Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
ExpertiseMobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakersCredentials
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Not to be left in the high-tech dust, Nextel has recently been offering customers more stylish Motorola phones to go along with its unique business-centric service. The company's first color-screen flip phone, the i95cl has some cutting-edge elements, but it's a bit bulky and offers subpar battery life. In the end, the question for most users will be whether it's worth spending the extra dough for the i95's color screen. Unless this model comes down significantly in price or you can find it for about $200 less, the short answer is no.
With its blue hood, cutaway speaker flaps, and mostly silver casing, the i95cl looks a little like a sports car when closed. It's a bit thicker (3.6 by 2.0 by 1.7 inches) and weighs more (5.45 ounces) than the monochrome i90c. But like that model, the hard-plastic keys are backlit in blue when you open the phone, which gives the i95cl a presence similar to that of a Star Trek communicator. Like other Motorola Nextel mobiles, this one seems fairly solid and should withstand some punishment, though the flip mechanism on our review unit was a tad loose and made the phone feel less sturdy.
The i95cl follows the flip-phone trend of having a second, external LCD that conveniently displays the time, the date, and the caller ID info (if available) so that you can see who's calling without opening the phone. We also appreciated the rubberized volume-control buttons on the side, conveniently located just above the Direct Connect switch.
As with all of Nextel's new models, there's a four-way navigation button in the middle of the phone for scrolling through menus and text on the wireless Web. The interface is even simpler to navigate than the i90c's, and we had no trouble surfacing the phone's features.
The displays on Nextel's earlier J2ME phones (the i90c, the i85s, and the i50sx) are pretty sharp as far as monochrome screens go. But this phone's larger four-bit color screen, which is capable of displaying up to 10 lines of text and 256 colors, is superior, though it's not as sharp or as bright as the screen found on Samsung's SPH-A500. We liked the customizable wallpaper and color themes; in addition to the three preloaded choices, you'll be able to download more wallpaper styles by the end of the year. Like other Nextel models, the i90c is equipped with Nextel's standard suite of business-centric features, including always-on wireless Web access, three-way calling, and the Direct Connect two-way radio feature with built-in speakerphone. The last item allows you to use the i95cl as a walkie-talkie and communicate with a predesignated group (for example, coworkers or family members) of Nextel users in your home market.
One of the phone's selling points is its ability to run J2ME applications, as many as 10 of which can live on the phone's 1.3MB of dedicated memory--close to double of the memory available on the i90c. The preinstalled apps include a couple of calculators, an expense-management program, and the games Moto GP Demo and EA Sports Gold Demo. If you want to swap out or add games, applications, and polyphonic ring tones, simply select Download Apps from the phone's menu, and choose from a number of titles. Some are free to download wirelessly, and others cost money (the most expensive games will run you $8). Among the more impressive--and we use the term loosely--of the bunch are the full versions of the included demo games.
Java apps aside, the phone also has all the features expected on higher-end models, including a voice recorder, voice-activated dialing, three-way calling, and the ability to create keypad and voice shortcuts. It's worth noting that Nextel includes a free online account that you can use to house calendar and address-book information. Up to 500 contacts can be stored online (you can import an Outlook database but not sync with it), 250 of which can then be selected for wireless storage in the phone at a given moment through the Nextel network.
In our review of the i90c, we noted that Motorola's newer Nextel phones offer improved battery life, but we're disappointed to note that this model has regressed, most likely due to the energy requirements of the color screen. Nextel rates the phone as having up to 205 minutes of talk time and 75 hours of standby time, but we disappointingly managed just more than 90 minutes of talk time and a shade more than two days of standby time. You probably shouldn't stray far from the phone's charger since there isn't an extended battery available.
This model, like all phones that work on Nextel's all-digital, packet-based iDEN 800 network, doesn't feature analog roaming. However, we had no complaints about call quality after testing the phone for a week in San Francisco.