Before the smartphone went mainstream, and way before Apple released the iPhone, there was the Hiptop (a.k.a. Sidekick).
We’ve seen some memorable devices come and go throughout the years—remember this one?—but the Sidekick was on a different level; it was cool before owning a mobile device was cool. Sadly, it was a victim of the touch screen’s rise.
If you’ve never owned a Sidekick, chances are you wanted one. This was like the hipster’s BlackBerry, providing users with a slick keyboard and clever flip-out screen mechanism. It was easy (and fun!) to use, handsomely designed, and offered push e-mail. That was pretty much all one needed when the Sidekick was at the height of its popularity.
I owned the Sidekick 3 and absolutely loved using it to talk on AIM; the keyboard was phenomenal, and better than any BlackBerry device I’ve ever used.
In fact, out of the devices I’ve owned, I have the fondest memories using the Sidekick 3. It was pretty awful as an actual phone—call quality sucked and it was uncomfortable to use. But flip out the screen and it came to life.
It helped that that the device looked like a mini handheld console, featuring a d-pad on the left and a handy multicolor LED lit trackball. I think the Sidekick 2’s rubber keyboard is a little more comfortable, but that didn’t hold up as well over an extended period, which is why the Sidekick 3 featured a keyboard that was plastic.
When you weren’t swiftly typing lengthy AIM messages, the Sidekick’s swivel display offered endless entertainment. Even today, the Sidekick 3’s display is so satisfying to flip out—like the equivalent of doing tricks with a butterfly knife.
Some of the Sidekick 3’s specs include a display resolution of 240×260 pixels, 1500mAh battery, miniSD card support, and a 1.3-megapixel camera. So, not exactly the most groundbreaking technologically. But it had its own merits.
Eventually, Samsung developed a Sidekick that ran Android—as opposed to DangerOS—though by then the device’s popularity had come and gone. The phone’s spirit disappeared thanks to the smartphone’s rise, and spelled the end of an era for a device that was so ahead of its time.
Check out the gallery above to see why the Sidekick is such an iconic part of the mobile landscape.