Motorola i85s
By Joachim Bamrud, Thu Aug 23 00:00:00 GMT 2001

The first Java-enabled phone in the United States shows the great promise of the software.


First impressions aren't always right. Take the Motorola i85s, which hardly looks like a pioneering representative of The Great Mobile Future.

It's clunky, weighing 4.8 ounces and featuring an external antenna that even in its short version is too large (sorry, but after seeing so many great phones with built-in antennas we just can't get used to the ones that still feature external ones).

Yet, this is one of the most interesting phones in the United States right now. It's the first mobile with Java on the U.S. market, and one of the first with Java in the world (Japan and Korea being first out with Java-phones).

While the first Java applications on the i85s may seem a bit boring, they nonetheless show what great potential Java can bring to the mobile field.

The phone, which is distributed in the United States by operator Nextel, comes with an Expense Pad, Calculator Suite and a game from Sega.

The expense pad clearly benefits from using Java. While non-Java phones give you a basic overview, this one gives you the same experience as typical expense reports on the fixed Internet, with different boxes and shades, making it far easier to read and use.

It's also quite extensive, with just about any category you can imagine, ranging from airplane tickets and hotel to taxi or rental car. This is clearly of great value to any business traveler.

The calculator suite comes with an application that lets you add relevant tips for a meal, for example, showing exactly how much the tip equals and how much the final tab comes to.

The calculator suite also comes with applications for conversions (although only US measurements).

The Sega game, called Borkov, is so-so, although at first it's clearly a bit addictive. I was keen to increase my score, which actually went from 20 to 1300!

The wireless web applications are good. The phone, which uses Phone.com's WAP browser, makes it easy to read text, with a relatively decent screen (as mobile phones go) and larger font on the text. The phone features a button that lets you scroll up or down, or left or right. But it seemed a bit hard. Using it extensively for web surfing, for example, will definitely tire your fingers after a while.

The i85s also features three-way calling, speakerphone functions, T9 text input, a date book, memo functions and voice notes.

It also comes with a two-way walkie talkie function, Nextel Direct Connect, that lets you communicate with a co-worker fast and considerably cheaper than a regular phone call.

While the design is a bit boring, that should have minimal impact on the target audience, which are business people. And, for that segment, the applications (even in their initially limited form), combined with the $199 retail price, clearly are attractive.

After using the i85s, we can hardly wait for other phones to start adding Java.