Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sharp Sidekick II Smartphone

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Every so often, I think to myself that I need a cell phone. When my grandmother won a sidekick in a contest, she gave it to me figuring I’d have more patience that she would for it, mostly because so much comes with it. Aside from a cell phone, you get a Web browser, an e-mail account, AOL Instant Messenger, games, and several other features that I don’t use like a calendar and a section for notes. There’s also a camera attachment, but I wasn’t too impressed. (I’ll get to that later.) They also sent a USB port, but it seems that it’s only for fixing the device. It would be nice if I could synchronize my address books.

You get a keyboard for typing and a wheel to move up and down as well as an arrow pad for moving around within a text box. All of those are big plusses. The screen rotates to hide and reveal the keyboard, so you can get rid of it if you don’t need it. Speaking of the screen, it comes in grayscale. Don’t expect anything fancy when surfing the Web. The only real problem I’ve had is that the screen goes fuzzy every once in a while. If it persists, I’ll have to send it in.

Setup is easy, but takes a while. First, you have to charge the device, which will take about 4 hours. Next comes the SIM card, which carries the cell phone’s internal memory. A phone number is assigned to you, but you get to choose a screen name and a password for your e-mail. (I haven’t figured out how to turn the password on yet.) Some of it may take a while depending on service availability. (No cell phone has good coverage in my house, so I had to be sure to stay by a window.)

Once you get a phone number, which was the last thing that happened for me, it’s all very easy from there. I was lucky that the Sidekick had AOL IM. Already having an account with them, I didn’t have to worry about importing any contacts or setting up a new one. I also have ICQ and Yahoo accounts, so odds were good I’d be in luck, but AOL IM tends to be the easiest going from one device to another. Most of the features seemed to carry over, but I can’t save conversations. I was very annoyed by this since I like to keep them. I can’t even e-mail them to myself.

Speaking of the e-mail service, it’s easy to use. Since the device has a keyboard instead of a pen, I am able to create messages quickly. It doesn’t really matter, though, since the Sidekick account isn’t my primary account. If you, like me, already have e-mail, you can set your reply-to address as that account’s address so that you can use the Sidekick while your out and get the reply when you get home. You can have up to three external POP3 accounts delivered to your sidekick inbox, but I was never able to get it set up. Then again, it’s probably because the one account I tried to set up was my Yahoo! Mail account and they don’t allow for that kind of stuff unless you pay.

Web access is also easy, but far from perfect. The small screen isn’t a problem for text, but it can problematic for letters within images. Also, columns and series of images will probably get realigned and won’t show as intended. It can’t use Java and has to split up framed sites. I can’t access RewardTV, which uses JavaScript for logging in, or ShareBuilder, which uses frames. I can access Epinions, but I can’t rate. Also, I’ve tried looking up bus schedules using the sidekick. The schedules are in PDF format, which isn’t a problem for the sidekick, but something about selecting the schedules is a problem. Forget about long pages, too. Scrolling is fine if you do it in small amounts, but if you have to go to the bottom of an extremely long page, it will seem like a real pain. You could theoretically use the spacebar assuming you don’t hit any text fields, but it’s still a pain.

Now, I promised some commentary on the camera, so I might as well get to that. It’s not much. I’d be tempted to leave it at that, but I owe you more. My main complaint is that the resolution is low. You can make out objects if you were the one that took it or you know the subject. However, it might be a problem for others that are unfamiliar with it. I have no clue as to how I can resize them if I even can. The advantage is that you can email them to yourself easily. The camera can store 36 of these pictures at once, not that I’ve ever needed it. I guess that maybe you could do some of the things you see in the commercial, but I feel it’s better to do most of those things in person.

I guess you’re wondering how I can get this far into a review of a cell phone without actually reviewing the actual phone service and related features. I guess I should get to that. The best thing about it is that I have the second phone line I always wanted. (My computer’s near enough to a window that I get steady service.) It also has Caller ID, which would be a help if I knew more people. I guess I can now avoid telemarketers, not that any have the number yet. (Cross your fingers.) I’ve been able to store all of the names, numbers, addresses, Web sites and e-mail addresses I could ever hope for and I can use the list to dial a number. If you don’t have the number stored, you can either put it in, use the wheel pad, or use the keyboard.

Service outdoors is great, but it tends to be patchy indoors. I may go into a restaurant or 7-Eleven and see that it’s not getting reception. This has proven to be a problem on a few occasions. It has an answering service and you can forward calls when the line is busy or the device is off or out of range. The only major problem I’ve had is with the volume. I don’t receive many calls, but when I do, I can’t hear the phone ring. I have the volume on the maximum, but the case muffles the sound and if you have it in your pocket or backpack, it will be muffled even more. If you’re in a noisy area, forget about it. I’ve tried vibrate, but it was hard to tell if I was out of range or if the function didn’t actually work.

The sidekick also has a problem with overlays. For those of you in the less-populated parts of the country, area code overlays occur when an area gets so crowded with phone numbers that splitting it geographically won’t work. (I think the public service commission stops at the county level.) Thus, Miami-Dade County has two area codes: 305 and 786. To dial from one area code to the other, you don’t dial a one first. (In case you’re wondering, it’s not considered long distance.) My phone number has a 786 area code, but the majority of the county is 305. When the Sidekick receives a call from with an area code other than 786, it puts the one in front of it, which renders the redial option useless. I have to manually enter the phone number, which usually involves writing it down and putting it back in. I don’t need to often because I usually miss calls from people I know or from payphones. It would still be nice if someone did something about this, though.

This is one of those devices that I like mostly because I don’t have to rely on it. It’s especially good for those that don’t have a primary e-mail account or are constantly on the move. I’m going to keep it for the year that was included, but I’m not sure at this point if I’ll want to renew when it expires.

No comments :