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Nextel makes leap into 21st century

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If you use a Nextel cellular phone you now have the ability to make the quantum leap into the 21st century.  No longer are you stuck with a large brick or a mini-bricklette you must lug around.  There’s now a new handset dripping with features as small as everyone else’s cute, shiny phones and it weighs only 3.6 ounces.  Nextel has just introduced the i830.

First of all, it is really beautiful in person. It comes with a metal case in either silver or bronze (go for the bronze).  The color screen is capable of 65,000 colors.  There’s the famous Nextel Direct Connect walkie-talkie button as well as the high-quality speakerphone.  All this in a Nextel phone that measures 3.3 by 1.8 by 0.8 inches!  It’s priced at $299.99.

If you've seen any of the latest-generation Nextel phones you’ve seen what is called the advanced user interface.  It’s pretty easy to master with the icon-driven menus very intuitive.  Battery life seems to be pretty good on the model I’ve been testing for the past few weeks.  Motorola (who build all Nextel phones) says you can expect 2 hours of talk time and 55 hours of standby using the slim battery pack which comes with the i830.

You can program up to 600 contacts/phone numbers onto your SIM card.  You can use the built in voice recorder to take notes.  Dialing can be voice activated.  And Nextel boasts the i830 has GPS circuitry inside so you can help figure out where you are (for the record I couldn’t find the GPS controls on my test phone). 

There are also lots of pre-loaded Java applications built into this little handset including: Advanced Calculator, TeleNav 2.2 for audible driving direction (requires subscription), 1KTV multimedia for news (requires subscription).  Games inside include a 3-D Baseball game demo and Tetris puzzle game demo.  The i830 comes with 2 MB of memory for downloading more applications and games.

The radio portion of the i830 I’ve been using is terrific.  I was able to get and keep a strong signal almost anywhere I went -- that includes the usual haunts in and around New York City, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania and far eastern Long Island. 

Sound quality on my pre-production sample was good – but not up to Nextel’s usual standard.  I’d say it’s a "9" compared to Nextel’s usual "10" on a scale of 1-to-10.  I think that’s because bigger phones allow for bigger speakers inside and the i830 is anything but big.  Overall, when you compare size versus audio quality I think Motorola/Nextel has made the right choices.

There’s one feature that really bothers me -- the Datebook application.  This is how Nextel describes it: “Book meetings, plan events, and set alarms that will automatically turn-on the phone if needed.  Store a phone number or Direct Connect ID and initiate a call from a Datebook entry.  Does not sync with other software programs.”  Please note that last sentence.  How can any company creating a portable communications device include a Datebook which doesn’t sync with other computer software programs?  I think it’s a huge mistake but one that Motorola/Nextel can and should easily fix.

Last but not least there's the coolness factor.  Everyone — and I mean everyone -- who has spied me using this phone has stopped in their tracks to ask what it was.   Each and every person thought it was really beautiful.  Nextel users wanted to touch it.  They wanted to behold the holy grail of Nextel handsets.  They all said they had to have one immediately.  Me too!