The older former top-of-the-line Nextel i850 phone was an interesting addition for the recently merged Sprint Nextel combo punch. The Nextel i850 packs in all of the carrier’s latest features, amazingly it also includes excellent call quality and a illuminating screen.

The Nextel i850 is to a great extent, what we wished the i836 had been: a solid, good-looking phone with plenty of mind-boggling features. At 3.5 by 1.8 by 1.1 inches and 4.7 ounces, it’s not exactly slim or light for say, but the gunmetal-gray case looks sleek and professional. The hinge is sturdier than the one on the i836, and as you flip open the new Nextel i850 it is also more attractive in illuminating blue. In addition, the phone is like a rugged soldier, it meets the military 810F spec for resisting heat, cold, and dust, and is generally able to survive being knocked around. A couple of four-foot drops onto our office floor didn’t do it any harm. But please do not do this at home our reason was for experimentation only.

A narrow text-only display on the outer cam-shell shows the time, the date, and yes for all you paranoid individuals the caller-ID information. Flip Open the phone and you will experience Nextel’s best blue illuminating LCD screen to date. The Nextel i850 captivates its audience with its 262,000-color display that’s bright, vibrant, and viewable in outdoor sunlight conditions. The keypad is of good proportion, however, I really not so fond of Nextel’s new Star Trek–style key pad font.

The call quality on the Nextel i850 is truly excellent when compared to the Sony W800i Walkman phone. The voice quality is crisp and clear even at times when you try not to listen the person form the other end. The speakerphone feature like with most Nextel devices produces a loud, clear and crisp voice that is very recognizable.

What really bothered me about the Nextel i850 is black screen function, which made it difficult to measure the i850′s battery life because the Nextel i850 kept displaying a black screen due to its backlight function during calls. Therefore, every time you have to check your i850 while on a call you have to press a button to get out of the black screen display. Despite this annoying function, the i850 delivered 5 plus hours of talk time, which is usually the average for a Nextel handset as indicated to me by a colleague at accessorygeeks.com. But if you want to compare it to other Nextel types that are a bit less pricier than this one than the Nextel i850 is better than slim phones like the Nextel i830 and Nextel i836, but falls behind bulkier models such as the Nextel i605 which is pricier than the Nextel i850 model.

The reason for the hefty price tag for the Nextel i850 is because you are paying to get almost every feature Sprint Nextel had put into the market at that moment and time. Forget it if you are buying this i850 for its great camera features, the Nextel i850 is built with a washed-out VGA camera and slow data network, which are well behind other offerings by other phone manufacturers and carriers. But what is unique about the Nextel i850 and other Nextel phones is Sprint Nextel’s unique Direct Talk service, which allows walkie-talkie connections over up to about a mile where there’s no cellular network. It also works as a full GPS system with driving and hiking applications. Direct Talk isn’t just for outdoorsy types. The great thing about this feature is that when the world is going through chaotic problems with its tower driven communication applications you as a consumer using the Nextel i850 will not have to rely on towers (unlike Sprint Nextel’s standard Direct Connect walkie-talkie service) like rescue workers did using Direct Talk in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. These people were still able to communicate with each other when other services were down and not a reliable source for communication anymore..

Other notable features in the Nextel i850 include a 600-entry enabled phone book with the ability to create on-the-fly Direct Connect calling groups. The i850 also supports Sprint Nextel’s Java-based Nextel Mobile E-mail client (POP3) and a Java-based credit-card-processing application for small businesses applications. The only thing the Nextel i850 is missing is Bluetooth capability. However, the Nextel i850 has more features than the i830 and is both less expensive and better looking than the i605. While it’s no multimedia or data powerhouse and no Nextel phone is, it offers an excellent collection of business features and great call quality in an attractive handset military style rugged cam shell that’s indestructible. Just kidding about the indestructibility part though!