- Ruggedized hardware that's easy on the eyes
- The first iDEN Push-to-Talk touchscreen phone
- Access to thousands of gaming, media and productivity apps
- Aging Android OS 1.5 operating system
- Sluggish iDEN data network
A good device for business users looking for a tough phone with PTT, and who don't mind a slow wireless Internet connection.
The Android OS comes to iDEN push-to-talk with the rugged Motorola i1, tested on the Sprint Nextel Direct Connect network but also available via Boost Mobile.
The i1’s main selling point, besides the push-to-talk services, is a ruggedized exterior that features a seamless touchscreen, sturdy buttons and a scratch/shock-resistant body that feels comfortable and sleek yet also durable enough to take into woollier situations. It has the standard Android on-screen keyboard, a 5 megapixel camera/camcorder with flash, full-featured web browsers, expandable storage and access to the Android App Store.
While the i1 sports a nice, takes-a-licking form factor and some new tricks with Push-to-Talk, its crippled by a reliance on iDEN, a network so slow that normal activities like web browsing and voice commands, are painful or impossible to use when not in range of a Wi-Fi hotspot.
The Motorola i1 is available from Sprint for $150 after signing a two-year contract and with the current $50 rebate, with plants starting at $60 a month including voice and data. Without a contract, this device sells for $350. The phone is also available from Boost Mobile and SouthernLINC.
DESIGN & BUILD
The i1 feels great in the hand, with a slight heft at 4.6 oz and rubberized grips at the top, bottom and edges. At 4.7-inches tall and 2.34-inches wide, it fits easily in the pocket or sits happily on the dashboard.
Motorola wasn’t fooling around when it developed this model — it meets military specifications for protection against dust, shock, vibration and blowing rain.
The 3.1-inch HVGA (320 x 480 pixel) touchscreen holds up well, showing crisp images and bright icons with automatic dimming to suit various lighting conditions, perfect for checking e-mails or watching short videos whether in the office or out in the field.
The touchscreen works well, with accurate controls and a hard, glassy coating that manages to hold up to bumps without cracking. There’s a little fadeout at extreme viewing angles, but it’s unlikely you’ll want to gather a crowd to watch a movie on the screen that often, anyways.
The screen was a bit more prone to smudges than other touch screens, but that’s a caveat more than made up for by its scratch resistance, meaning the smudges are just a wipe away with any suitable cloth or even shirt sleeve you have handy.
Only the Android OS’ default touch screen keyboard is included, and it’s a mixed bag on the i1. Typing is accurate and relatively easy once you get the hang of it, and you can type in either landscape or portrait mode.
The only downside is a slight but noticeable lag when typing, particularly when Android is suggesting words. It’s not bad for blasting short text messages, but it’s one of the few moments in normal usage when the relatively slow processor holds back the experience.
The phone also has a number dedicated buttons to make it quick to access the major features, foremost among them the Push-to-Talk (PTT) button.
The generously-sized PTT button is saddled on the left side of the device, like a traditional Walkie Talkie’s trigger. It works great if you’re quickly jumping back into an active PTT conversation, and offers up a list of frequent contacts to message to if you’re starting a new one. One downside, however, is that you actually have to swipe the touch screen to unlock the phone before using the PTT functionality, an extra step that prevents accidental calls, but adds a bit of cumbersome lag time to the process.
Other hard buttons include:
- A round directional pad with a central “action” button for navigating through menus or messages.
- A call button for bringing up the phone features or placing a call.
- An end call button for ending a call or powering down the device.
- A camera button for opening the camera application or taking a picture.
- A lock button on the top of the phone for turning off the screen and locking or unlocking the device for use.
- A rubberized volume rocker that controls both the ringer volume as well as media playback.
- Four buttons built into the screen that take you back to the home screen, back to the previous screen, silence the phone and show you options, respectively.
- A rather sturdy “lock” switch that must be pushed to remove the phone’s backing and access the removable battery and memory.
That’s a fairly long list of buttons, particularly as many phones are moving towards a more minimalist feel, but the i1’s casing doesn’t feel crowded and still feels curvier than some of Motorola’s other offerings, like the Droid 2.