Motorola Debut i856 review: Motorola Debut i856

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.0
  • Design: 6.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 8.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Motorola Debut has a slim slider design, plus it comes with push-to-talk, GPS, a 1.3-megapixel camera, and a good music player. It also has very good call quality.

The Bad The Motorola Debut suffers from poor keypad design and a low-resolution display.

The Bottom Line If you can live with a few design quirks, the Motorola Debut is a decent, basic, multimedia phone for Boost Mobile.

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Most iDEN push-to-talk phones are quite bulky, and come in either a clamshell or candy bar design. However, the Motorola Debut bucks that trend. It is the first ever iDEN push-to-talk phone to come in a slider design, which gives it a rather svelte appearance. Aside from push-to-talk, the Debut also has a few basic multimedia features. Though we had a few design issues with the Debut, it's overall a decent midtier offering from Boost Mobile. It's available for $170 without a contract. The Debut is also eligible for Boost Mobile's $50 monthly unlimited text, talk, data, and push-to-talk nationwide.

Slider phones may be new to Boost Mobile, but they're definitely not new to Motorola. Indeed, the Motorola Debut reminds us a little of previous Motorola slider handsets, like the Motorola Rizr . Measuring 4.19 inches long by 2.0 inches wide by 0.59 inch thick, the Debut is slim and sleek, with a black coating and a silver trim border on the front. When you slide the phone open, the number keypad is coated in a very rich red. The Debut is 2.99 ounces and is thin enough to fit in a front pocket.

The Motorola Debut is the first iDEN push-to-talk phone with a slider design.

On the front of the phone is a 2.2-inch display. Like a lot of push-to-talk phones, the display doesn't have the best resolution--only 65,536 colors and a 176x220 pixel resolution--so the graphics look a little blocky and washed out. You can adjust the display's backlight time, the size of the menu dialing fonts, the menu layout, the clock format, and the display theme. Along the bottom row of the standby screen is a carousel of shortcuts for up to nine user-defined applications.

Underneath the display is the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a round navigation toggle with a middle confirmation key, a menu key, a music player key, and the Send and End/Power keys. You can show and hide the aforementioned carousel by pressing the middle key of the navigation toggle. When the carousel is hidden, the toggle can be used as shortcuts to four user-defined functions from the standby screen. When a slideshow or song is playing, the middle three keys of the toggle light up and take on the duties of previous track, play/pause, and next track keys. We weren't pleased with the feel of the navigation keys. They felt a little stiff and squishy with not a lot of give when pressed.

Slide the phone up and you'll reveal the number keypad. We're pleased to see it's quite roomy, as most slider keypads tend to be a little cramped. However, the number keys suffer the same problem as the navigation keys: they feel just a bit too spongy when pressed. Still, the keys are raised above the surface and it's easy enough to dial by feel.

On the left spine of the phone are the speakerphone key, the volume rocker, a large push-to-talk key, and the charger jack. On the right is a 3.5-millimeter headset jack, which we're always glad to see with a phone that has a music player so we have the freedom of using our own headphones. There's also a camera lens on the back, but it's only visible when you slide the phone open. The microSD card slot is inconveniently located behind the battery cover.

The Debut has a 600-entry phone book with room in each entry for eight phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, and an IP address. You can save your contacts to caller groups or push-to-talk Talk Groups, a photo for caller ID, plus one of 21 polyphonic ringtones. Basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, a datebook, a memo pad, an alarm clock, and a voice recorder. You also get Boost Mobile's push-to-talk service, of course. More-advanced features include text and multimedia messaging with threaded messaging, a wireless Web browser, stereo Bluetooth, and GPS.

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Where to Buy

Motorola Debut i856 (Boost Mobile)

Part Number: CNETI856BLKBOOST Released: Sep 2, 2009
Pricing is currently unavailable.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Sep 2, 2009
  • Weight 3 oz
  • Technology iDEN
  • Service Provider Boost Mobile
  • Diagonal Size 2.2 in
  • Sensor Resolution 1.3 megapixels