We have to admit that we're not sure what is going on with Sprint lately. Following its merger with Nextel three years ago, the company said it would be phasing out Nextel's iDEN network in favor of Sprint's CDMA network. To show it meant what it said, it started introducing cell phones like the Motorola ic902 that used CDMA for voice calls and iDEN for push-to-talk calls. But suddenly, the carrier has made an about face (even though it denies doing so). First it introduced the IDEN-only Motorola i335 late last year, and now it offers the Motorola i570. Like the i335, the i570 is a solid Nextel phone through and through; it only uses iDEN and it offers a durable, no-nonsense design. You can get it for $99 with a two-year contract, or $299 if you pay full price. To find accessories for this phone, see our cell phone ringtones and accessories guide.
Forget slim and stylish, this phone focuses on being rugged and dependable. Nextel loyalists certainly won't mind at all, but slaves to gadget fashion will steer clear. The i570's blind eye toward the latest design fad is a nice change, to be honest, even if that makes us sound a bit old. At 3.66 inches by 1.97 inches by 1 inches and 4.59 ounces, the i570 isn't the most compact flip phone around, but it's actually pretty small as Nextel handsets go. It fits neatly in a pocket or bag, and it has a solid and sturdy feel in the hand. The front and rear faces may be plastic but the i570's edges are surrounded with a rubbery material. Not surprisingly, the i570 is certified to military standards for dust, shock, and vibration. But what is surprising is that the i570 is the first phone we've seen in a while that has an extendable antenna.
Fortunately, the i570 offers an external display. Though it's about what you would expect from a Nextel phone--that is, small and rectangular with a monochrome display--it's still nice to have one. You can't change any of the options, but it shows the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID. The speakerphone sits on the back of the phone just where you would expect it to be. Of course there's a volume rocker, the PTT button, and a covered 2.5mm headset jack on the left spine. The PTT button is surrounded by a yellow ring, just in case you can't find it. On the top of the i570 are a speakerphone button and a control for placing calls when the phone is closed. The charger port on the handset's bottom end has a protective rubber flap.
As on most Nextel phones, the i570's main display isn't particularly rich, but it's perfectly serviceable. The 1.5 inch, 64,000-color screen has a few customization options; you can alter the backlighting time, the contrast, and the text size. Users with visual impairment might want to test the phone first, however, as the whole arrangement is pretty small. Nextel's multipage menu system continues to be a turnoff but we suppose that Nextel fans don't really mind.
We approve of the i570's navigation array very much. The round five-way toggle is quite large and tactile; we had no issues moving around or selecting individual items. You also can use the toggle as a shortcut to four user-defined functions. The dedicated menu button on the left side of the toggle, and the power control to the right of the toggle, are covered in the same rubbery material, which makes them easy to use. Finally, two soft keys sit on top of the toggle and the Talk and End keys rest just below. These controls are plastic, but we didn't mind.
The rubberized keypad buttons also are well-designed. They're raised above the surface of the phone and are clearly separated from each other. We had no issues dialing by feel, and the bright backlighting and large numbers on the keys made it easy to dial in dim lighting.