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Overview

Pros: Beautiful design, functional external display
Cons: Battery life not so great, flat keypad makes typing difficult

Introduction

Anyone familiar with the iDEN lineup of devices would probably overlook the Motorola Stature i9 and write it off as being with another carrier.  After all, it's sophisticated, offers a gorgeous exterior display, and is full of features.  On the heels of the BlackBerry Curve 8350i launch, the Stature i9 is a continuing effort by Nextel to revitalize their brand.  Granted, it's not an indestructible phone, but it does breathe a breath of fresh air into an otherwise antiquated lineup of devices.

Design & Features

At first glance, the device is a bit larger than other devices in the RAZR product line, however design cues of the original series can be seen in the Stature i9.  I was initially struck with the comfortable feel of the device, both when holding it in hand and up to the ear; the curve of the device seems to be perfect for making calls.  At 4.1 inches tall by 2.1 inches wide by 0.59 inches thick, it fits easily in a pocket, but its 4.7 ounce weight makes it tough and less prone to damage. 

The i9 ships with the device, battery, home charger, SIM card, and instruction manual.  Unfortunately, there is no headphone jack on the phone, so the user will have to purchase an adapter in order to listen to music.  Like its predecessors, the exterior front is quite glossy, leading to fingerprints everywhere on the display and the main body.  On the left side of the device, the volume rocker, charging port, Direct Connect button, and voice dialing button can be found, whereas the handset locking switch, camera button, and menu key are on the right side.  The back of the phone sports a rubberized surface, much like the V9 series.

The external display boasts a beautiful 262,000 colors, and is the same size as the internal display.  Unlike the RAZR2 series, the i9's external controls are surrounding the actual display, offering more real estate on the screen itself.  The feature that is quite possibly the most useful, however, is the device's abilities on its external display.  Without opening the device, the user can navigate the menu, and initialize and end calls from the exterior.  The only missing feature that perplexed me is the inability to read text messages on the external display.



The keypad on the device is flat, and with no dividing lines between keys.  I found it hard to do anything that was keyboard-intensive, such as text messaging or quickly calling someone.  Each number offers a metal-esque circle to provide a bit of tactile feedback, however it didn't really help.  Speaking of the keypad, one missing feature of great importance was a "back" button.  When typing text messages, I was continuously hitting the wrong buttons, resulting in more mistakes.  More importantly, the placement of the "delete" or "back" option changes depending on what phone feature the user is navigating through.  Another slightly irritating feature is when pressing the "send" key when on the main screen.  On most phones, a recent call log will show up; on the i9, it does nothing.  The user has to physically find the 'recent calls' section within the menu and navigate from there.

The 3.1 megapixel camera is located on the back of the device, and though I was generally pleased with the performance, I wasn't impressed with the placement of it.  The lens sits right where the user's hand naturally rests, and as a result, I ended up taking countless photos of my finger.  The camera offers seven resolutions and a variety of customization options.

Usability & Performance

Battery life is not where the i9 shines.  To preserve the small size of the device, it ships with a 940 mAh battery.  With light calling, messaging, and using the web browser occasionally, I barely managed to make it through the day.  If you're considering the device, I would highly recommend a car charger and an extra charger for the office.  You will appreciate them.

As with most Nextel devices, Direct Connect was a joy to use, and provided excellent sound quality.  I could easily hear my caller and they had no trouble hearing me as well.  Call reception was decent as well, particularly for an iDEN phone without an external antenna.  Callers I spoke to said that I sounded clear, and minus a few occasional hiccups, they sounded normal as well.  When tested beside an i880 with antenna extended, the i880 performed better, so if you are traveling outside of the city or to a weaker coverage area, I would recommend something with an antenna.  In a city or strong Nextel coverage area, the i9 is perfectly fine.  

Conclusion

In the days of competition between cell phone manufacturers, the Motorola Stature i9 distinguishes itself well, and is another welcome addition to the ever-changing Nextel family.  While it does have a few flaws and is a bit pricey, users that need the Direct Connect capability will be pleased to see the selection in the formerly drab lineup of iDEN devices.  It's stylish, feature-rich, and would be a fantastic complement to anyone seeking an alternative to the Nextel phones of the past.


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