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.
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 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.