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Forget folding phones, bring back the Sidekick

“Do it, you cowards” – Kev

sidekick danger hiptop phone
Image: KnowTechie

Folding phones to this point, have been a bust. Literally and figuratively. The Samsung Galaxy Z flip phone is trash (and has a screen which you’ll need to replace almost immediately). The Motorola Razr is an expensive, fragile mistake. It’s all crap.

There is a future in which technology folds — fold all the things — but that future is not now. It’s been clear to me (at least) that folding phones are an attempt to appeal to the nostalgia of Gen Xers with money. But they are rushed to production, prone to breaking and just not good.

So forget folding phones, bring back the Sidekick

I’m talking about the original Danger Hiptop with a slide-up screen (re-branded as the T-Mobile Sidekick, the device that basically launched T-Mobile into the mainstream). Sidekicks existed from 2002 to 2011, so even the youth of today might feel nostalgic for a phone they saw their parents use.

TCL is apparently working on a phone with a sliding screen, but that also presents an engineering problem that is likely prone to error and fragility. Phone manufacturers have yet to figure out how to slam two screens into a phone, a device that really doesn’t need two screens. At all. You want a larger screen? Get a tablet.

But the Sidekick, here’s something that lends itself to modern screen technology, while providing a solid engineering solution for companies looking to slide, fold or otherwise add movement to smartphone devices. To the point that the physical keyboard could be replaced by a screen under the slide-out (flip-up, 180-degree rotating, whatever) screen. The engineering problem is already solved, we know the slide-out screen works. And because of its form factor, it should be easier to make sure it’s not fragile.

There is still a 4G Sidekick being supported by T-Mobile (also teasing that the phone could come back at any time). There were other phones with similar form factors, with slide-out keyboards instead of a screen that slid up. All these phones are more physically sound than any double-screen flip phone that has been released.

Plus, if a company was to make a new Sidekick-like device, it wouldn’t have to price it at $1500

t-mobile sidekick phone

T-Mobile’s version of the Sidekick (Image: KnowTechie)o

With only one screen, or even two screens, it could easily be priced under $1000 and be a moneymaker because again — the engineering problem of a screen that moves away from the processor has already been solved. Plus, people really liked the Sidekick, whereas folding phones existed out of necessity.

The Sidekick, as it was, didn’t have to exist. It was a shift from the folding phones we were used to and persisted through much of the early iPhone years, the 4G one being released as recent as 2011. This is a phone design that is ripe for resurgence as consumers are clearly excited for smartphone factors of phones of their youth, but not excited by the price points and breakability of what has come to market.

While it’s doubtful Apple would ever embrace the complex simplicity of the Sidekick-type design, it’s possible to think a company with ties to T-Mobile (like OnePlus for instance) could release a re-built Sidekick with modern features and capabilities. Samsung built the 4G Sidekick, so it also wouldn’t be too far fetched for it to ditch the folding phone nonsense and go Sidekick.

As long as no one takes a look at the Microsoft Kin and says “let’s do that instead.” That’s a lesson in how to take a good idea and turn it into hot shit.

The Sidekick also has a form factor that lends itself to mobile gaming, something that has exploded since the Sidekick left the shelves. Hell, it looks like a goddamn Nintendo Switch. Package it with Fortnite or a Nintendo gaming deal and a brand-new Sidekick would fly off the shelves.

Folding phones are dead. Reviews are in. They suck. The screens are shit. The folds break the screens. They are fragile and overpriced. They are failures. Folding phones are dead, a piece of smartphone history we don’t need to get back. The Sidekick was something entirely different, a revolution in mobile technology and connectivity. Bring back the Sidekick.

Update: apparently a modern Sidekick-like phone exists in the F(x)tec PRO1, a phone with a physical keyboard and sliding screen. It’s an Android phone that retails for $699. So, while I’d never heard of that brand before it was pointed out to me on Twitter, it proves it is possible.

What do you think? Would you rock a Sidekick in 2020? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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A tech writer on the internet for over 15 years for outlets such as Forbes, Wired, TNW, and others, Curtis is exhausted, burnt out and happy to just write buying guides and the occasional review for KnowTechie, the best tech blog your mom never told you about. Ephemeral existence for ephemeral times. Please send pitches and grainy pictures of the inside of your elbow to kevin@knowtechie.com

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