Why call when you can text?
That seems to be the mantra for many teen and twentysomething cell phone users. A recent study by Jupiter Research found that about 73 percent of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 text message. And according to wireless association the CTIA, last year, 158 billion text messages were sent nationwide, nearly double the number in 2005.
This holiday season, texters delight: There are two new phones on the market designed to ease those cramping thumbs.
The T-Mobile Sidekick LX and AT&T Tilt both feature a QWERTY keyboard -- aka, a mini version of the computer keyboard -- eliminating the need to jab at a single key multiple times to get to the letter you want. "Wat r u doin" can morph into the much more cordial "Hey there, what are you doing?" with a few flicks of a finger. "IDK" can go back to "I don't know."
Or, the quick and easy keyboards can spawn a whole new wave of text acronyms and abbreviations. Read on to see how the phones rated when put to the texting test, and of course, how they fare with the old fashioned phone call.
T-Mobile Sidekick LX ($399.99)
Ever since Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie and Co. made the first iteration of the Sidekick cool back in 2002, the phone has been the must-have accessory of the jet-set, party-hopping Hollywood crew. The latest addition to the Sidekick family has a host of new features both superstars and mere mortals will love.
Designed by Sharp, the Sidekick LX boasts a thinner, sleeker profile, a high-definition LCD screen, a camera with flash and multimedia messaging. The Sidekick's signature swivel display opens up to reveal a comfortable QWERTY keyboard that adult fingers and thumbs can navigate with ease. A trackball on the phone's base allows for quick scrolling through the Sidekick's menus, though it takes a bit of practice to get it under control.
One of the fun new additions to the Sidekick is a mood lighting system that users can customize to alert them of new text messages, e-mail or phone calls. Speaking of calls, they come through loud and clear on the Sidekick and the phone's size makes for comfortable talking.
Bottom line -- in true Sidekick tradition, the LX is hip, sleek and ready to party. For those teens and twentysomethings who aren't iPhone obsessed (let's face it, it's going to be hard for any phone to beat the hype of Apple's most coveted creation this holiday season), the Sidekick LX is a great buy.
AT&T Tilt ($299.99)
At first glance, the AT&T Tilt looks compact and cute. But pick it up and another adjective quickly comes to mind -- clunky. The phone is a brick. Ladies won't want to tote it around in a clutch; guys won't want to pop it in a pocket. It's just too heavy.
Beyond that, the design and functions of the Tilt seem more suited for business than pleasure. The Windows Mobile 6 smartphone features an operating system that makes it look like a miniature version of a PC. But to comfortably navigate the phone's touchscreen, you have to use a stylus, an antiquated cell phone accessory that should've been left in the '90s.
The Tilt's 2.8-inch screen slides back and tilts up (hence the name) to reveal a QWERTY keyboard. While the keyboard is sleek, its keys aren't raised as much as those on the Sidekick LX, making it trickier to type with speed and ease.
Calls on the Tilt sound fine, but because of the phone's squat, bulky shape, holding the phone to the ear feels awkward.
Despite its stylistic and functional deficiencies, the Tilt boasts a lot of cool features. It has Bluetooth 2.0, which allows for up to six Bluetooth devices to be wirelessly connected to the device at the same time, which could solve the aforementioned problem of awkward talking.
It also comes equipped with a 3.2 megapixel camera, games including Ms. PAC-MAN, Bubble Breaker, Midnight Pool, and Solitaire, and BlackBerry Connect v4.0 software.
But in the end, the Tilt hovers in limbo between a cool, young text machine and a buttoned-up Palm-style device more suited for business. Texters in search of a new toy should keep looking.