Danger Hiptop

From Academic Kids

The Danger Hiptop is a GPRS mobile phone with wireless Internet capabilities and some functionality similar to a PDA. The Hiptop is sold by T-Mobile in the United States under the name T-Mobile Sidekick. SunCom and Edge Wireless also sell the device in some parts of the U.S., and Fido is the exclusive Hiptop carrier in Canada. A new update to the Hiptop, the Hiptop2, was released in September 2004.



Danger Hiptop
Danger Hiptop

The Hiptop is a gray, slightly rounded rectangle just small enough to fit in the palm of an average-sized hand. On the front of the device is an LCD screen that flips around and rotates 180 degrees to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard underneath. There are two large rectangular buttons on the left side of the device ("menu" and "jump") and one on the right ("back"). Also on the right is a transparent scroll wheel with multicolored LEDs behind it that light up to signify certain events, such as an incoming phone call or the arrival of a new email message.

The Hiptop has two speakers. The phone speaker, which is used when the Hiptop is acting as a telephone, is located in the top right corner on the front of the device. There is another speaker on the back of the device on the left side, which is used for ringtones and all application and OS-related sounds. The microphone for the telephone is located between the "menu" and "jump" buttons on the front of the phone.

A panel on the left edge of the phone snaps off to reveal a SIM card slot. Along the top edge of the phone is an infrared port (currently not used by the device) a power jack, and a mini USB port. The right edge of the phone contains a jack that can be used either by the hands-free headset or the camera attachment.


The LCD screen has a resolution of 240160 pixels and displays either 16-shade grayscale or 16-bit color depending on which model one buys.

The Hiptop's firmware contains several bundled applications including a web browser, email client, AOL Instant Messenger client, address book, calendar, to do list, notepad, and several games. Also included is a photo gallery application that can be used to take pictures with the included digital camera attachment. The resulting postage stamp-sized color JPEG images can be attached to emails sent from the device.

Data Storage & Desktop Syncing

One of the most unique things about the Hiptop is the way it stores data. Despite having 16MB of built in flash memory, the Hiptop stores most of your data on Danger's remote servers. One benefit of this is that if you ever need to perform a hard reset or replace your device with a new one, you can retrieve all your data simply by entering your username and password. In addition, a security feature of the Hiptop allows you to set a password that must be entered when the device is turned on. If someone enters the wrong password four times in a row, the device erases itself completely. Later, if the correct password is entered, it will restore your data from the remote backup.

While the Hiptop doesn't come with tools for syncing your data with a PC, you can view and modify your data via the Desktop Interface, a secure website that reproduces the functionality of almost every application on the Hiptop (with the exception of the web browser and the games).

In addition to storing user data remotely, the Hiptop can also receive over the air (OTA) firmware updates. To date, only two OTA updates have occurred. The first happened on March 6, 2003 and was sent to all phones, while the second happened on June 26, 2003 and was sent only to Hiptops with color screens.

Included Software

Web Browser

The Hiptop Web browser requests pages through a proxy running on Danger's servers. The proxy does most of the heavy work of resizing images, reformatting tables, and cutting out things the Hiptop browser doesn't support such as JavaScript and Flash animations. The browser itself supports XHTML 1.0 and CSS. In addition, the browser has a bookmark feature, URL history and page caching.

Email Client

The Hiptop email client supports multiple mail accounts with folders, and can display attached images, PDF files and Microsoft Word documents.

Officially, the client only supports POP3 mail accounts. However, the configuration dialog allows you to specify a mail server port to use, and if you specify port 143 (for IMAP) or port 993 (for IMAP/SSL), it will successfully connect and download email, although it doesn't support server-side folders and it treats your IMAP inbox just like a POP3 inbox.

Of course, the client also sends mail, although it doesn't allow you to specify an SMTP server to use, so all sent mail goes out via Danger's SMTP servers.

In addition to checking your own mail accounts at regular intervals, purchasers of Hiptop service plans receive an email address that pushes mail to the device instantly, much like an alpha pager, only without a size limit (a feature similar to that found on the BlackBerry).

IM client

The Hiptop offers both AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and Yahoo! Messenger clients. The AIM client is built-in, while the Yahoo! client must be downloaded to the phone and is only available on the Hiptop2 device.

Unlike the AIM clients built into some other cell phones, the Hiptop's client actually communicates with the network via TCP/IP over GPRS rather than via an unwieldy and slow SMS-style protocol. It supports server-side buddy lists and most of the features of the desktop client. The AIM client can also connect to ICQ (also owned by AOL), and it has hidden support for AIM chat rooms. A user logged into AIM from a Hiptop has a miniature device as their icon, rather than the standard mobile phone-shaped "mobile" icon.

The Yahoo! Messenger client is similar to the AIM client, with some minor differences.

Developing for the Hiptop

The Hiptop's operating system is based on J2ME, a scaled-down version of Java optimized for handheld devices. Danger has developed a proprietary API for the Hiptop, but they've made the API documentation publicly available free of charge via their developer website (http://developer.danger.com/).

Third-party developers can write applications for the Hiptop and test them in a Hiptop emulator that will run on any Java-enabled computer. There isn't yet a way to actually install third-party applications on the Hiptop except by using a special developer operating system that Danger makes available to certain developers. There was speculation that Danger will release an OS update in late September, 2003 that will allow users to install third-party applications. As of 2004 Danger has not enabled a customer-friendly interface to load third-party/developer applications directly to the hiptop. The development has grown so fast, that developers found a way of introducing their applications to their audience. Of particular use became the USB interface of the Hiptop, that was originally intended for recovery. The Danger SDK comes with a program called HTConsole which allows users to open a small window of communication to their device. The user has to get a developer-key, load that on the device to unlock it for third party uploads and then can upload the so called Bundle-File of the developer.

Many intriguing third-party applications such as spreadsheets, instant messengers, IRC clients, and SSH terminals have already been written.

Hidden Features

There are quite a few hidden features on the Hiptop.

Go to the Jump screen by pressing "Jump" button, go to System Info screen via menu "Settings/System Info". The following features can now be accessed by pressing the specified key combinations:

  • Menu + Shift + A — access the APN (Access Point Name)
  • Menu + Shift + D — enter diagnostic mode
  • Menu + Shift + N — display DNS settings
  • Menu + Shift + R — erase sign-in information
  • Menu + Shift + U — display username/password dialog (purpose unknown)
  • Menu + Shift + W — clear browser cache
  • Menu + Shift + X — erase flash settings

A hidden game called "Snowbored" can be accessed by going to the "About Device" screen and pressing Menu + Shift + 8.

While on the main Jump menu screen, pressing Menu + Shift + F will cause the scroll wheel to light up with the white LED, like a flash light. Pressing the key combination again will turn the light off.

Pressing Menu + Shift + T while in the web browser will cause the title bar to disappear, allowing full-screen browsing. Press the key combination again to bring the title bar back.


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