At the fall CTIA show in September, Sprint assured us that it was not forgetting its Nextel fans. The carrier promised that by the end of the year it would release four iDEN-only phones for the push-to-talk-loving masses. We've already reviewed the Motorola i365, we're still waiting for the already announced Motorola i576, and we know that an iDEN BlackBerry is on the way. That leaves the new Motorola i776 as the final model in the quarter. Offering an attractive silver-and-burgundy design, the i776 offers all the usual Nextel refinements even if it's not encased in rubber. As with many previous Nextel handsets, the displays aren't the sharpest around, but the i776 remains an easy-to-use phone with decent performance.
On one hand, the Motorola i776 has the same extendable antenna and tiny external display that you'd find on almost any other Nextel handset. But on the other hand, it strikes new design ground by sporting a slick surface and a silver-and-burgundy design. It's also compact (3.39 inches tall by 1.8 inches wide by 0.8 inch thick) as Nextel phones go and relatively lightweight (3.56 ounces).Of course, the trade-off is that the i776 lacks the rubber sidings that are a Nextel trademark. But even so, it manages to have a nice feeling in the hand.
The i776's display is small and rectangular. Though we're used to such a display from Nextel, it doesn't mean that we approve of it. It shows the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and numeric caller ID, but the onscreen text is tiny. Also, while it supports 64,000 colors (96x40 pixels) it won't work as a viewfinder for the camera and it won't support photo caller ID. Two indicator lights for the Bluetooth feature and new messages sit above the display. They're almost invisible when unlit. The camera lens sits at the top of the phone minus a flash and a self-portrait mirror.
On the right spine you'll find a volume rocker and the push-to-talk button. On the top of the phone are the speakerphone key and a button for sending calls to voice mail and accessing the recent calls list when the phone is closed.
The i776's internal display measures 1.75 inches and supports 64,000 colors (480x240 pixels). Like most Nextel displays, it is rather small and it isn't the highest resolution. As such, graphics and photos weren't very sharp. You can change the font size and the backlighting time only. The menus are intuitive and come in list and icon views. Like on other Nextel phones, both menu views require you to scroll through multiple pages.
The keypad and controls are spacious but also relatively flush; we could dial and text quickly and comfortably. In the navigation array there are a four-way toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, a dedicated menu control, a camera shortcut, and the Talk and End/power keys. The toggle also doubles as a shortcut to four user-defined functions.
The i776 has a 600-contact phone book with room in each entry for seven phone numbers, an e-mail address, an IP address, and a Direct Connect number. Contacts can be organized further into a variety of groups, for regular or push-to-talk calls, and you can pair contacts with one of 22 polyphonic ringtones. Other features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a voice recorder, a speakerphone, a notepad, call timers, Bluetooth, voice dialing, and call forwarding.
The i776 offers the full set of Nextel Direct Connect PTT services. International Direct Connect connects you with PTT users in other countries; Group Connect enables you to chat with up to 20 others via PTT at once; and Direct Talk gives you out-of-network PTT-chat capabilities with another Direct Talk handset within a range of up to 6 miles. 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.
An especially nifty feature is Nextel's second line service, which allows you to add a second line to the phone with a different phone number. It's perfect for users who want separate digits for personal and business use. Nextel was one of the first U.S. carriers to offer the functionality. It will cost extra, of course, but you can have separate ringtones, separate billing statements, and even phone numbers with different area codes.