Motorola i836 (Nextel) review: Motorola i836 (Nextel)

Motorola i836 (Nextel)

Dan Costa

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4 min read


Motorola i836 (Nextel)

The Good

Compact, rugged design; push-to-talk functionality; uncluttered navigation keys.

The Bad

Lousy battery life; washed-out color screen.

The Bottom Line

Don't expect to see a supermodel flashing an i836, but if you're a business user who wants a better-looking Nextel phone and can afford an extra battery, you should check it out.
Nextel i836
For years, Nextel's cell phones have been praised for their rugged, functional designs and scorned for their clunky size. With the Nextel i836, however, the company has found a way to make a sturdy work phone that can be beautiful and tough. Dubbed "an instant classic" by Nextel itself, the i836 offers essentially the same feature set as Nextel's i730 but in a smaller, sleeker form factor. Unfortunately, the less-than-stellar battery life keeps the i836 from achieving true greatness. The resolution on the internal and external displays is disappointing, and at $299, the price tag is a bit over the top. Nextel has released so many big, bulky phones that it's almost become a company trademark. However, the Nextel i836 may change that. First of all, the handset doesn't come in any ordinary paper box. Instead, Nextel packages it in a dark wooden box with felt lining. Open the hinged lid, and you're greeted by not only the i836 but also a Nextel pocket watch and a leather case for the mobile. While this presentation is eye-catching, it's a bit much for a cell phone, even if it's supposed to be "an instant classic." The handset is small, weighing just 3.6 ounces and measuring only 3.4 by 1.9 by 0.8 inches. It isn't the smallest phone we've tested, but it's the smallest Nextel phone we've seen. Even the compact Nextel i830 is larger.

The i836 isn't your average Nextel phone.

Nextel also took some chances with the i836's overall style. In place of sharp angles, the flip phone has curves that feel good in the hand. The hardened shell comes in bronze or silver and resists scratches well. In fact, the handset feels very rugged and meets Military 810F specifications for weather resistance. To show off its guts, the inside of the front flap of the mobile is translucent, offering users a peek at the transistors underneath.

On the downside, the external and internal screens are less than impressive. The simple monochrome external display shows the time, the signal strength, the battery life, and caller ID (where available), but its tiny rectangular size may be hard for some users to see. Inside, the small 1.75-inch diagonal display shows 26,000 colors, but it's a far step down from the brilliant screen on the Nextel i605. With its overall washed-out effect, it isn't meant for serious Web surfing or multimedia apps.

On the side of the phone, you will find the volume rockers, a headset jack, and of course, the push-to-talk button. On the top of the mobile is a button for activating PTT calls and a key that opens the list of recent numbers. If you have trouble getting a clear signal, be aware that what looks like a stubby antenna actually extends. Just take care when doing so, since it's fragile. As with most Nextels, the speaker is on the rear of the phone.

The navigation controls consist of a five-way toggle, two soft keys, dedicated power and menu buttons, and the traditional Talk and End keys. We were glad to see that these controls, despite their abundance, have a spacious, uncluttered design. The keypad itself features small, recessed keys that are a little hard to push, but they do emit a satisfying click when doing so.

The Nextel i836 comes with the same robust feature set as the Nextel i730, just in a more compact package. The built-in phone book stores up to 600 contacts, with as many as seven numbers per contact plus an e-mail address. (Separate numbers are required for regular and PTT calls.) You also get three polyphonic and 12 monophonic ring tones, which you can assign to specific contacts, and there's a vibrate alert. For hands-free use, the i836 supports voice-activated dialing for both words and numbers.

Productivity features include a date book, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a GPS locator, and a voice recorder that will record phone conversations. For frequent flyers, the airplane mode turns off the transmitter while still supporting programs, the voice recorder, and the date book.

Of course, the phone supports Nextel's signature Direct Connect PTT technology and Group Connect, which lets you conference-call with multiple callers at the same time. You can use the integrated speakerphone or hit the Private Speaker button to use the earpiece for personal conversations or to avoid annoying the person sitting next to you on the bus. The Nextel i836 also seems a bit more fun and customizable than other models. Changing your screensaver and downloading images from Nextel online with the integrated Web browser is simple; plus, the phone comes loaded with JME2 Java applications, including demo versions of Jamdat Bowling and Tetris. You can sign up for subscriptions to TeleNav 2.3 or 1KTV, and you can download your own applications and store them on the phone's 2MB of memory.

We tested the Nextel i836 (iDEN 800) in the New York City area on Nextel's network, and the phone had excellent signal strength and good call quality with clear conversations. We also liked the fact that the signal penetrated buildings, better than conventional cellular signals. As expected, the speakerphone was a bit more muffled, so take care when resting the phone on a surface with the speaker facing down.

As for battery life, while the i836 tested within the promised ranges, it probably won't be sufficient for the truly mobile. We beat the rated talk time of 2.75 hours by an extra 15 minutes and surpassed the promised standby time of a bit more than four days by almost two days. Each test was done after a single charge using the standard battery. While both times were average, they will disappoint the heavy business users who are Nextel's core audience. We suggest you factor the price of a backup battery into the total cost of the phone. According to the FCC, the Nextel i836 has a digital SAR rating of 1.41 watts per kilogram.


Motorola i836 (Nextel)

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 6Performance 6
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