Hiptop review

Posts you want to find years later go here.

Hiptop review

Postby Jonathan » Fri Jul 18, 2003 2:11 am

I've had my T-Mobile Sidekick for about a month now. This review is entirely composed and sent on my Sidekick.

T-Mobile markets Danger.com's Hiptop as the Sidekick. This is a GSM/GPRS device that incorporates a phone, web browser, PIM, email, games, AIM with a nifty sliding screen and QWERTY keyboard. The color Sidekick's screen is 16 bpp and 240 x 160 pixels. The speaker is capable of playing MIDI samples. The wheel has color LEDs for notification.

Interface

Danger scores massive points for creating a usable form factor and operating system for the Hiptop. The wheel is very easy to use for scrolling and selecting. I am capable of sustaining typing rates above my irritation level with the keyboard, which is all I ask. The screen brightens and dims automatically in response to ambient light and usage. The OS allows you to stop whatever you're doing, like posting to Mohtalim, to do something else, like read incoming email, and later come back without losing your place. As far as I can tell, all the apps are constantly running and loaded into memory.

The main problem is the lack of a cut and paste facility. With the amount of text passing through this system, this can be a serious drawback indeed.

For a man my size, it fits comfortably in my hand and pocket. My wife, however, would have difficulty keeping it in her purse or operating it with one hand.

Phone

The Hiptop can be used as a regular GSM phone. It comes with a headset, but can be used without it. The screen gets in the way when talking on the phone, but this hasn't been a problem with performance. The speaker is quite loud and the mike sensitive enough to pick up my voice.

With the screen closed, the only way to dial is using the wheel to scroll a cursor on a virtual keypad. This a serious drawback and slows dialing down to rotary dial speeds. With the screen open, you can dial with the number keys, but this is inconvenient. The speed dial can be operated easily with the wheel, as can Recent Calls. Without that, the phone would be a total wash. With those features, though, the phone is pretty usable, depending on your usage pattern. Don't count on being able to dial with just one hand. It just doesn't work.

Browser

The web browser on the Hiptop is surprisingly featureful and usable. Danger has some backend technology which reformats and scales requested pages. These operations include scaling and compressing images, displaying framed sites as a list of links to each frame, and wrapping tables so they appear stacked vertically instead of horizontally.

The browser has no horizontal scroll. Very few things cannot be wrapped or scaled, but those that can't are very annoying. Vertical scrolling is done with the wheel and works well.

CSS are supported, but naturally in a broken fashion. The absolute pixel positions are not wrapped or scaled, so text that has been positioned using CSS will be clipped or wrapped weirdly. Interestingly, tables actually display much better, even though CSS is supposed to be designed for these sorts of situations.

Overall, the browser can display most of the sites I visit regularly. Comics are scaled too small to be read. Wired.com uses CSS to position text. Diplomacy.snowplow.org uses Javascript, which isn't supported. But forums work just fine, and Slashdot comes out good. It is particularly good at displaying long stretches of text, like a Dave Barry column or a Straight Dope article.

The browser has a builtin Google search, like Mozilla. The browser does not have tabs, unlike Mozilla. Granted, few browsers do except Mozilla, but I've used tabbed browsing so extensively that it's difficult to do without. The latency-hiding aspects of tabs would be particularly helpful at GPRS speeds.

Email

The Hiptop is excellent at email. The screen is slightly smaller than a Blackberry's, but it is in color, which lets you display images and the like. My mother emailed me photos from her vacation and I was able to view them on the go with my Hiptop. T-Mobile gives you an email account with your service. You can also add up to three other POP3 accounts, which can be set not to remove the email from the server. You can also set the Reply-To.

I have jonathan@pearce.name forwarding to my ISP's account. My Hiptop grabs emails from there but leaves them on the server, so I can still get all of them on my home computer. This setup is ideal.

The only missing thing is a PGP client for sending signed or encrypted email. A pipe dream, perhaps, but now I'm in the unfortunate situation of sending out signed email only sometimes.

PIM

The Hiptop does not integrate with Outlook. Therefore, I do not use the PIM features, except for the address book. Really, the integration of an email and phone address book is a great idea. With a single entry, I can call, email, or SMS my wife using the same autocomplete nickname. Very useful.

Connectivity

The Hiptop has adequate signal strength, not outstanding. I have used a Nokia 3360 is the same coverage area for a year, so I know of what I speak. Compared to the Nokia, the Hiptop is a little more likely to fuzz out with weak signal during a phone conversation.

There is only one antenna on the machine. Consequently, it does not have duplex operation. Phone calls interrupt GPRS sessions. When you hang up, the Hiptop must log back in to the GPRS network, which can take almost a minute with poor signal, and still ten seconds with good signal.

