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It won't win any fashion awards, but the target audience for the Nextel i605 doesn't care about that sort of thing. Big and bulky like most Nextels, it offers some unique improvements over its siblings. Though it's not the first Nextel mobile to include Bluetooth (the RIM BlackBerry 7520 led that charge), the i605 is the first phone from the carrier that should appeal to a wide segment of its customer base, as it has no camera to mess things up. It also sports an improved color screen, but the durable rubber sidings ensure it will find a place on the belts of construction workers, police officers, and others who don't mind getting their hands and their phone a little dirty. At $349, the i605 is expensive, but you can probably find it for less with service.
The black-and-gray Nextel i605 is unwieldy, even by Nextel standards. The phone measures 4.9 by 2.0 by 1.1 inches without the extendable antenna and weighs a heavy 5.9 ounces with its high-capacity battery. This is a mobile that is more likely to be clipped onto a belt than slipped into a pocket, so it'd better be a sturdy model. This larger size also gives the Nextel its toughness. The phone is made of hard plastic with resilient rubber side grips, and it feels solid. In fact, its rubberized shell provides military-grade (it adheres to the Military 810F Spec) protection for resistance to shock, dust, and vibration.
The good news is that the added bulk and durability can accommodate a vibrant and large (2.2 inches diagonal) display with a resolution of 262,000 colors. It's a big step above other Nextel screens, and it's a pleasure to view the mostly user-friendly menus. The bad news is that this size doesn't make the controls any easier to access. Just below the display is the small five-way navigational control with user-defined shortcuts; it's crowded by a pair of soft keys, the Send and End buttons, and dedicated menu and power buttons. The keypad is made of hard plastic and is very small, given the size of the phone. If you're going to build a big phone, the keys should be big too.
Criticisms aside, the standard Nextel controls are here and in good form. The speakerphone and the Recent Calls buttons are placed on the top of the unit. With the mobile's cover closed, you can make calls by pushing the Recent Calls button, then the speakerphone. The side of the phone has a rubberized volume rocker and large push-to-talk button. Plus, there is a standard headset jack and power connection, both covered and protected by rubber strips. As is standard, the speaker is on the back, below the battery cover.
The Nextel i605 is a workhorse that comes with a mix of calling and productivity features, chief among them a 600-entry contact manager that stores as many as seven numbers per entry. (Separate numbers are required for regular and PTT calls.) The phone comes with 16 relatively shrill ring tones as well as a vibrating alert. The mobile also includes a voice recorder, voice-activated dialing, and a GPS locator that supports non-Java location-enhanced services such as Mobile Locator.
It's notable that the i605 is one of few Nextel mobiles with Bluetooth. Using the feature, you can access a wireless headset, or if you want to use your phone as a wireless modem, you can connect to Bluetooth-enabled laptops and PDAs. Like all Nextel phones, the i605 comes with a speakerphone; Direct Connect walkie-talkie service; and Group Connect, which lets you conference call with multiple callers at the same time. It also includes the Direct Send feature, which enables quick and instant sharing of contact information (names, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and so on) among Nextel handsets.
The phone comes with 32MB of flash memory that can store downloadable applications and ring tones. Although you have to sign up for a subscription, preloaded applications include Calculator Suite, TeleNav 3.0 for audible driving directions, Trimble Outdoors for outdoor navigation, 1KTV multimedia for news, and AtRoad Pathway for fleet management and tracking. For fun, Nextel throws in two game demos: Space Invaders and Boulder Dash. The phone uses the Openwave Web browser, and thanks to the large screen, data services are relatively easy to use. The phone also supports text and multimedia messaging, enabling you to send audio, images, text, or all three to e-mail addresses and other Nextel multimedia-messaging users.
We tested the Nextel i605 on the company's iDEN 800 network in New York City. Although we had some trouble locating a satellite for the GPS service, the voice quality was strong throughout Manhattan. We never had trouble making calls or hearing callers, even on noisy streets. The phone's remarkable volume made using the speakerphone a truly walkie-talkie-like experience. Likewise, we had no interference issues with 802.11b wireless networks, 5GHz wireless telephones, or microwave ovens.
We tested the phone's Bluetooth connection with a Plantronics M2500 headset. Using the Bluetooth icon in the phone's menu system, we were able to quickly set the phone to detect and link up to the headset.
The battery life was excellent; we got 6 hours of battery life from the phone making voice calls, far exceeding the rated talk time of 4.8 hours. Given the size of the screen, the battery life will be a lot less if you are using the phone's data and Web features. On standby, the phone lasted 8 days on a single charge. While that's impressive, it's 2 days short of the promised time of 10 days.