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On the eve of CTIA telecom conference in Las Vegas, Motorola launched the i1, the first push-to-talk Android phone on the market. The i1 will launch this summer on Nextel's iDEN network. While pricing hasn't been announced, Sprint told me that it will be "competitive" with other Android smartphones. I had the chance to spend some time with the i1 on Monday at Motorola's launch event and I must say, this phone is unlike any iDEN device I've seen before.
iDEN phones are typically targeted toward consumers who work in construction and other outdoor industries. They're built to withstand all environments and generally, they're not the slickest looking devices. The i1, however, has the specs and the features of a mid-range smartphone. It sports a bright 3.1-inch touchscreen, a 5-megapixel camera, and four touch-sensitive buttons with a 5-way navigation wheel.
The i1 is quite pocketable, too; you're not going to need a hip holster for this iDEN phone. It feels really nice in hand, too with its angled curves and rubberized backing. You'd never know that this lightweight smartphone also meets the 810F military specification. According to Motorola, it can resist blowing rain, dust, shock vibration, extreme temperature, salt fog, humidity and low pressure. We'll of course put these claims to the test when we get one in hand (check out our Digital Demolition videos).
I was also pleased with the i1's speed and responsiveness. Applications launched quickly, scrolling was smooth and I didn't notice any lag on the software keyboard.
The i1 runs the somewhat out-of-date Android OS 1.5 with the vanilla interface (no MotoBlur for this Motorola Android phone). Push-to-talk technologies is nicely integrated with the Android user interface. Push-to-talk is activated by pressing a hardware button on the phone's spine or tapping an on-screen icon. Two widgets made especially for the phone-Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on/off switches-will ship with the phone.
The i1 is also the first Android phone to come preloaded with Opera Mini 5 browser. Opera Mini renders pages on a server and then compresses them by 90 percent. It uses relatively little of the phone's resources, resulting in a quicker mobile web surfing experience. Opera Mini is an ideal default browser for the i1 as data rates are quite slow over iDEN networks. You can connect to the Web via Wi-Fi and use the Android browser if you prefer.
If you're still not sold on an Android push-to-talk phone, consider this: Mike Rowe, host of "Dirty Jobs," is the spokesperson for the i1 and even made it out for the launch event. That alone makes the i1 seem pretty cool.