GPRS is no 802.11, that's for sure. 56 kbps is much slower than real net speeds. But I'm just spoiled.
Last edited by Jonathan on Tue Sep 23, 2003 11:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Jonathan
Grand Pooh-Bah
 
Posts: 6037
Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2006 7:45 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Postby Jonathan » Fri Aug 22, 2003 4:38 pm

Some final thoughts:

The Hiptop is now my primary means of checking and sending email. I go days without checking my email on a desktop system.

I crashed it for the first time this morning trying to read a Ziff Davis article. It flashed a big red X across the entire screen and gave a system error. Pretty funny actually, but I was worried when all my bookmarks and stuff didn't come back immediately. I guess they're stored remotely.

Using the browser on the train can be problematic. Coverage along the track is spotty. At some stops, it's really good. At others, I can't maintain a connection. However, if I'm in a restaurant or mall or someplace with constant signal, the browser is great for looking stuff up or just killing a few minutes.

Also, using the Hiptop for mobile posts to Mohtalim or Livejournal is great. In fact, many Hiptop owners use their devices in this way. There are sites that cater exclusively to Hiptop blogs.

Apparently, you can't get any application loaded onto the machine without going through T-mobile. So while Danger provides lots of development tools, no one can actually run anything they write nor distribute it to others.

In conclusion, if you're looking for a mobile email device with AIM and a web browser, something to keep you entertained during random downtime or to bypass your company firewall, the color Hiptop is a good bet. If you want something to make you more productive or a general purpose computing device with a thriving development community, look elsewhere.
Jonathan
Grand Pooh-Bah
 
Posts: 6037
Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2006 7:45 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Postby Jonathan » Tue Sep 23, 2003 10:58 pm

More Hiptoppy goodness being downloaded as I type:

Enhanced overall usability

-Create multiple sound profiles for use in different situations.
-Cut, copy, and paste text in text fields.
-Enter special characters (Unicode) with the Special Character selector.
-Hierarchical menus allow quick and easy access to menu items.
-Mute indicator on title bar makes it easy to tell when the device is in silent mode.
- Persistent notifications give multiple reminders of new messages and pending events.

Audio attachments in e-mail

-Audio attachments sent to you in e-mail messages can be played on the device.
-The device now plays attachments in WAV, MIDI, RMF, and AIFF audio formats.

New Web Browser features

-Re-visit previously-loaded Web pages with forward navigation.
-Load Web pages in the background and receive notification when a page is finished loading.

Plus some changes to AIM, ringtones, and other crap. The web browsing enhancements alone will make the Hiptop way better. And copy & paste! Can't wait to try this.

This one should really make up for the previous update which nuked the games selection.
Jonathan
Grand Pooh-Bah
 
Posts: 6037
Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2006 7:45 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Postby Jonathan » Tue Sep 23, 2003 11:06 pm

More update details:

There's a Catalog which I thought was restricted to the downloading of ringtones for sale. This is essentially true. There are several important points, though.

Some things are free.
Not only does it have ringtones, it has applications.
One of the applications is a free Calculator, which I've been wanting for some months.
HOLY SHIT! There's a free telnet/SSH client. I'm going to piss myself now.

In short, this update is basically the bizomb. Hooray for live updates.

Now I absolutely must get my Linux machine back on the network. Mmm, mobile PGP-signed email.
Jonathan
Grand Pooh-Bah
 
Posts: 6037
Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2006 7:45 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Postby Jonathan » Tue Sep 23, 2003 11:10 pm

There's also a free alarm clock/stopwatch.

Some more details:

Memory on the Hiptop, for purposes of downloading these T-Mobile approved apps, is divided into 100 blocks. Each app consumes a certain number of blocks.

For instance, SSH is 7 blocks. The alarm clock/stopwatch is 11 blocks. And so forth.

Right now, I have 100 blocks free. There aren't but 30 block or so worth of apps, so I'm just going to download them all. This probably reduces the memory available to the web browser, but screw that. I want SSH! Mmm, mobile perl hacking.
Jonathan
Grand Pooh-Bah
 
Posts: 6037
Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2006 7:45 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Postby VLSmooth » Tue Sep 23, 2003 11:33 pm

You said perl o.o

/me convulses, but doesn't
User avatar
VLSmooth
Tenth Dan Procrastinator
 
Posts: 3046
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2003 2:02 am
Location: Varies

Postby VLSmooth » Tue Sep 23, 2003 11:36 pm

Actually, that just perked my curiousity. Who knows perl now?

Only Jonathan, Joe, Bob, and I? Perhaps the Hock?

