Image: CSK
The new Sidekick keeps all of the cool features of the original device and adds a full-color screen.
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msnbc.com

It even has a nickname. Those in the know call it the CSK. For everyone else it will be known as the Color Sidekick. The cute little wireless data handheld and GSM cell phone now comes with a color screen.

InsertArt(1923082)OTHERWISE, it’s pretty much still the terrifically inventive wireless handheld that thousands enjoy using every day. That includes me.

I’ve been playing with the new CSK for a few weeks now and I’m hooked. I thought the original black and white Sidekick was great fun. Add the color screen and you have a really fun-to-use e-mailer/AOL Instant Messager/Web browser. Even the built-in games seem better.

Notice I haven’t mentioned the phone. The new color screen doesn’t help it any.

The new screen is amazing. Not because it’s better than all the other screens you’ve ever seen (it’s very, very good but I wouldn’t compare it to plasma TV) but because it is more power efficient than the old monochrome screen. When Danger (which makes the device for T-Mobile) began experimenting with different screens, they found one which removes the screen refresh responsibilities from the processor. It’s quite inventive. I’ve found that I can get up to two days of constantly being online (with IM and Web surfing) before I need to recharge the built-in batteries. That works out to be something like four to six hours better than with the old screen.

Otherwise, Sidekick is virtually unchanged except for an improved camera module (pictures looked better than I remember). The color version even appears to be the same size as the old one.

You can use the device closed to read messages, play games and use the phone — or rotate the screen into the open position revealing the very-usable miniature keyboard inside. It’s worth opening and closing the CSK to watch the screen image rotate 180 degrees to always be in the correct position for use. It’s still a neat feature.

One thing that should have been changed but wasn’t is the design of the phone. As I described the last time around, the Sidekick is shaped like a bar of soap. Putting it to your ear is so awkward that Danger suggests you use the headset instead. Dialing a number is not easy. There is no phone keypad (virtual or real) like you’re used to on other cellular phones. It’s easier using the CSK for incoming calls. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good cellular phone; it’s just clumsy to use.

The $299 CSK is available from T-Mobile beginning today. It now comes with an amazing array of service plans, ranging from $39.99/mo. for 60 anytime and 500 weekend phone minutes plus unlimited data to $149.99/mo. for 5,000 anytime and unlimited weekends and data. There are family plans too (combinations of one or two Sidekicks and one or two phones) and there’s a novel $29.99/mo. plan for unlimited data only with domestic voice calls going for 20-cents per minute including long distance and roaming. If you plan on buying the CSK for its data functions this might be the best deal of all.

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