Motorola i9 review:
Motorola i9 Stature
In the back of our minds we knew that the Motorola Razr, at least in some form, would make it to Sprint Nextel. Though the original Razr V3 is more than five years old, and Motorola has pumped out dozens of revamps, it has made it to every other carrier. And even though Nextel tends to shy away from thin, flashy devices, we just couldn’t believe that Moto would pass up the opportunity to make an iDEN Razr. While the cell phone in question, the Motorola i9 Stature, does not carry the Razr name, it bears all the hallmarks of the venerable handset. Its thin, boxy profile takes us back to the V3, while the glossy skin, expansive external display, touch controls, and flat keypad remind us of the Razr2 V9m series.
Remarkably, the i9’s feature set doesn’t improve very much upon recent Razr models, but it remains a solid midrange model for communication and multimedia. It offers push-to-talk, a 3.1-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, and a music player. Call quality was decent–voices sounded a bit robotic, but we could carry on a conversation without any real problems. Besides Nextel, you also can get the i9 with Boost Mobile. The Nextel price is $199 with a contract, while contract-free Boost charges $299.
As we mentioned already, the i9 is another branch of the Razr family tree. Yet, while the styling is old, the trade-off is that it is one of the most stylish Nextel phones ever. Razr fans, if there are any left, would recognize the sleek lines and trim, angular design. At 4.1 inches tall by 2.1 inches wide by 0.59 inches thick, it slips right into a pocket or bag, so it’s easy to take on the go. And though it’s a tad heavy at 4.7 ounces, it also has a sturdy and comfortable feel in the hand. We liked the soft touch material and the shiny front face, even if the latter shows fingerprints and smudges.
The 262,000-color external display is large and vibrant (two inches, 320×240 pixels). Colors are bright and graphics are sharp, provided you can see through the aforementioned smudges. It shows the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and numeric caller ID. It also shows photo caller ID and it works as a viewfinder for the camera lens. What’s more, you can navigate through the i9s full menu structure and all applications without ever opening the phone. You can add wallpaper, but the short backlighting time isn’t adjustable. You can always light it again, however, by pressing the volume rocker.
Like the V9, the i9 has touch music controls on its front face, but they’re not part of the external display. Instead, they’re set into the mirrored frame surrounding the display. Like most touch controls, the keys are slippery, but they’re easy to use and they have vibrating feedback. Besides the play/pause, skip, and rewind buttons, you also can cycle through different player views. You even can delete music files thanks to a Trash control.
Other touch controls come into play depending on which feature you’re using. For example, when in video mode, new player controls will appear on the left side of the display (or on the bottom if you’re watching videos in landscape mode). And when you’re snapping photos, even more touch controls appear to let you manipulate the shooter. The concept is similar to the ModeShift keypad on the Motorola Rokr E8 in that the controls appear only when you need them. Otherwise, they’ll vanish to avoid a cluttered look.
As for physical exterior controls, the i9 has a few. On the left spine you’ll find a volume rocker, the PTT button, a speakerphone/voice-dialing control, and the Micro-USB/charger port, while a handset locking switch, a camera shutter, and a control for activating the menu on the external display are on the right. The microSD card slot sits behind the battery cover. That’s not the most convenient location, even if you don’t have to remove the battery. We also didn’t love the location of the camera lens and flash on the top left corner of the i9’s rear face. Not only is it a natural place to rest your finger, but also it makes vanity shots difficult.
The internal display has the same size and resolution as the external display. Yet, you can change more options, including the text size and backlighting time. Three menu designs are available–list, tab and icon–but all are relatively easy to use. Our only complaint was that it takes a few too many clicks to perform such basic functions, such as shooting a picture and sending it in a multimedia message. Also, if you exit out of submenus you go back to standby mode rather than reverting one step to the main menu.
Like with most Razr phones, the i9’s controls are hit and miss. Though they’re spacious, they’re also flush and rather stiff. Tiny silver bumps, similar to those on the Rokr E8, give the controls some tactile definition, but it’s not enough to dial by feel. The navigation array consists of a four-way toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, a dedicated menu control, the Talk and End power keys, and a Web browser shortcut. That’s not a bad design, but we’d prefer a dedicated back key. In standby mode, the OK button will open the settings menu while the toggle doubles as a shortcut to four user-defined functions. The backlit keypad buttons are also spacious, but flat and stiff as well.
The i9’s 600-contact phone book has room in each entry for seven phone numbers, an e-mail address, and notes. You can save contacts to groups or PTT Talk Groups and you can pair them with a photo and one of 28 polyphonic ringtones. Other basic features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a memo pad, a speakerphone, call timers, an alarm clock, and a datebook.
The i9 also has a few higher-end features: stereo Bluetooth, voice dialing and commands, an application manager, USB mass storage, PC syncing, access to Sprint Mobile e-mail, and a voice recorder. There’s also a GPS application, but it’s used for finding your position by longitude and latitude rather than by mapping or directional services.
As a Nextel phone, the i9 offers all of the carrier’s Direct Connect PTT services, including International Direct Connect, Group Connect (for chatting with up to 20 others via PTT at once), and Direct Talk (for out-of-network PTT-chat capabilities). You’ll also find NextMail, which sends voice messages to any e-mail address, and Direct Send, which transmits your contact information to other compatible phones. And finally, there’s Nextel’s second-line service, which lets you add a second line to the phone with a different phone number.
The i9’s camera has a flash, but the lens is in an inconvenient location.
The 3.1-megapixel camera takes photos in seven resolutions, from 2,048×1,536 down to 320×240. Other editing options include two quality settings, exposure control, white balance, brightness, an 8x digital zoom, a self-timer, a macro mode, an autofocus, four color tones, and two shutter sounds (there’s no silent option). The camcorder shoots clips in three resolutions and it offers a similar set of editing options. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at one minute, but you can shoot for longer in normal mode.
The i9’s photo quality was just average.
Photo quality wasn’t as good as we were hoping it would be. Most images were blurry and dark,with faded colors. Videos were about average–fine for a short clip, but quick movements came out choppy. We also noticed that the camera is a tad slow, and we didn’t like having to save every photo we took manually. The i9 has an impressive 128MB of internal memory and the microSD slot can accommodate cards up to 8GB.
The music player has simple interface on both displays. It supports album art and you can choose between a number of themes and visualizations. Features are pretty slim: you get shuffle and repeat modes and an equalizer with nine settings. Getting music on the phone is easy through either a USB cable, Bluetooth, or a memory card.
You can personalize the i9 with a variety of clock styles and wallpapers. You can download more options and additional ringtones with the wireless Web browser. You won’t find any games, but the Sprint version of the phone comes with the Nascar Sprint Cup Mobile application.
We tested the Motorola i9 Stature (iDEN 800) in San Francisco using Nextel service. Call quality was up to usual Nextel standards. The signal was clear and free of static and we had enough volume. Voices sounded natural most of the time, but there was a robotic effect at times. It wasn’t enough to be distracting, but it was noticeable.
On their end, callers said we sounded good. A few couldn’t even tell that we were using a cell phone. A couple people even remarked on the clarity of the call. Our friends could hear us when we were in noisy environments and we had no issues with automated calling systems. Speakerphone calls were quite satisfying, with loud and clear conversations on both ends.
The i9 has a rated battery life of three hours talk time. Our tests showed a talk time of 5 hours and 38 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the i9 has a digital SAR rating of 1.44 watts per kilogram.