Random Comment: I managed to get two people back in Marybelle addicted to perl 8)
User avatar
VLSmooth
Tenth Dan Procrastinator
 
Posts: 3046
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2003 2:02 am
Location: Varies

Postby quantus » Wed Sep 24, 2003 1:04 am

dammit, if I knew perl in 760, the projects would've been damn easy. Of course, I could hack C/C++ well enough that it didn't make too much difference.
Have you clicked today? Check status, then: People, Jobs or Roads
User avatar
quantus
Tenth Dan Procrastinator
 
Posts: 4653
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2003 2:09 am
Location: San Jose, CA

Postby quantus » Wed Sep 24, 2003 1:06 am

So, exactly how much per month is this hiptop costing you in service fees? And how much did the hardware cost in the first place?
Have you clicked today? Check status, then: People, Jobs or Roads
User avatar
quantus
Tenth Dan Procrastinator
 
Posts: 4653
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2003 2:09 am
Location: San Jose, CA

Postby Jonathan » Wed Sep 24, 2003 6:15 am

We have a voice plan already. So I added unlimited data for $20 per month. The phone itself cost me slightly over two hundred bucks... Something like $219. By comparison, Amber's V60 was upwards of $250 when we bought it.

Martin toys with perl, but doesn't use it to do stuff. Jason Reed is, by comparison, a perl mastah!
Jonathan
Grand Pooh-Bah
 
Posts: 6037
Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2006 7:45 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Postby Jonathan » Sat May 01, 2004 12:46 am

One last update: I just noticed that T-Mobile has updated the application and ringtone Catalog once more. This time, it has taken a definite turn for the worse. All the cheesey content that was there before it still there, but now most of it costs money. The costs range anywhere from $1.69 for the sound of a cow mooing to $9.99 for Terminal, the telnet/ssh client. The Time Traveler clock application costs $4.99. $4.99! For a clock that tells you the time in Honolulu! Needless to say, I didn't download most of this content when it was free, and I certainly won't be paying for it now.

T-Mobile also added ringtones that are popular songs. I have my selection of Ozzy Osbourne, Cypress Hill, and Lil' Bow Wow, among others. All these songs cost $1.99. Two dollars is quite steep for ringtones, which usually run $0.99 most other places, but is not too ridiculous. On top of that, there is a new Rowbot game which looks to be a colorized take on the Z80 classic Columns. For $4.99. I'll sit on my money, thank you.

Apparently all the applications already on my machine were grandfathered in so I don't have to pay for them. I knew they planned to charge for content, as they've had the placeholders in the interface from the introduction of the Catalog. I was expecting the basic, elementary applications provided at the Catalog's launch would remain free, though, and that they would develop advanced, complicated apps for me to buy. That they chose otherwise comes as a bit of a shock.

The whole experience underscores a point I was going to make sometime later this year. It's pointless to purchase a computing device that isn't an open platform for developers. Indeed, I exercised some caution before buying the Hiptop and investigated Danger's developers' site, which looks impressive. However, T-Mobile prevents any applications from being loaded onto the device except the ones which it blesses and places into the Catalog. So, as a practical matter, the Hiptop is a closed platform much like any other cell phone. I won't make the same mistake next time I buy a mobile device. My next mobile computer will run Linux, PalmOS, or perhaps something else that moves into that market, and it will have give the users the ability to determine what code runs on their device.
Jonathan
Grand Pooh-Bah
 
Posts: 6037
Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2006 7:45 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Postby quantus » Sat May 01, 2004 12:57 am

Ummm, yikes, glad I haven't yet bothered getting a cell phone/pda yet. Looks like I'm gonna have to do some serious research before I buy anything.
Have you clicked today? Check status, then: People, Jobs or Roads
User avatar
quantus
Tenth Dan Procrastinator
 
Posts: 4653
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2003 2:09 am
Location: San Jose, CA

Postby Jonathan » Sat May 28, 2005 12:51 am

After using the Hiptop for two years, I have a firm grasp on its limitations. As I've encountered annoyances with the device, I've written them down. What follows, then is my annotated list of features I will pay for in a handheld.

Handheld
Gnome? The tomboy c# thing (Flat text notes are so 20th century. I need hyperlinked notes. GNOME's Tomboy was the only one I'd heard of, though I have since learned of others.)
Java, flash, shockwave support (There's a world of free games out there. If only I could play them.)
Open development platform - palm, linux symbian?, pocketpc? (Anything. Just get me off this damn closed platform.)
Mdi browser (Multiple Document Interface: really I mean tabs, though if Opera has some funky way of doing it I'm all ears.)
Broadband &| wireless (bluetooth? Wimax) (GPRS is too slow, but I like not being tethered to hotspots. The ideal device would support a broadband connection across the entire city, but something that supports WiFi plus a slower, longer range data connection would work.)
Expandable storage SD/CF (Keeps a device fresh a couple years down the road. Also, the Hiptop has no nonvolatile storage.)
Plays movies (I could keep busy watching Red vs. Blue on the train.)
Views comics - decent resolution screen (If I could read comics on my handheld, my work surfing would be cut in half.)
Native dev env with interpreted language support (It is entirely likely I'll want to throw together a cheesy little app every once in a while.)
Not a phone - bluetooth access to cell
Free/cheap phone with bluetooth
--or--
Palm smartphone with usb/bluetooth to laptop (I don't like T-Mobile telling me what I can run on my handheld.)
>=128 MB dram - why? Enough room to store more than 50 notes, for one (I wrote this a long time ago and forgot the original reason I wanted it. Seems very specific, doesn't it?)

