Sidekick Apps

A look back at all the apps we made for the T-Mobile Sidekick.

The Sidekick (officially called the Danger Hiptop) was an early smartphone with surprisingly advanced capabilities. At the time people thought of it primarily as a phone for teenagers, but we felt it was better than almost anything out at the time.

Way back in 2004 it had a full SDK and an on-device App Store. The app store even integrated with carrier billing, so anything you bought got added onto your monthly cell phone bill. It was an amazing system, especially for app developers. However, almost no developers knew about it. We were among a small group of around 30 companies writing apps for the Sidekick, and it felt a little bit like living in the future.

The Music App Era

We've always loved making music on our computers and thought it would be cool to be able to make music whereever you were. So the first thing we wrote was a drum machine called Kick Drum. You could build a beat in real time using 6 tracks and a range of samples, then email it to your friends. They could then remix the beat and send it back. All on your phone. In 2005 this was futuristic stuff. At that time the only thing most people did on their phone was make phone calls.

After finding success with KickDrum we decided to focus on music apps for a while, releasing the following over the next year or two:

  • KickMix: Two MP3 playing turntables that you could mix, beat match and scratch.

  • AudioLab: An audio recorder with built-in effects.

  • BeatLab: A drum machine that automatically generated variations of your beats.

  • Kick Synth: A full featured multi-track midi music workstation.

Everything Else

After writing every music app we could think of, we expanded to writing every other kind of app. We made a tower defense game, a turn based strategy game, and a large number of something called "keyguards" that would take over your lock screen. Keyguards turned out to be our most popular category of app. People loved customizing their phones and keyguards were the perfect way to do that. Our most popular app of all time ended up being a keyguard called "ScreenPops" which just scrolled a message on the screen in a range of styles.

In all we wrote over 40 apps for the Sidekick and at one point we had 7 of the top 10 selling apps in the app store. It was a platform well ahead of its time and we had a great time developing for it. You can read more in our blog post about what it was like working on the Sidekick.