Aaron's First Impressions: Motorola i1 (Nextel)

Aaron Baker
Writer from  Dallas, TX
| July 28, 2010

Despite offering fantastic push-to-talk capabilities and rugged handsets, Nextel has never been known for flashy devices.  Over the past 12 months, that's changed with the introduction of devices like the Motorola i9, i890, and BlackBerry Curve 8350i.  Announced at CTIA 2010 in March, the Motorola i1 enters the fray as the first iDEN Android device, and while the specifications are a bit outdated, the phone is an awesome choice for Direct Connect users.  It's also the first Android device to land on Sprint's prepaid cousin, Boost Mobile.

The i1 offers a 600 MHz processor, a 3.1-inch LCD, 5.0-megapixel camera, Android 1.5, and Direct Connect.  Surprisingly, the i1 offers a few goodies in the box.  You get the device, battery, AC adapter, USB cable (which, following the common trend, doubles as the charging cord), 2 GB microSD card with SD card adapter, and a pair of earbuds that fit the 2.5mm headphone jack.  Overall, build quality is good (it meets military specifications), but as I showed in the unboxing video, the configuration of the plastic battery door concerns me.  After a few days of use, the plastic door is already showing some wear, leading me to question whether it would hold up over the course of a two year agreement.

Android 1.5 is installed on the phone, along with some Motorola tweaks.  My Sprint contacts tell me it's not MOTOBLUR, but it looks incredibly similar, sans the social networking features.  Coming from newer builds of Android, I found myself missing multiple Gmail accounts and the newer version of the Android Market.  It's all about perspective; if you're coming from a featurephone, you'll find a lot to like in Android 1.5 (even if it is outdated).  If you're coming from another device to the i1 - particularly another Android device - you may find the experience to be frustrating.  The phone rocks a 5.0-megapixel camera, and it has worked well so far.  Pictures taken in low light came out well thanks to a bright flash, and video quality was equally decent for a mid-range device.

Call quality in the Charlotte area has been good, with only one dropped call.  The earpiece is nice and loud, and I was able to hear my callers without any distortion.  As you would expect from a device with Direct Connect, the speakerphone is incredibly clear and loud.  Direct Connect performance was awesome, and I've enjoyed "beep beeping" my friends.  I paired a Bluetooth headset to the device without trouble, and was sufficiently pleased with the audio quality.

The Motorola i1 was announced at CTIA 2010 back in March, and while the specifications were a bit outdated, the prospect of an Android phone for Nextel and prepaid users (through Boost Mobile) was exciting.  Fast forward to July, and there's a plethora of Android devices available, most of which out-spec the Motorola i1.  Still, I like the idea of the i1, and would recommend it with certain caveats.  If you have to have iDEN and you're in the market for a smartphone, the i1 is a device to consider.  If you're an existing smartphone user migrating from another carrier, be prepared for some frustrations with network connectivity.

The i1 is a decent device, but the real Achilles' heel is the Nextel network - simply put, iDEN was never intended to handle an always-on, data-centric device.  Existing Android users will immediately notice the average 5-7 minute wait to download an application, and as a testament to the network's limitations, the device doesn't offer YouTube streaming.

The Motorola i1 is available at Sprint.com for $149.99, with in-store availability in early August.  Full review to come shortly!

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