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Motorola Rambler - black (Boost Mobile) review: Motorola Rambler - black (Boost Mobile)

MSRP: $99.99

The Good The Motorola Rambler has a full QWERTY keyboard, plus two color displays, a 1.3-megapixel camera, threaded text messaging, and great call quality.

The Bad The Motorola Rambler doesn't feel very comfortable in the hand, and the interface looks dated. Photo quality isn't good either.

The Bottom Line We like the Motorola Rambler's overall functionality, but we do wish it had a more ergonomic design.

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7.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 8

Review Sections

Almost a year after Boost Mobile introduced its first-ever messaging phone, the Motorola Clutch i465, it's ready to welcome yet another Motorola messenger into its stable. The aptly named Motorola Rambler houses a QWERTY keyboard in a compact clamshell. Though we have questions as to the phone's ergonomics, we do like its overall aesthetic and its midrange features are decent. The Motorola Rambler is $99.99 without a contract.

We're used to messenger phones that are either slates or sliders, so we were quite surprised to see Motorola take the Rambler in the flip-phone direction. Flip-phone messenger handsets aren't new--see the LG Lotus Elite for example-- but they're still quite the rarity. Unlike the Lotus, however, the Rambler is more rectangular than square. Measuring 3.7 inches long by 2.24 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick, the Rambler looks compact from straight on, but it actually has quite a thick profile. It has curved corners on the front, but the back has straight sides all the way around; this lets it lie flat on a table, but it doesn't feel very comfortable when held in the hand.

The Motorola Rambler is a larger-than-average clamshell, thanks to the QWERTY keyboard.

Smack dab in the center of the phone is a 1.6 inch external display. It's colorful and bright, and it displays the usual battery, signal strength, and date and time information. You can change the wallpaper and clock format, and you can also use it for caller ID. Right above the external display is the camera lens, so you can use the external display as a self-portrait camera viewfinder. On the left spine are the volume rocker, speaker key, and Mini-USB charger jack, while the voice command key and 2.5mm headset jack are on the right.

The Rambler has a very sturdy hinge that actually takes a bit of effort to open and close. It clicks firmly into place each time, which we think is a good thing. The first thing you'll notice when you open the phone is a generously sized 2.2-inch main display. However, the Rambler doesn't have the greatest screen quality--it only has 65,536 colors and a 176x220-pixel resolution. The interface looks dated as well, with stale graphics and blocky text. You can adjust the display's backlight time, the brightness, the wallpaper, the color themes, and the clock format.

The navigation array has the usual two soft keys, plus a circular four-way toggle with a very big center select key. The toggle can be configured to double as four user-defined shortcuts as well. There's also a dedicated camera key, a Back key, and the standard Send and End/Power keys. Though we like the large center key, we think it would have been a better idea to spread out the array a bit more and make the other keys a bit larger.

The Motorola Rambler has a QWERTY keyboard.
Underneath the array is the full QWERTY keyboard, with the number keys highlighted in red. The keys are all sufficiently raised above the surface, with a bubbly domed feel underneath our fingertips. However, we can't help but feel that the keyboard is a little cramped due to the slightly narrow shape of the phone. The keys themselves are a bit too narrow for our liking. We could still dial and text with ease, but just not as quickly as we would have liked. Also on the keyboard are dedicated keys for the speakerphone, the messaging in-box, the voice recorder, and the Web browser. The Rambler has three text entry modes: iTap English, iTap Spanish, and the usual QWERTY method. (iTap is just Motorola's term for automatic word completion.)

The Rambler has a 600-entry phone book with room in each entry for five numbers, an e-mail address, an instant-messenger handle, a Web URL, a street address, and notes. You can also save the contacts to groups and pair them with one of 16 polyphonic ringtones or message alert tones. A few basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, voice commands, a datebook, an alarm clock, a world clock, a calculator, and a notepad. More advanced users will appreciate the mobile Web browser, GPS with TeleNav support, instant messaging support (Yahoo, AIM, and Windows Live Messenger), and stereo Bluetooth.

Text and multimedia messaging is central to the Rambler's features, and we like that the phone supports threaded conversations. This allows you to follow back-and-forth text messages as a conversation, similar to how instant messenger works. You can also send and receive e-mail with an app that's similar to the mobile e-mail app on other Sprint Nextel phones. It supports popular e-mail providers like Yahoo Mail, AOL Mail, AIM Mail, Hotmail, and Gmail, but you can also enter your own POP or IMAP server settings. However, the Rambler doesn't provide access to Outlook e-mail or contact syncing.

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