Nextel Motorola i355
Looking to crawl around a quarry, climb Mount Everest, or weave your way though the jungle? Here's a phone that's ready to tag along. The rugged, ready-for-anything Nextel Motorola i355 may be bulky and heavy, but it won't have any trouble surviving the elements. This GPS-enabled handset boasts Nextel's Direct Connect and Group Connect functionality, a decent color screen, and a speakerphone, plus a rubberized plastic shell that resists rain, dust, and heat--and even survives drops onto a hard surface. At $240, or $90 with a two-year service agreement, the i355 falls into the lower end of Nextel's price range. The Nextel Motorola i355 is big, black, and hefty. At 5.1 by 2.4 by 1.3 inches and tipping the scales at 6.8 ounces, this candy bar-style handset is no lightweight. Protected in Batman-style rubberized black plastic, the i355 would look right at home hooked on to the dark knight's utility belt. Nextel claims that the i355 conforms to Military Standard 810 F for "dust, shock, vibration, temperature extremes, low pressure, and solar radiation"--just a little over the top, mind you, but plausible from what we've seen. While we didn't stick the i355 in the oven or toss it off a cliff, we did drop it multiple times onto a tile floor from a distance of about 3 feet (not even a scratch) and held it under our showerhead (no sparks, no shorted-out keys, no problem). No, you certainly can't fit the stocky i355 in a jeans pocket, but if you're working at a dusty construction site and you have a tool belt, this is the phone for you.
The Nextel Motorola i355's 2-inch-diagonal display gets the job done, but it's nothing to write home about. With a decent resolution of 130x120 pixels and support for 65,000 colors, the screen is reasonably detailed and colorful, but it can't compare to the latest high-resolution camera screens that show many more colors. Then again, the i355 isn't a camera phone, so the display's so-so resolution doesn't strike us as a deal breaker. The phone's workable but staid menu system will be familiar to Nextel users, complete with the annoying main-menu quirk that forces you to hit Next and Back to scroll through all the menu options. You can change the contrast and backlighting time and adjust the font size.
Using the Nextel Motorola i355's keypad is no picnic; the rubberized keys are so tough that you must press down firmly for them to register. That said, there's little chance you'll hit a key by accident, and if you spill your coffee on the phone's keypad--a disaster that occurs with most other handsets--the i355 takes it in stride. The navigation-control layout is relatively decent and much less cluttered than those of other Nextel phones. A five-way toggle acts as a shortcut to four user-defined functions. You get a pair of soft keys and dedicated Call, End, power, and main menu buttons; in addition, there's a dedicated Direct Connect button below the main keypad. However, there's no dedicated speakerphone key for non-push-to-talk calls; the only time you can engage the speakerphone is while you're on a call. The keypad buttons are a decent size, but the yellow backlighting is rather dim.
Along the left edge of the phone are the familiar push-to-talk and volume controls--again, nothing new for experienced Nextel users--while a headphone jack with a superthick, rubberized plastic flap sits on the right side. On the bottom of the headset is a tough plastic flap for the AC/data port, while the stubby yet sturdy retractable antenna is up top. Turn the Motorola i355 around, and you'll find the cool, ridged battery cover with a silver-ringed speaker (squint, and it looks a bit like a superhero logo) just beneath--sweet.