Though the Sidekick (T-Mobile) is dead, its legacy lives on with the Sharp FX for AT&T. Indeed, the FX looks much like the late T-Mobile handset, which is fitting considering Sharp supplied the design and materials behind many models marching under the Sidekick's banner. Yet, instead of having the signature swivel display that most Sidekicks offered, the Sharp FX--which is distributed by PCD--mimics the slider design of the short-lived Sidekick Slide from Motorola. The Sharp FX also shares a similar design with the discontinued AT&T Quickfire, another touch-screen-plus-QWERTY-keyboard messaging phone from AT&T.
As with the members of the Sidekick family and the Quickfire, the FX's emphasis on communications and entertainment through AT&T's branded mobile TV and other services gear it toward the younger crowd, although the more sober squared-off design may broaden its visual appeal. The Sharp FX costs $99 after rebate with a new two-year service agreement, plus a minimum $20 messaging plan or combined messaging and data plan. Just around $100 is a typical price point for this breed of texting phone.
In build and design, the Sharp FX literally is sharp, embracing angularity with this black, hard-cornered body. At 4.5 inches tall by 2.2 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick, the FX isn't the biggest brick on the cell phone block, but it's by no means a compact device. It also weighs in at a solid 5 ounces. Though the screen and keyboard have the kind of glossy plastic patina that makes smudging impossible to avoid, the sides and back are coated in a soft-touch finish, which makes the handset easier to grip and leaves less oily residue from your fingers.
The FX may boast a 3-inch touch screen, but because it's surrounded by a thick black border, the WQVGA display seems a tad smaller than it actually is. Once you begin using it, however, you'll find it's an adequate size with a bright 262,000-color, 400x240-pixel resolution. Unfortunately, we discovered that the touch responsiveness erred on the laggy side, and many options in the phone's submenus are cramped, which made accurate pressing a challenge, even with this reviewer's relatively small fingertips.
The screen is bookended on the top by an external speaker, and on the bottom by the Talk and End buttons and by a Back button. On the right spine, you'll find a dedicated camera button and a lock button. On the left spine there's a rather short volume rocker, a Micro-USB charging port, and a 3.5-millimeter headset jack. The back of the Sharp FX is plain and simple, with just the camera lens. You'll find the microSD expansion slot inconveniently located behind the back cover.
Slide the front face up to reveal a QWERTY keyboard with backlit, domed, and fully separated keys to facilitate typing. The sliding action itself felt solid, but the phone face was a little loose, rocking slightly in the cradle when we pressed down on the corners in closed position. The QWERTY keyboard buttons felt a tad stiff beneath our fingertips, but to its credit, we didn't experience many mispresses.
Although there is a touch screen, the Sharp FX isn't a smartphone. However, like the T-Mobile Sidekick and AT&T Quickfire, the FX does contain a fair amount of social and entertainment tools, many of them accessed through AT&T's proprietary, licensed, or co-branded apps.
As for connectivity, the FX is a quad-band world phone that supports 3G data speeds. There's also speed dial, a speakerphone, and a vibrate mode. The FX's address book holds up to 500 contacts, six phone numbers, an e-mail address, an IM handle, a birthday, and more. You can also associate one of nine polyphonic ringtones (plus whatever MP3s you've got stored on your SD card), a photo, and a caller group with your contacts, to differentiate them from others on an incoming call. Stereo Bluetooth 2.1 is also onboard.
Before we get to the social networking, musical, and TV goodies, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the typical organizer features that lay the base of every decent cell phone. There's a calendar, a calculator, an alarm clock, a to-do list, a world clock, a notepad, a unit converter, a voice recorder, and a stop watch. As for the phone's social side, the FX has a decent mobile e-mail interface that lets you connect to multiple in-boxes like Yahoo Mail, AOL, Windows Live, AT&T Mail, Gmail, and others. We never expected to see threaded Gmail messages, but it would have been a nice surprise. Texting and multimedia messaging worked reliably in our tests, as did the instant messaging feature, which supports AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger accounts.
Lest you wonder how you'll get your Facebook and Twitter fix, AT&T offer AT&T Social Net, an app that bundles shortcuts to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and RSS links--though we were never able to link to the full story from the RSS interface. You can, however, update your social status to your network accounts. Other AT&T-branded services include the att.net browser (more on this later) and the GPS-driven AT&T Navigator, powered by TeleNav, for $9.99 a month.