What's Good: Good call quality; loud earpiece; full QWERTY keyboard.
What's Bad: No 3G connectivity; camera is sub-par.
The Verdict: While the Motorola Rambler is a basic phone without 3G connectivity, it's a nice option for those watching the budget.
Prepaid has become quite the popular alternative over the years, due in part to the recession and ever-increasing costs in the postpaid wireless industry. Between data charges and text messaging fees, deals like Boost Mobile's $50 unlimited everything plan are particularly appealing. The Motorola Rambler is a nice low-cost clamshell device with a full QWERTY keyboard. In a world of smartphones, sliders, and more, it's kind of nice to see a flip phone again.
Design & Features
At 3.7 inches long by 2.24 inches wide by 0.70 inch thick, the Rambler is a bit short and stubby. That said, it weighs a light 3.81 ounces, making it a good option for that pocket on your skin tight jeans (here's looking at you, Katy Perry). The left side of the phone contains the volume rocker, speakerphone shortcut button, and miniUSB charging port; the right side offers the voice commands button and a 2.5mm headphone jack. The 1.3-megapixel camera is located on the front, just above the external display.
Speaking of displays, the Rambler offers a 1.6-inch external display that's located in the middle of the phone. Inside, you'll find a 2.2-inch display with 65,536 colors. There's some noticeable pixelation, but overall, it gets the job done. Below the screen, you'll find two shortcut buttons, a camera key, back key, send key, and end key.
Usability & Performance
The Rambler offers the typical Motorola user interface, though it has been slightly customized for Boost Mobile. Along with the standard personalization options (wallpaper and ringtones), the Rambler offers two different skins - "default" and "youth." You can also change the clock format on both displays between digital and analog.
The device offers a full QWERTY keyboard in lieu of the regular T9 keypad. The keys are raised and offer an ample amount of tactile feedback, though they're a bit too close together. They're also tall and narrow, making it somewhat challenging to dial quickly. I was able to adjust to it after a few days, but those coming from another QWERTY-equipped phone may find the keyboard to be frustrating at first.
As you would expect from a 1.3-megapixel camera, image quality isn't the best. There's no flash, so you're forced to resort to natural light for a decent picture. Through the menu, you can adjust the resolution, self-timer, brightness, and white balance. You can also add a fun picture frame to personalize the picture. There's a camcorder as well, but there's no microSD card slot, so you're limited to the Rambler's internal memory (256 MB). You can record in four lengths: two minutes, five minutes, 30 seconds (for MMS capabilities), or you can fit it to the phone's remaining memory.
The Rambler is a Boost Mobile CDMA device, so it's piggybacking off of Sprint's cell sites. In other words, in any area that has Sprint coverage, you should have coverage on the Rambler. I worked with the phone in the Charlotte area, and came away impressed. Call quality was very good, and in traditional Motorola style, the earpiece was incredibly loud and clear. I paired a Bluetooth headset to the phone, and callers reported a pleasant experience.
The phone is powered by a 950 mAh battery with estimated talk time of five hours, and with regular use encompassing calling, text messaging, and occasional web browsing, I was able to make it through two full days before the device required recharging. Despite being a 1X device, the Rambler offers a web browser, TeleNav, and a few other data-centric applications. As you would expect, connectivity is slow (especially coming from 3G and 4G), but it worked consistently throughout testing.
The Motorola Rambler isn't a high-end device, but at $99.99 with no contract, it's a nice option for those looking to text message on the cheap. It has some shortcomings in the camera and data connectivity departments, but should appeal to the budget-minded consumer. If you need iDEN for Direct Connect, pick up the Rambler's cousin, the Clutch (i465). Phones aside, Boost Mobile's price structure is attractive - for $50 (taxes included), you get unlimited everything. In today's world, it's worth a look.