Nextel was relatively late to the camera phone game, but it has begun to catch up. The i580 joins the Motorola i870 in offering a solid 1.3-megapixel camera. You can take pictures in six resolutions from 128x96 to 1,280x1,024 pixels in either Fine or Normal quality settings. Settings include a 4X digital zoom, a flash, and a self-timer, but absent are the picture color effects, brightness adjustments, and white-balance controls that you find with most VGA camera phones. Picture quality is decent, with better color saturation than we've seen from other megapixel shooters, though it still can't compare with a digital camera. On the upside, the i580 follows most Motorola handsets in including a handy memory meter in the camera application that shows the available space.
The i580's video recorder shoots clips in two resolutions (176x144 and 128x96) with sound. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 15 seconds; otherwise you're limited by the amount of available memory. Clips were nothing special, with a grainy, pixelated effect. Once you're done with your snapshots or videos, you can store the files on the phone's 25MB of internal memory, which is on the low side, but you can always save these files to a Micro SD card. You can also use images for picture caller ID, though they won't show up on the external display, or as your phone's wallpaper, and you can send them wirelessly to friends.
The i580 has a rudimentary but serviceable MP3 player for listening to your favorite tunes. The interface is beyond basic, with nothing in the way of album art or graphics. That said, the external and internal displays show the artist and song name and elapsed time during playback. Features include shuffle and repeat modes and Rock, Pop, Jazz, Classical, and Bass EQ presets. On the downside, it plays tracks only from TransFlash cards, so you can forget about direct-to-device music transfers, let alone over-the-air downloads. We also wish the i580 had external music controls, though we realize they might compromise its durability.
You can personalize the i580 with a choice of wallpapers and themes. If you don't like what's on the handset already, you can always download more options with the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. Alternatively, you get a fair choice of Java (J2ME) applications, including three game demos (Vijay Singh Pro Golf, Bejeweled, and World Poker Tour); 1KTV, an on-demand pseudo-TV service; and the Trimble Outdoors and TeleNav subscription-based navigation service that takes advantage of the i580's GPS support.
We tested the i580 in San Francisco using Nextel's service. Call quality was very good, with fine voice clarity and volume. We had no trouble getting a signal and experienced little interference from other electronic devices. Callers reported similar conditions and said they had no reception problems on their end. Speakerphone calls were mostly clear with very loud volume, and we had no issues when we made calls with the Plantronics Explorer 320 Bluetooth headset. Music sounded better over headphones than the external speakers, but the volume was quite loud either way.
The i580's rated battery life is relatively short at just 2.75 hours of talk time, though we did manage to get 3 hours of talk time in our tests. It still has a measly standby time of 2.9 days. According to FCC radiation tests, the i580 has a digital SAR rating of 1.02 watts per kilogram.