Motorola i886 Review2
So this is where the Motorola i886 gets interesting. Though Sprint and Motorola make no mention of it, this is an Android-based device. It is not Android in the traditional sense though, and it is not a Google device. Our attempts to get clarification from Sprint have resulted in them telling us that it was Java-based and it was a Motorola proprietary OS, but it is certainly Linux (the About phone screen reveals a kernel version) and when you view the licensing it clearly states it is part of the Android Open Source Project (ASOP.) Also, it is quite clear when using the i886 that it is Android: the pre-loaded apps are the core Android apps, there is a notification shade and the menu is even the same as every other Android device out there.
We find it very curious as to why Sprint and Motorola aren’t talking about this OS. The way we see it this is a seminal event in Android history. Sure, it may not be as big as the G1 or the launch of the Nexus One, but as far as we know this is the first Android feature phone and the first to run the platform without a touchscreen. Android may be synonymous with touchscreen because of what we’ve seen in the market so far, but if you recall when Google first introduced Android it was actually shown on a non-touch device (watch it on YouTube) so this really was in the plans all along. In fact, Google talked about Android being scalable from the get go, nothing that it can power the most advanced smartphones and the lowest end entry phones.
Though the Motorola i886 is Android, it is not a Google device. There are no Google apps (Gmail, YouTube, Talk, Market, etc.) which is a significant drawback to the i886. We can understand the Market being absent, since almost no apps would work on this non-touch device, but to be missing Gmail is a shame because users lose a great contact and calendar sync tool. Google is stripped out of the Accounts and Sync option, but users can configure an Exchange account which would allow contact and calendar sync. For the adventurous ones you can configure Gmail as an Exchange account, but we’d imagine this is a bit over the head of the target i886 user.
So, what we’re left with is a base Android device and some core apps. That means the i886 has a very robust phonebook and calendar, an above average messaging and email apps and a decent browser and music player (more about those later.) The phonebook is pretty much unlimited, and Nuance’s Voice Control app is preloaded for excellent voice commands. The i886 does have a Java Runtime Environment and in lieu of the Market, Sprint instead points users to the GetJar app store, which has a plethora of apps but isn’t the most user friendly to figure out. Still, for a Nextel phone it’s a huge improvement. The Sprint Football Live and NASCAR apps are preloaded onto the i886.
We would like to speculate for a just a minute here, so bear with us. About a year and a half ago we got a tip that all Nextel phones would be going to Android. We were intrigued by this as we’ve never been too fond of the Motorola UI, but at that point there were only two Android devices on the market and we didn’t hear anything of it again. Seeing the i886 we have to wonder if this is the beginning of a trend, or simply an experiment. Alright, now back to our regularly scheduled programming…
Messaging, Multimedia and Connectivity:
The Motorola i886 uses the stock Android messaging app and supports threading of both SMS and MMS. The email app allows you to configure Exchange, POP3 and IMAP account but as stated there is no Gmail specific app. There is also no included IM application.
The 2 megapixel camera on the i886 takes decent pictures for what it is. There is some graining under artificial lighting, especially in low-light conditions, but in general color reproduction is good and the shots are acceptable. The video quality is nothing to write home about at only QVGA resolution. There are no real settings for the camera or camcorder other than choosing the size of the images and 2x digital zoom.
The music player has been modified a bit due to lack of touchscreen, but it remains very similar to the stock Android player. Performance was similar to what we’ve seen on other stock Android devices and users can play music in the background while otherwise using the phone. The i886’s front facing speaker is pretty decent for playback without headphones.
The Motorola i886 runs on Sprint’s iDEN network which means lightning fast Push-to-Talk service with other Nextel DC users. The i886 supports the Group Connect, International DC, Direct Talk, Direct Send, Group Messaging and NextMail iDEN services. It comes with a pretty decent browser in Opera Mini, but with no Wi-Fi, web browsing speeds are perpetually stuck in 1994 on the iDEN network. The stock Android browser is available for those who prefer it. The i886 offers Bluetooth 2.1+EDR and supports the HSP 1.2, HFP 1.5, OPP, PBA, A2DP 1.2 and AVRC profiles. There is no Google Maps, but Telenav supplies turn-by-turn GPS navigation.