Motorola i1 iDEN Android Phone Reviewed

Motorola i1

I was lucky enough to win a Motorola i1 Android iDEN phone in a random drawing at the Sprint Developer  Conference in October. Now that I’ve been using it for a while I felt it was time to share my i1 experiences with BoostApps’ readers.

The phone’s been out for nearly a year and there’s tons of reviews of it on the web so I’m going to focus on my personal impressions rather than going over every button and feature. If you want more information I’ve listed and linked to what I consider the best in-depth reviews of the i1 at the end of the post.

My i1 is a Nextel branded unit.  It comes with a different default wallpaper than the Boost version and has a few extra Sprint/Nextel exclusive apps; NASCAR, Sprint Football Live, Sprint Zone and Telenav, but I believe that it’s otherwise identical to the Boost version.

The prize i1 came with a month’s free Nextel service which works just like Boost, same network, same coverage, same speed.  When the month ended, I popped my Boost SIM into the i1 and everything worked as it did with Nextel SIM except that Sprint Football Live and Sprint Zone crash when I try to launch them. Telenav launches but complains that my account is invalid. The only one of those apps I miss is Telenav, a decent turn by turn navigation app.  The NASCAR app seems to work fine on Boost but as I’m not a fan I haven’t really explored it.

The specs of the i1 (slow 500 MHz processor, smallish 3.1 inch, 320×480 px inch screen and especially the ancient version 1.5 of the Android OS) are rather pedestrian in the current world of Android super phones.  I’ve used high end Android phones including  my wife’s HTC Evo, so I expected to be disappointed with the i1.  But the phone surprised me and I ended up liking it a lot and making it my main device.

First of all. pictures of the i1 are deceiving. It’s got this busy, frumpy look to it and also appears rather thick in most photos.  It meets Military Standard 810F for Dust, Shock and Vibration resistance which usually a heavy and bulky device.  But the i1, at 131 grams, is lighter than the iPhone.  It’s a very thin phone too, 12.8 mm, actually a little  thinner than the Evo.

Performance is another area where the i1 surprised me. Transitions between apps are generally quick as is cold boot time. The WiFi performance is the best I’ve ever seen from any phone. The WiFi in my house is rather flaky and every other phone I’ve used there, including the Evo and several Nokias, tends to drop the connection occasionally and require turning the phone’s WiFi on and off to get working again. But the i1 really holds on to the weak connection and never drops. Performance on the iDEN network surprised me too. Opera Mini is noticeably faster than on other iDEN phones, Gmail works great on iDEN with messages pushed to the phone as soon as they are received. Reading emails is lag free on iDEN too as long as you don’t try to download images. My Google calendar stays synced up and the Google Talk and TweetCaster Twitter apps notify me of IM requests and Twitter DM’s and @boostapps.comreplies while I’m out and about. Another nice plus is that on the Boost pay as you go plan the $0.35/day data fee is not required and all apps including the stock browser without the data add-on.

The camera is good for an iDEN phone but only so so when compared with the best camera phones like the Nokia N8 and N95 or even the Evo. It has auto focus with a dedicated two stage shutter button and a single LED flash.  The flash is really only useful for close ups but makes a pretty good flashlight when used with the free Simple LED app from the Android Market. The photo below shows the camera at its best (click to view full size).

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