Interestingly, the Nokia 770 satisfies all these requirements, with the possible exceptions of shockwave and mono (for Tomboy). Also interestingly, I don't really care whether I can read Word or PowerPoint documents on my handheld. Neither do I particularly desire a faster processor.
Jonathan
Grand Pooh-Bah
 
Posts: 6037
Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2006 7:45 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Postby Jason » Wed Jun 08, 2005 11:47 am

Does anyone have any experience with PDAs? Pros? Cons?

I was using a T3 that I got from work, but a coworker spilled wine on it when we were flying in business class (it doesn't get any more swank and hoitie toitie than that). I was thinking of asking for a lifedrive. Any thoughts?
User avatar
Jason
Veteran Doodler
 
Posts: 1518
Joined: Thu Jul 17, 2003 11:53 pm
Location: Fairfax, VA

Postby Peijen » Wed Jun 08, 2005 1:05 pm

how about this guy, Tablet PC
Peijen
Minion to the Exalted Pooh-Bah
 
Posts: 2778
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2003 1:28 pm
Location: Irvine, CA

Postby Jonathan » Wed Jun 08, 2005 3:29 pm

Amber has had a Palm III and a Sony Clie. Now she just uses her cell. Reduces the number of devices she carries.

The problem with tablets is the form factor. It's too big. If I have room to pull out a tablet, I'm sitting down and I'd prefer to have an actual laptop in front of me for the increased typing speed. A devices needs to be pocket-sized before it has any extra utility over a laptop.

On my end, I'm not sure if it's possible to sync a handheld with our Exchange server. Certainly you can't get network access without the proper VPN client which I assume is unavailable for all platforms except IT's.

However, I don't get sent on business trips, either. What will you use it for?
Jonathan
Grand Pooh-Bah
 
Posts: 6037
Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2006 7:45 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Postby Jason » Wed Jun 08, 2005 11:45 pm

The PDA would primarily be for keeping my schedule, checking email while I'm away from home, writing down notes and ideas and keeping track of projects, also it would be my mp3 player and have all the reference materials (dictionary, api lookups, language translation, maps, directions, restaurant listings, flight and hotel information, etc.) that I would need. The lifedrive looks good just because it has the storage capacity I would need. I guess I could get an external drive, but that would just be a hassle.

Thanks for the heads up on the tablet. I'll look into it. The 8.5 hrs of battery life might come in handy. Any other things like that? Money is no object, just usability. I probably won't use this for the PDA stuff, but for other projects I'll probably need something like this. The beefier, lighter, and longest lasting battery life the thing has the better. If there's something this small that could be used as a development platform (i.e. Eclipse, Oracle 10g, .Net, etc.) that would be good. Also, if there was something this small, but with the power of a server that would be better. Any information would be helpful at this point.
User avatar
Jason
Veteran Doodler
 
Posts: 1518
Joined: Thu Jul 17, 2003 11:53 pm
Location: Fairfax, VA

Postby Jonathan » Thu Jun 09, 2005 12:55 am

Sony has a couple sub-thin-and-lights in their Vaio line. More screen than a palmtop like HP Jornada, but lighter than most thin-and-light Centrino designs. I don't know the official size designation.

Anyhow, I remember a dude at CMU with one. It was running WinXP, not WinCE, so it should handle anything you need to throw at it. Unfortunately, that's pretty much the bottom of the line for x86. There just aren't any smaller form factors out right now, and there won't be for a while.
Jonathan
Grand Pooh-Bah
 
Posts: 6037
Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2006 7:45 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Postby Jonathan » Thu Jun 09, 2005 12:58 am

Also, Lifedrive looks neat. I couldn't find the screen resolution. Do you know?
Jonathan
Grand Pooh-Bah
 
Posts: 6037
Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2006 7:45 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Postby Jason » Thu Jun 09, 2005 12:43 pm

Dwindlehop wrote:Also, Lifedrive looks neat. I couldn't find the screen resolution. Do you know?


High-resolution 480 x 320 transflective TFT colour display / Landscape and portrait modes

I saw the beginning of a movie being played on a tungsten t3 and that was pretty nice so I can't imagine this being any worse.
User avatar
Jason
Veteran Doodler
 
Posts: 1518
Joined: Thu Jul 17, 2003 11:53 pm
Location: Fairfax, VA

Next

Return to The Vault

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron