Review of the Motorola i833

The i833 is functionally identical to the i830, which I reviewed previously. However, that was a mini-review, while this represents a full review. I actually bought an i833 Pininfarina to replace my old i730, and so I will mostly dedicate this review to comparing the performance of the i833 to that of the old i730 (with firmware version 09).


The Motorola i833 is available on Telus Mike

Last Updated: 24-Jul-2005

Before reading this review, please read Some Thoughts on Phone Reviewing.

The i833 Baby Phat is probably electrically identical to the i833 Pininfarina, and so anything I say about this model (with the exception of physical attributes) most surely will apply to the Baby Phat version too.

As for my old i730, Iím not sure if it has deteriorated in the 1-and-a-half years that Iíve owned it, but it was always an excellent performer and it never suffered from any of the maladies that seemed to have afflicted other i730 models.

RF Performance

RF Sensitivity: I spent quite a bit of time wandering around the various parts of Square One where the Mike signal gets weak (and there are surprisingly few of them). Two such locations were the lower level of Sears and in the connecting hall between the underground section of the mall (between Sears and Zellers) and the main hall. Only Telus Mike seems to be able to hold up without dropping a connection through that hallway, but it does get quite weak.

I tested my old i730 and the new i833 in the same areas, both with their antennas down and with their antennas up. The i830 was known for exhibiting a distinct drop in performance when the antenna was put down, but I found no such problem with the i833. It performed almost as good either way. As for how well it held up against the i730, Iíd have to say that it was ever so slightly poorer in this regard, but the difference was so tiny that only a back-to-back test revealed anything worthwhile.

Over-the-road Performance: Like virtually all other iDEN phones, the i833 has excellent over-the-road performance here in the Toronto area. In some respects it seems to be superior to my old i730, in that the i833 produces slightly less noticeable handoffs. The handoffs on the i730 were already fairly tame, and so the i833 is very impressive in this regard. You can barely detect most handoffs on the i833 when using the phone on the highway (where handoffs would be the most common due to the number sites you pass in such a short time).

Click on this link for a full description of RF Performance, and how to interpret it.

Audio Performance

Tonal Balance: This is one area where the i833 seems to be much better than my old i730. While the sound quality of that phone was never really an issue, it wasnít quite as good as it could have been. The i833 sounds much better-balanced on the built-in earpiece, and slightly better on the headset. It still doesnít match the tonal quality of some top-end GSM phones (such as my Nokia 6310i), but the shortfall is relatively minor.

Sound Reproduction: This aspect (which is the ability to render the voice of the caller with the fewest number of distortions or colorizations) is also noticeably better on the new i833 than on my old i730. However, I remember thinking that the i730 sounded at least that good back when Iíd first tested one (prior to buying my own). That might simply be that my expectations have changed since that time, but it might also point to a certain degree of deterioration on the i730. I canít be sure which.

A problem that was endemic to the i730 was a tinkling sound that could be heard in the audio, especially when the volume was cranked to level 7. The i833 doesnít suffer from that at all, but it does seem to have a bit more run-of-the-mill hiss. Iíve also noticed some transmitter interference on the built-in earpiece (which on iDEN sounds like faint pfffft-pfffft sounds) that wasnít present in the i730. Overall however, the sonic experience of the i833 is more pleasant than that of my old i730.

Outgoing sound quality is pretty good, and the noise-cancellation ability of the internal microphone is phenomenal (as I noted originally about the i730). It can make the background noise virtually disappear without any degradation to the audio it does allow through. However, the overall quality could be a bit better, and Iíve certainly heard better on other iDEN phones, such as the i265.

Earpiece Volume: The earpiece volume is definitely higher on the i833 than it was on my old i730. I get approximately the same volume from the i833 set at level 6 as I did from the i730 set to level 7. Oddly the reverse is true of the audio fed to a headset. The i730 was approximately 1 notch louder than the i833 is. It seems as though the Motorola engineers have decided to balance the two volume levels a bit better in this phone, because Iíd always found the earbud was noticeably louder than the earpiece of the i730. They seem approximately equal on the i833.

Speakerphone: All iDEN phones have fairly impressive speakerphone features, with one minor exception. All of them seem to cut out in response to various sounds in the room, but for the most part they are well-behaved. The speakerphone on the i833 doesnít differ too much from that of the i730, but it seems to be clearer and better-balanced. It can produce more than enough volume to hear in moderately noisy conditions and the microphone sensitivity and clarity is among the best out there.

