On paper, the Motorola i886 seems like a pretty run-of-the-mill Nextel phone. It has push-to-talk with Nextel Direct Connect, stereo Bluetooth, a 2-megapixel camera, a microSD card slot, GPS, and as it is not a smartphone, it has no Wi-Fi. Like most Nextel phones, it is billed as a durable handset, with thick rubberized casing that is military-certified to take a beating. The i886 also looks like a regular messaging handset, with its slide-out QWERTY keyboard.
Yet, it has a trick up its sleeve--its user interface looks almost identical to that of Android. Indeed, the multiple home screens, the pull-up menu, and the app icons look uncannily like Android. But it is not--the OS is a proprietary Linux-based operating system. While we initially thought the use of a fake Android interface was odd, we actually think it's a great idea, as it is far better than the usual Nextel one. The inclusion of Opera Mini is welcome, and we appreciate having a dedicated GetJar application store as well.
We do worry that some people might get fooled into thinking this is a smartphone when it's decidedly not. At the end of the day, the Motorola i886 is just a well-made Nextel messaging phone, which is not a bad thing. Just don't expect anything more than that. The Motorola i886 is $79.99 after a two-year service agreement.
As far as rugged handsets go, the Motorola i886 is positively petite. At 4.6 inches long by 2.0 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick, it's not exactly wafer-thin, but compared with other Nextel phones like the Brute i680, it's quite slim. Clad in hard plastic and thick padding, the i886 is military-certified to withstand dust, shock, vibration, extreme temperatures, low pressure, solar radiation, and humidity. We couldn't subject the phone to such a battery of tests, but it did survive a drop in a bucket of water. While the black-and-gray color scheme is a bore, we do like its compact form factor, and at 4.98 ounces, it feels very solid in the hand.
The 2.2-inch QVGA display is quite bright and colorful, with 262,000-color support. We like the bold graphic icons, and the text is clear and legible, too. We did think the text was a little on the small side, and, unfortunately, you can't adjust the font size. You can adjust the brightness and backlight timer, however. You can also toggle window animations from the display settings.
As we mentioned in the introduction, the i886's user interface is almost note-for-note the same as Android's. However, unlike most Android phones, you have to control everything using the navigation toggle since the display is not a touch screen. We had to resist the urge to swipe the screen at times, but we soon got used to it. Everything from the home screen to the pull-up main menu is identical to the Android user interface, right down to the app icons.
You get up to three home screens, and all of them are customizable with shortcuts, widgets, and wallpaper. Simply press the menu key, select Manage Home Screen, and go from there. You can display widgets for the analog clock, the calendar, the music player, Nascar updates, one-touch Direct Connect, the picture frame app, power control, and Sprint Football Live. Do note that there aren't any Google widgets, because, remember, it's not really an Android phone.
Underneath the display is the navigation array, which is, again, very similar to most Android phones. You have the menu key (which doubles as a screen lock key), the Home key, and the Back key. Instead of the usual Search key, you get a Notifications key, which brings up the notifications screen. In the middle of the array is a round navigation toggle with a center select key. We almost wished the center toggle was an optical touch pad of some kind just to make it feel more like an Android phone, but no, it's just a regular physical key. There are also raised Send and End/Power keys on either side of the toggle.