What's Good: Finally, an iDEN device (along with the i9) that doesn't look like something out of a bad 80's television show.
What's Bad: Battery life is rather poor.
Verdict: If you need Direct Connect and want a stylish phone, the i890 is for you.
Every time I use a new Nextel phone, the first thought that crosses my mind is "wow, they're actually stylish now." Though one can still pick up a rugged (and hefty) iDEN device, it seems like Sprint is finally realizing that it is possible to mesh style and Direct Connect. To that end, the Motorola i890 is a svelte, RAZR-esque device with a spring-loaded hinge that can be purchased at Sprint stores and online for $129.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate and two-year agreement.
The phone ships in a box complete with the phone, battery, AC adapter, and instruction manuals. Overall, it feels good in the hand, and isn't bulky (even when the flip is opened). At 4.2 ounces, the i890 is perfect for a pocket, purse, or briefcase. In an age of minimalism in regards to phone design, the Motorola i890 is loaded with buttons. The volume rocker and Direct Connect button can be found on the left side of the device, while the hinge release and lock button can be found on the right side. The speaker and menu buttons can be found on the top of the unit, and the 2.0-megapixel camera is located on the hinge. The phone sports a large external display with four touch buttons (three under the display, one above it). Once opened, you're greeted with a 2.2-inch display with 65,536 colors and 240 x 320 pixels. One of the neat features on the i890 is the ability to navigate through select parts of the phone's menu from the external display. Using the touch buttons, I was able to access many of the media functions on the device.
The Motorola i890 offers a numeric keypad. I found myself missing a QWERTY layout, but the large buttons on the device made it easy to get used to it. The menu structure is similar to what we've seen on Nextel devices in the past, and after a few days of working with it, I was able to navigate with ease.
I've been testing the Motorola i890 in the Charlotte area, and call quality has been strong. When I took the device to a known Nextel trouble spot, I was able to hold the call, despite choppiness here and there. During calls, users told me that they could hear me fine, and I had no trouble on my end. I paired the Plantronics Voyager Pro Bluetooth headset to the device, and used it without trouble. As with any device equipped with Direct Connect, the speaker on the i890 is next to phenomenal.
The i890 is an iDEN device, so data connectivity isn't its best feature. That being said, CNN's mobile page loaded in about seven seconds, while the PhoneDog page loaded in about 42 seconds. It's not the device for the data-hungry consumer, but for occasional web browsing, it gets the job done. While estimated talk time rolls in at about 3.4 hours, I have only been able to obtain about two before the low battery indicator flashes. I'm still conducting battery tests, but with moderate use encompassing calling, text messaging, occasional web browsing, and Direct Connect usage, I was barely able to make it over a day before the unit powered down. It's a close call, so if you're interested in it, be sure to purchase a car charger before you leave the store.
Stay tuned for my full review of the device!