Motorola's i530 (Nextel) is the Hummer of cell phones. With military-grade resistance to shock and dust, it's ugly, bulky, and ideal for users who spend more time off-road than in the office. Nextel has made its mark with sturdy phones, and the i530's design is on a par with that of the bulkier but equally sturdy
Despite the i530's size, it fits easily in your hand, and its outer covering gives it a very solid construction. Like a Volvo, it looks like it could withstand anything, and it easily survived a few three-foot drops without a scratch. In fact, Nextel says it meets military standards for resistance to dust, shock, and vibration. The rubber casing also protects an extendable antenna, a battery door, and accessory connections, and the speaker, while facing the rear, also is well protected. In usual Nextel fashion, a volume rocker and a Push To Talk (PTT) button are on the left side, while the top of the mobile houses a speakerphone key and a button that makes calls when the flip is closed. Just be warned that, as additional insurance against breakage, the i530 is without an external screen. A single, tiny LED light alerts you to incoming calls.
A less forgivable design element, however, is the meager 1.5-inch-diagonal monochrome internal display. Although the screen is easy enough to read in most lighting environments, it's too small for meaningful Web or e-mail duties, and users with visual impairments may have difficulty. For navigation, the i530 sports the usual crowded Nextel arrangement of a four-way toggle, two soft keys, and a dedicated Menu button. While the buttons are easy to use after you get the hang of them, the text-driven menus are dry and unappealing. Fortunately, though, the backlit keypad buttons are tactile and well spaced. The Nextel i530 offers a reasonable selection of features, despite the lack of higher-end options. The 600-contact phone book stores as many as seven entries (separate phone numbers are used for PTT calls) and an e-mail address for each name. For caller ID, contacts can be paired with any of the 4 polyphonic and 12 monophonic ring tones. You also get a built-in speakerphone, a memo pad, a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser, vibrate mode, text messaging, USB connectivity, and call waiting.
Sign up for Nextel's iDEN Update service, and you can download additional Java (J2ME)-enabled applications, such as a voice-record feature for capturing and playing back voice memos and phone calls. The mobile also supports voice activation if you download the software, and Nextel lets you choose among hundreds of ring tones from its online service. The i530's Web services include access to news, weather, entertainment, and other Mobile Net-enabled sites. The handset also supports non-Java location-enhanced services such as Mobile Locator. We tested the single-band (iDEN 800MHz) i530 in the New York City area using Nextel's service and were generally pleased. The sound quality was good both inside buildings and on the street. We were even able to get a signal in subway stations. Speakerphone quality also was solid, although the speaker should be placed face up if the phone is on a table.
We managed 5 days of standby time, beating the promised time of 3.2 days. Talk time came to 2.75 hours, matching the rated time, but still a bit disappointing.