for our inconvenience of having to purchase another PDA or smartphone because of their decision for cancelling our service.

It's not like they can't afford to maintain the Danger servers or back it up and buy new servers for use.

Hopefully a class-action lawsuit will come about due to this unjust action greatly costing Sidekick users in losing their phone and service without any choice of doing so.

And I endured the data loss in 2009-(1-2 months without my data) and unfortunately all of my photos were never recovered, so Microsoft had already left a bad taste in my mouth from that episode alone.

Thankfully T-Mobile is giving us a way to export all of our info onto an SD Card or Computer so that we can, hopefully, easily transfer the info to another phone.

Also, I think that the Android Sidekick should have already been made available-(on-the-market), before they made the announcement to discontinue our service. Someone really seems to have dropped the ball here!

Posted by: lynnkay7 | March 4, 2011 7:11 AM | Report abuse

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