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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.

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