An early promotional brochure for the Hiptop, the original name used by Danger for what became the T-Mobile Sidekick

One of the iconic devices of the mobile revolution, the T-Mobile Sidekick, will reach a milestone next Tuesday with the shutdown of the online service from Danger Inc. that has powered the platform for the past decade.

Users of Sidekicks released before this year will still be able to make calls and send text messages, but anyone still clinging to those relics will be left without the online engine that serves up contacts, photos, and other data-driven features.

Bellevue-based T-Mobile USA has already launched a new Sidekick, running on Google’s Android operating system, and the company has been prodding existing Sidekick users to upgrade to new devices and migrate their data. But next week will mark the end of an era for a product that opened many eyes to one of fundamental advances of our time — the concept that a phone, connected to the Internet, can be a lot more than a phone.

Paris Hilton with her beloved Sidekick ... checking her hair in the built-in mirror

The saga of the Sidekick is worthy of a novel. The platform was conceived by technology pioneers, embraced by celebrities, targeted by hackers and ultimately acquired by Microsoft before suffering a fall from grace in the form of a high-profile server meltdown.

Sidekick’s rebirth on Android effectively brings it home to Andy Rubin, the Danger co-founder who also co-founded Android and now oversees its development at Google. But the proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA by AT&T for $39 billion leaves the Sidekick’s future as uncertain as ever.

It’s an important story that sheds light on some of the most significant technology trends of the past decade — the rise of the smartphone and cloud computing, growing public awareness of privacy concerns, and the risks and rewards of our increasingly mobile digital lives.

Continue reading for a special Sidekick retrospective, in videos and images.

Comments

  • Mike Lewis

    Terrific story, Todd.. 

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Mike. Lots of fun going through those archives.

  • Anonymous

    thank you todd very much for this. it is sad to see my most cherished device perish so to speak. i’ve used sidekicks since the first color and my life with phones has never been the same since. however with all the outages and microsoft mucking up the services i just had to give it up. i bought a samsung vibrant and was totally fine using android. i just wasn’t fine using a touchscreen keyboard. now i have the new sidekick 4g. not the same as the old danger technology setup but it is still holding true to the old form factor. :'( this did bring a tear to my eyes and i thank you for that. :-)

  • Anonymous

    Excellent retrospective of this device. I have been a long-time Sidekick supporter and held on to my Sidekick LX (2007) until earlier this month when I finally switched to the Android Sidekick 4G. my old sidekick still worked wonderfully and I am sad to see it fade away.

  • Dreamcasting

    Finally! A an article that gets why the hardcore sidekick fan base stuck it out as long as they did. The platform provided robust connectivity across IM for those of us who roamed in and out of service zones and removed the need for us to sign back in and restart conversations. The keyboard was stellar, the function key layout fantastic, battery life infinite, and the device was just plain overall solid. I personally went along the ride from the Sidekick II to the final Sidekick LX 2008 and most models in between.

    With the pending merger to Ma Bell and the overall specs of the Sidekick 4G in comparison to the powerful Galaxy S line and other Androids, I ultimately changed to the Epic 4G on Sprint just over 3 weeks ago. Between the impressive keyboard, powerful specs, and the same robustness now available on Trillian, it’s a little like the old days with my Sidekick. RIP Sidekick, you will be missed.

  • http://twitter.com/nelumbolutea lw

    I had my old SidekickLX until February when the USB port finally stopped permitting a charge.  I got the Tmobile G2.  Not happy with it, but the new Sidekick was not yet available (d@mmit – even when I asked a pointed question about alternatives).  I do not like the keyboard.  I also abhor the lack of precise control with touch screens.  I have been a T customer for almost 10 years.  However, the handwriting is on the wall.  If they ‘adapt’ the ATT billing structures, I will be finding another carrier as soon as this extension times out.  I want my unlimited data…and that is what I will be one thing I will rating carriers on in the future as well as available devices to my specification.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Wally-SirFatty/100002167236858 Wally SirFatty

      Have been using a G2 for 6 months… it’s a great phone, probably one of the best android devices right now (that has a physical keyboard).

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Wally-SirFatty/100002167236858 Wally SirFatty

      Have been using a G2 for 6 months… it’s a great phone, probably one of the best android devices right now (that has a physical keyboard).

  • Anonymous

    It is likely for companies to have server problems.

  • Anonymous

    OMG I used to totally love the Sidekick, until iphone came out anyways.

    http://www.privacy-web.no.tc

  • Dave

    T-Mobile certainly doesn’t make it easy to upgrade to the new Sidekick. We’ve spent 2 hours in the store and probably another 4 hours on customer support so far.

  • Anonymous

    As the product development lead at T-Mobile on the Sidekick from 2006-2009, I found this amazing chronology to be a bittersweet journey down memory lane. Thank you!

    With due respect for the tribute, I want to also highlight some important milestones represented by a gap in the above timeline. In June 2009, Forbes.com declared, “If the wireless industry had a Hall of Fame, Apple’s iPhone, T-Mobile’s Sidekick and Motorola’s Razr would occupy a special niche. Like family dynasties, they span multiple generations while keeping the same basic characteristics and names.” (‘What the iPhone, Sidekick and Razr Share” June 09, Forbes.com)  At the time of this article, there had been 15 versions of the Sidekick launched since 2002.

    In addition to the varied Sidekick Limited Edition co-brands like the DWade, Mr Cartoon, DVF and Juicy Couture models, the Sidekick team launched a breakthrough in device personalization with the Sidekick 2008 model.

    I will never forget the day at CES when I was informed by Microsoft that they had just acquired Danger. It is incredible to look again at this device’s history and think what has happened between that day and today in mobile, and specifically with smartphones.

    I take special pride in having been a part of this footnote in wireless history, and having had the opportunity to work with this innovative team to build a product and a brand with such rabid fans. Thanks for the memories, Sidekick! We’ll always have Nara.

  • Julie

    How’s this…..My teenager ditches her iPhone for the Sidekick.  1-week later, T-Mobile discontinues selling sidekick.  6-months later, T-Mobile discontinues supporting the phone (blames the decision on Danger, but hey, my contract is with T-Mobile).  To keep my daughter happy, I purchase another Sidekick (4G, T-Mobile), the Android version this time.  It’s pink and my daughter loves it. 
    The irritation is that the ‘old’ 9-month Sidekick no longer works, and T-Mobile tells me I need to continue paying for the phone they no longer support.  Really? 
    This is like the bank holding your car loan wandering over to your house, removing the engine, and requiring that you still make your loan payments becuase you can ‘sit’ in the car even if it won’t transport you anywhere.  I can hold the phone, but it doesn’t work with the features that I purchased.

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