Motorola Clutch i465 Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

Just a few years ago we had left Sprint’s iDEN service for dead, but under newish CEO Dan Hesse the maligned service has had a revitalization of sorts.  It started slow, with the basic but functional i576 and i776.  These new devices were smaller than what we had ever seen on iDEN, and were followed by an executive flagship device in the BlackBerry 8350i.  Not long after we got a consumer flagship in Motorola’s i9, and now comes the text message friendly Motorola Clutch i465.  The first non-RIM iDEN unit to sport a full QWERTY keyboard, the Clutch offers a decent sized candybar QWERTY with VGA camera which meets military specifications for dust, shock and vibrations.  Included in the box you’ll find the lithium ion battery and microUSB AC charger.

Design:

The Clutch i465 is not pretty, that’s for sure.  For starters, we’re not crazy about the maroon and gray color scheme.  Boost now offers a black version, which we hope Sprint will be bringing over to the postpaid side.  The screen is very small as well; not only does it measure in at a mere 1.79”, but the 65K color, 120x160 TFT display is pretty poor.  Of course we have come to expect this from Motorola’s non-top tier devices.

The size is good though, and the Clutch fits comfortably into your hand.  The width is good even for a regular candybar, but we’re quite delighted that they were able to fit a full usable QWERTY while managing to keep it a respectable 2.13” wide.



You can compare the Motorola Clutch i465 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

Speaking of the QWERTY, it’s surprisingly not all that bad.  Visual inspection of the keys makes it appear that they are pointed, like in the Samsung Ace, but in reality they have the slightest rounding to them which greatly increases usability.  We still found our fingers naturally resting in the valleys, but it did not affect usability nearly as much as it did on the Ace.  Those with larger fingers will not appreciate the small keys, but the smaller hands of the targeted youth market won’t mind them at all.



The overall design is very busy.  Besides the 34-key keyboard, the navigational cluster has a five way d-pad, left and right Soft Keys, Send and End buttons and hard keys for the menu and speaker.  To the left of the display are three more hard shortcut keys, this time for Messaging, Web and Camera.  All the keys on the i465 Clutch have good travel and responsiveness, letting you be sure you clicked on them.

The left side of the Clutch has a very small volume rocker and a larger Direct Connect key.  Open the door below them and you’ll find a 2.5mm headset jack (with PTT ring compatibility) and the microUSB charging port.  The back is coated in soft touch paint, and the VGA camera sits alone atop the battery door.



The design of the i465 Clutch isn’t terrible, it’s just not great.  The keyboard is the phone’s main feature, and it is plenty usable as long as you don’t have large fingers.  The overall feel is good; it is very comfortable to hold and, with 810F military spec ruggedness it is solid as well.  At just under 16mm it’s thin enough to fit comfortably into a pocket.  The black color scheme is much better in our opinion, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see a rainbow of color offerings with this phone.

Motorola Clutch i465 360 Degrees View:




Software:

Not much new to report here.  The Motorola Clutch i465 runs the same outdated Motorola UI we’ve seen on iDEN units for years now.  It’s still as bloated (23 main menu items) and as complex as ever, and with elements of Sprint’s OneClick  UI making their way down to lower level models like the Rumor2 and the Sanyo 2700 we can’t help but be frustrated with the archaic interface Motorola’s iDEN unit clings to.

There are decent elements to it, most notably customization.  The user can rearrange the menu as they please, including adding and removing apps, as well as assign the soft key functions.  This, however, is not enough to make us overlook the clunky overall experience.  Redesign!  Redesign now we say!

The Clutch i465 allows for up to 600 numbers in the phone book. Individual entries can have 7 phone numbers, a DC number, an email address and an IP address each. It should be noted that the 600 number limit is total, not 600 contacts with up to 7 numbers each.  The phone is listed as having voice dialing, but short of initiating from a Bluetooth headset we couldn’t figure out how to work it.

The web experience is awful, but then again what do you expect from a network that peaks at 19.2kbps and a 1.79” display?  Bluetooth v1.2 is supported, including stereo for some reason.  Other profiles include HSP 1.1, HFP 1.5, OPP, DUN, PBA and BPP 1.2.  The Clutch supports GPS services, as well as Sprint’s NFL and NASCAR programs and their Mobile Email suite.

Messaging is pretty much the same as we’ve seen in the past, but conversations are now threaded on the  Motorola Clutch i465.  It’s not enabled by default though, and the implementation is pretty dreadful; nothing like we’ve seen from OneClick devices.  Nextel’s SMS service is notoriously bad, and while the hardware and software may be improved the overall experience is much the same.  iDEN was built for instant voice communication, and in this respect it is unparalleled.   Other services have not been its strong suit, and while we understand the limitations of an iDEN data network we continue to be perplexed about the horrible handling of SMS.





Performance:

The voice quality on the Motorola Clutch i465 was pretty good.  Callers sounded loud and clear, and as we’ve come to expect from iDEN models the speakerphone was plenty loud even in the noisiest environments.  Callers were pleased with the way we sounded, giving us an overall 9 out of 10 for call quality.

We got the chance to test out the international Direct Connect feature while in Mexico and have to say that we were impressed.  Call setup times were slightly longer, but when you’re used to under a second, even a second to a second and a half feels long. There was no noticeable lag or drop in voice quality, and even with the slightly longer setup time the service was lightning fast.  Kudos Sprint!

Battery life is usually pretty weak for iDEN models, and the Clutch is no exception.  The rated 3.4 hours of talk time is better than preceding units, but still well below the industry average of around 5.5 hours.  Standby is also much lower than average, at only about 4 days.  We experienced this first hand in Mexico, as our phones only lasted for 2.5 days with very, very light DC usage.

We also have to scold Motorola here for their charger policy.  Though the size is an industry standard microUSB, we happened to grab our BlackBerry charger on the way out only to discover that the phone won’t charge because it’s an “Incompatible Charger.”  No worries, we though, we have a microUSB data cable (from a Palm Pre) and can just charge it from the laptop. No go. First Motorola used horrible charger designs, and now they’ve pushed standards such as miniUSB and microUSB but only supported their branded chargers.  We understand concerns with knock-off chargers, but we were using genuine OEM equipment here, it just didn’t happen to have a stylized M on it.  This situation is deplorable and needs to be addressed immediately.

Conclusion:

The Motorola Clutch i465 is a good phone, all things considered.  It’s comfortable to use and small enough to slip into a pocket, and with Mil Spec construction it’s durable enough to stand up to the rigors of everyday life.  The keys may be small, but the QWERTY keyboard is plenty usable.  The color scheme, web and display leave a lot to be desired however.  Still, as a low-end phone targeted towards the young messaging crowd it does a decent job for an iDEN phone.  At $40 on contract (or $130 for Boost prepaid) the Clutch isn’t a bad little phone in the right hands.

Motorola Clutch i465 Video Review:





Pros

  • Full QWERTY keyboard
  • Good size, solid build
  • Meets military specifications 810F for dust, shock and vibration
  • Good price

Cons

  • Poor screen size and quality
  • Semi-proprietary charging port
  • User interface is a highly-customizable mess

PhoneArena Rating:

6.5

User Rating:

4.8
22 Reviews

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