Sidekick’s secret apps

Unlock your device and tap into the developer community to get the coolest (unapproved) applications.
The Sidekick II.
Match the letters here with those lower in the story to see what each app does. Michael Kraus

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Danger’s new Sidekick II seems like a compromise. Sure, you’ve got a phone with a bright, crisp screen that flips up to reveal a roomy Qwerty keyboard and a simple, intuitive operating system with email, instant messaging, a web browser and PDA functionality. But because its OS is closed, there aren’t a bevy of third-party applications that can be added by the user, as there are for Palm and Symbian devices. T-Mobile offers only about a dozen for purchase and download.

  • Dept: Void Your Warranty
  • Tech: Sidekick developer kit
  • Cost: free
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: dabbler | | | | | master (Editor’s note: 4/5)

But the Sidekick has a hidden talent. There are actually dozens of free, useful third-party programs you can download and install on it if you know where to look, and if you get the Danger software development kit (SDK). An SDK is the basic set of tools programmers use to create applications for an OS. Some companies, such as Danger, allow anyone to download the SDK and submit their homebrew apps for approval by the company and carrier. If the programs pass, they are added to the phone’s official offerings, and the developer gets a small royalty for each one sold.

But before programs ever reach this stage (and most never do), they’re traded around the developer community, where other software wizards help test and debug the beta versions. When you download the Danger SDK for the Sidekick, you can unlock your device and access this well of unsupported software.

Just remember, most of these apps are works in progress, so don’t expect them to be flawless. In fact, they could potentially harm your device, and Danger is unlikely to be sympathetic if that happens. Also, if you can’t contribute to the home-developer effort with your own code, do it with your wallet—if you like something you’ve downloaded, click the “donate” button on its page and send the programmer a few bucks.

Unlocking the device

1. Register at Sign in, and click on the Downloads tab.

2. Download the following files:

  • †hiptop 1.1 sdk beta3
  • †t-mobile 1.1 color library files for build 57324
  • †htConsole Win32 v40194

3. Get a USB-to-USB-mini cable, and plug your SideKick into your computer. (Trim some plastic from the mini end so that it fits into the SideKick.)

4. Unzip the hiptop 1.1 sdk beta3 folder and install the drivers (located in htConsole folder) on your computer using the Add Hardware wizard.

5. Go to and enter your user ID and the device ID number from your phone’s System Info screen. A device key to unlock your phone will be emailed to you. Install it by opening htConsole on your computer and typing “flash [name of device key]” in the command line.

6. Now register at to browse and download applications.

7. To load apps onto the SideKick, open htConsole and choose Commands: Upload Bundle.

Four must-have apps

A. Hipster downloads customizable content modules such as weather and movies and formats them for easy viewing on the small screen.

B. Hiptalk adds MSN and Yahoo Messenger to the SideKick’s built-in AOL Instant Messenger support.

C. Cheshire Chess pits you against 16 different cat personalities, or against a human opponent.

D. Alarm Clock offers options such as progressive volume, vibration, day-specific alarms, and the all-important snooze.

This story has been updated. It was originally featured in the January 2005 issue of Popular Science magazine.