Click on this link for a full description of Audio Performance, and how to interpret it.

Support Features

Ringer Volume: Absolutely no issue here. Like the i730 before it there are ringtones on the i833 (in particular Ringer 3) that are so loud that you can hear them clear across the other side of a crowded food court. I place high importance on a good solid ringer. The i833 (like the i730) has a few musical ringtones, though the Pininfarina model has songs chosen to suit the race car theme. The phone supports WAV file ringtones, but the overall sound quality of them isnít anywhere near as nice as the MP3 tones found on some GSM and CDMA models (even other Motorolas). However, I donít use my ringing phone to listen to songs, so I donít really care how they sound so long as they work.

Keypad Design: The keypad of the i833 Pininfarina is stylish, but its keys are mostly flush-mounted and difficult to discern without looking at them. Their tactile feel is a little mushy, but overall I havenít had too much trouble using the keypad. Just the same, if I were in charge of designing the keypad I would have made the keys more distinct-feeling, and I would have made the tactile feel crisper.

On the other hand, the buttons on the left side of the phone (for volume and push-to-talk), as well as the bottoms on the top (which serve various purposes, such as answering and dialing the phone while it is closed) have a lighter and more friendly feel to those on the i730. They are also physically larger than those itty-bitty little buttons on the i830.

Display: The color display of the i833 is identical to the one used in the i730, the i830, and the i265. There really isnít much else I can say about that I haven't said before, and so hereís my summary of the i730ís display (reworded for this review):

The color screen has fairly good color purity and surprisingly good clarity in bright sunlight and outdoor conditions. The latter is one of the big drawbacks of many color screens, and while I wonít say that the i833ís is a match for a monochrome screen outdoors, it certainly comes as close as Iíve seen on any other color phone.

The real disappointment with the screen is its relatively small size and low resolution, which seems a bit small for the phone (though not as much so as with the larger i730). Fortunately you can select from any of 3 well-chosen font sizes. The phone also features a small external screen that uses a standard monochrome LCD display with blue backlighting, but the text is a bit small (actually a little bit smaller than on the i730).

Sadly, like most Motorola models, spacing of phone numbers isnít included. If you receive a call from 905-555-5123, it shows up on the display as 19055555123, which is very difficult to read. The same applies to phone numbers stored in the phonebook, and it has been a long-time gripe of mine concerning virtually all Motorola models, regardless of underlying cellular technology. It isnít a huge problem, especially if most of your calls come from people already in your phonebook. If you arenít familiar with the incoming number anyway, spacing it out probably wonít help much.

Battery Life: This is certainly one of the sore points of this phone. The slim lithium-ion battery that comes with the i833 provides talk and standby times that are well below what weíve come to expect these days. However, the battery will provide an honest 48 hours of raw standby and it should provide up to 24 hours of use with a moderate amount of talking. For really heavy talkers however, you would be well advised to have frequent access to a home or automotive charger. At present there is no high-capacity battery door available for the i833 Pininfarina model, so you canít use the high-capacity battery available for the i830. Perhaps in the future Motorola will provide the necessary battery door.


I really like this phone and Iím definitely keeping it as a replacement for the i730. I donít normally say anything about styling one way or another, but I believe the i833 is quite a handsome design. Itís also very well-built phone, with really top-notch fit-and-finish and a solid hinge that is miles ahead of any other iDEN model Iíve thus far tested. I wish it had the same volume level to the earbud as my i730 and I wish there werenít any transmitter inference (as minor as it is). Besides that (and the usual gripes about Motorolaís user interface) itís definitely well worth moving up from the i730 for.

I canít say if it will hold up to wear-and-tear as well as the i730, but when I first got that phone I had my doubts it would last. However, the i730 survived falls from waist height onto concrete with nary a scratch. The same may be true of the i833. However, it looks like mars on the handsome body would be more noticeable on the i833.

But the reason I have an i833 isnít really so much the phone as it is the network. Here in Southern Ontario at least, the Mike network is one of the most stable and reliable around. The i833 just happens to be the best combination of size, features, and performance of the current iDEN models sold by Telus (from my point of view).