T-Mobile is administering a coup de grace to its Sidekick phones, with plans to shut down data service by May 31. While the devices will remain capable of making calls, they will thereafter lack the features that once made the Sidekick franchise so popular.
Microsoft subsidiary Danger provides the Sidekick's data service.
"T-Mobile will provide offers for our Sidekick customers before May 31, 2011, to help make an easy transition from their existing Sidekick device to a new device," a T-Mobile spokesperson wrote in a March 1 e-mail to eWEEK.
"To ensure the best possible transition for our loyal Sidekick customers," the spokesperson continued, "an enhanced Web tool is available on myT-Mobile.com to easily export their personal data, including contacts, photos, calendar, notes, to-do lists, and bookmarks, from the Danger service to a new device, computer, or designated e-mail account."
T-Mobile is also offering an application via the Sidekick Catalog that will export personal data to the Sidekick's memory card, where it can presumably be transferred to a new T-Mobile device. To make that transfer happen, Sidekick owners will need to bring their device, along with the memory card, into a T-Mobile store.
In 2009, server failure at Danger wiped out personal data for a large number of Sidekick owners, undermining the brand and forcing T-Mobile to temporarily suspend sales of the phones. That data included contacts, calendar entries, lists and photos. As Microsoft engineers scrambled to repair the damage, irate customers took to T-Mobile's message boards to complain.
Backed against the wall, T-Mobile responded with a two-pronged public relations front, offering compensation to users-in the form of a free month of data service, along with a $100 gift card-and the possibility that their data might be retrieved. "Microsoft/Danger continues to work on preserving platform stability and restoring all services for our Sidekick customers," read a posting at the time on the T-Mobile Forums. "Recent efforts indicate the prospects of recovering some lost content may now be possible."
At the time, the whole incident risked damaging the public perception of the cloud as a safe place for storing personal information. That could have ended badly for Microsoft, which at the time was beginning to make substantial strategic bets on cloud services. The Sidekick fiasco, however, did little to ultimately dissuade customers from purchasing mobile devices and the cloud services dependent on them.
Those devices and services remain popular, but it looks like the Sidekick is poised to enter the dustbin of tech history.