First off the hardware and software are very well married, and the hardware is a brilliant piece of design.
In most of its incarnations the Sidekick II is designed to be used in wide format, held between two hands. The screen is a not too wonderful but serviceable 60 x 40mm, 240 x 160 pixel, 65k colour TFT, and it faces outermost. On its right sit two large buttons and a wheel flanked by Call and End buttons. The wheel is used for moving through menus in the various built in applications, and does its job very well indeed.
On the screen’s left are two more buttons and a navigation pad. The top and bottom edges offer a few more buttons sitting along rubberised strips, including the power toggle, two of which have application specific functions and volume control which at the quiet end send you to vibrate and then finally silent mode.
Incidentally, incoming calls and alerts are accompanied by some of the most garish flashing lights I’ve ever seen that illuminate the navigation button. You’ll like or loathe these – trust me.
There is a keyboard built into the Sidekick II. To get to it you push gently at the top right edge of the screen section. The screen spins alarmingly quickly around on a hinge in the centre of its top long edge, finishing up with its display having flipped through 180 degrees to give you a right-way-up view of it, and revealing what had been hidden underneath – that keyboard.
Because of the access mechanism the keyboard is slightly recessed below the edges of the hardware, but that doesn’t affect usability. The keys themselves are fairly nicely spaced, and though small are pretty easy to hit. To make voice calls by tapping out a number you need to use a defined area within the qwerty keys rather than a separate number pad which is pesky. You are much more likely, though, to use the built in software for initiating calls.
The software is accessible from a main screen though which you navigate using the roller on the right side of the Sidekick II. There is a Web browser, AOL instant messenger, email client, phonebook, SMS tool, MMS tool, address book, calendar, to do list manager, notes taker, camera manager and image viewer, a game called Rock & Rocket (an Asteroids clone), and download area where you can obtain new stuff such as ring tones and more applications.