Motorola i890 - black (Sprint) review: Motorola i890 - black (Sprint)

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The Good The Motorola i890 is slicker than most Nextel phones. It offers the carrier's signature features and it's a good performer.

The Bad The Motorola i890 camera has average photo quality and its camcorder has few editing options. You have to remove the battery cover to access the memory card slot.

The Bottom Line The Motorola i890 isn't the best camera phone, but it offers the usual Nextel goodies in a slick design.

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7.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8

Motorola's i890 isn't your typical Nextel phone. It's not packed in rubber; instead, it casts a trim shadow and is actually a bit stylish. Sure, it's a lot like Sprint's earlier Motorola Razr2--or more recently Nextel's Motorola i9--but for what it lacks in originality it makes up for with its sturdy construction. It has all the usual Nextel offerings, and its performance is agreeable. The i890 costs $129.99 with a two-year contract and a $50 mail-in rebate.

The Motorola i890 doesn't offer anything that you haven't seen before. Its slim design, large external display, and touch music controls are all Moto hallmarks, even if they hail from a few years ago. Yet, we still like the i890 for what it offers. Even without rubber sidings, the handset has a sturdy, comfortable feel in the hand and its shiny face catches the light. It also attracts fingerprints, but that's a minor issue. The handset measures 3.9 inches long by 1.98 inches wide by 0.66 inch deep and weighs 4.2 ounces.

The i890's external display measures 1.8 inches and supports 65,000 colors (160x128 pixels). It shows the date time, battery life, signal strength, and photo caller ID. You also can access limited subset of features like the camera and music player without opening the phone. Below the display are three touch controls, to activate them press the Nextel "smart" button on the hinge.

Also on the top hinge is the button for the speakerphone. You can use it to activate the feature before you dial a number. On the phone's left spine are the volume rocker and the Nextel push-to-talk (PTT) button. Both buttons are easy to find when you're on a call. On its the right spine are the Micro-USB port for the charger and a syncing cable as well as a handset locking switch.

The i890 has an uncommon feature that we last saw on the Nokia 6131. A button on the right side of the hinge opens the flip phone automatically. It's a kick at first, but there a couple of things you should know. Make sure that you have a good grip on the phone or it might fly out of your hand. Also, be careful of dropping the i890. When we dropped our Nokia 6131 just once, its hinge button jammed and we weren't able to close the phone.

Motorola positioned the i890s camera conveniently in the middle of the hinge. As you open and close the phone, the lens changes position, letting you take self-portraits and shots of other subjects; however, there's no flash. The handset's rear side is covered in a soft-touch material. You'll need to remove the battery cover to access the microSD card slot.

The 2.2-inch display is just what you'd expect on a phone like the i890. It's not the most vibrant display, but the 65,000-color screen (320x240 pixels) should please most users. Graphics look fine on it, and you can adjust the text size, wallpaper, color theme, and backlighting time. Nextel's icon-based menu interface continues to evolve, mostly for the better.

The phone's navigation array is spacious and well designed. There's a four-way toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, a menu control, a Web browser shortcut, and the Talk and End/power buttons. The toggle offers access to the phone book and lets you cycle through the shortcut icons on the display. The keypad buttons are flat, but they're easy to use thanks to their large size. We could dial and text quickly without any problems. The keys are backlit as well, though the numbers may be small for some users.

The i890 has a 600-contact phone book with room in each entry for seven phone numbers, an e-mail address, an IP address, and notes. You can save contacts to and you can pair them with a photo and one of 25 polyphonic ringtones. Other basic features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a memo pad, a speakerphone, call timers, an alarm clock, and a datebook.

For higher-end offerings, the i890 has stereo Bluetooth, voice dialing and commands, an application manager, USB mass storage, PC syncing, and a voice recorder. You also get a voice playback option that reads out menu choices as you select them and text as you type it. You can choose from two voices: "Barbara" or "Sam."

Like other Nextel phones, the i890 offers the usual assortment of Direct Connect PTT services, including International Direct Connect, Group Connect (for chatting with up to 20 others via PTT at once), and Direct Talk (for out-of-network PTT-chat capabilities). You'll also find Direct Send, which transmits your contact information to other compatible phones.