The Motorola Admiral was announced late October as the first Android-powered smartphone with Sprint Direct Connect. I had the opportunity to get some hands-on time with the device and want to share with you guys my opinions on this “business ready,” “military grade,” piece of hardware. We’ll take a look at the hardware, software, and every other “ware” you can think of to help you decide whether or not this Admiral is fit to run your fleet.

Outer Shell

The Motorola Admiral was built to be “business ready” and shares a common business design most resembling its cousin the Motorola DROID Pro or a Blackberry Torch 9810 that doesn’t close. It has a very sleek QWERTY bar form factor with more curve than bar, giving it a classy look. It’s compact and lightweight but built to be tough. The Motorola ADMIRAL is designed to meet Military Standard 810G for dust, shock, vibration, solar radiation, low pressure and high and low temperatures, but believe me, you won’t be able to tell by holding the device, as it feels extremely petite and fragile.

I found the sides to be very smooth which made the device feel very slippery in my hands. On the left you have a volume rocker, Sprint Direct Connect button and micro USB port. The right side is pretty much clear with only a single camera button — which happens to be quite small in my opinion, especially considering it’s the only button located on the right side.

On the top of the device you will find a speaker phone button, a 3.5mm headset jack and a power/lock button. A microphone is located at the bottom of the device.

The front of the device features a 3.1″ scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass display, with an ear piece and notification light at the top and four capacitive buttons at the bottom. Below the display is a 4-row physical QWERTY keyboard, a speaker, and a second mic. The back of the phone features a cover which feels like cheap plastic and had me worried every time I took it off to get at the battery. I felt like it was going to snap which doesn’t really fit my definition of “tough.” Also on the back, you’ll find the 5MP camera with flash along with the familiar Motorola and Sprint logos.

Under the Hood

Under the hood you’ll find more than enough power to keep business moving. The Admiral comes equipped with a single core 1.2GHz Qualcomm MSM8655 processor, 512 MB RAM, a 1860 mAh Lithium-ion battery (which takes a while to charge) and 4GB of onboard storage, although I believe only 1.4GB is actually available to the user. The Admiral does have a microSD card slot for up to 32GB of expandable storage and you’re definitely going to want to pick a microSD card up since it doesn’t come with one.

The Display

The Motorola Admiral features a 3.1″ VGA (640×480) tough Gorilla Glass touchscreen display. The display is quite small compared to the behemoths we’re used to seeing nowadays, but given that the Admiral is marketed as more of a business device, and features a QWERTY keyboard, the small screen size fits well. Viewing most everyday tasks such as phone calls, emails, etc. are fine on the small screen, but you’ll definitely miss those extra inches once you get into web browsing, videos and games. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much out of this little VGA display but was pleasantly surprised at just how crisp and vivid it actually was.

The Keyboard

I found the Admiral’s QWERTY keyboard to be a little too compact for my liking. It’s a definite tough match for overweight opposable thumbs and makes for quite a few errors. Typing at a moderate speed was fine, but if you attempt a teenage speed text, your message will most likely resemble Klingon. Man hands beware.

The Camera

The Motorola Admiral has a 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture, LED flash and 4x zoom, but like most Motorola cameras I’ve used, I was not impressed. Quality was okay when taking pictures outside, but inside or under low light, photo quality was disappointing. Shutter speed is also painful, and there’s nothing I dislike more than having to wait 4-5 seconds after I hit the camera button for my picture to be captured.


Direct Connect

Sprint Direct Connect is Sprint’s new push-to-talk network which uses CDMA EVDO Rev. A and allows simultaneous PTT and data. This is going to be the future of PTT on Sprint as they slowly phase out support for iDEN technology. Many changes have gone into this new system and it includes several great features such as the ability to DC up to 200 handsets in a TeamDC call, as well as availability notification. Direct Connect is probably the single most reason you’ll be purchasing the Motorola Admiral and was unfortunately the only feature I was unable to test — due to not having a single contact with a DC number. I apologize, but you’re just going to have to watch the video provided by Motorola to see how DC works on the Admiral.



You’ll find the Admiral running Android 2.3.5 with Motorola’s most recent “it’s not Motoblur” UI. While I personally prefer a vanilla Android experience, I will say that the Motorola UI reacts fast and is very responsive, in part, due to the device’s 1.2GHz processor, so no worries about performance.

The Admiral comes preloaded with a few Sprint specific “bloatware” apps which for the most part can be uninstalled, but after that — it’s all business:

  • Quick Office app – Create and edit documents in Word, Excel and PowerPoint as well as Adobe PDF documents anywhere, anytime.
  • Support and easy push for Microsoft Exchange and other email systems.
  • Full suite of Google applications and services, including Google Maps, Google Talk, Gmail, Calender, etc.
  • 3G Mobile Hotspot capability supporting up to five Wi-Fi enabled devices simultaneously.
  • Enhanced on-device security features that can be managed via the existing Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync Server, including password support, remote wipe and data encryption, as well as more than 30 other security policies.

You’ll also find the use of “Profiles” to be helpful in maintaining mobile separation of work life and personal life. Switching between profiles is as easy as 1-2-3.

Final Thoughts

You’re most likely going to be buying the Motorola Admiral for work purposes so I’ll focus on that. The claim is that the Admiral is tough, and while I can’t vouch for its toughness (since returning review units in pieces is frowned upon), I will say that I’d feel uncomfortable using this device in a field such as construction. It just doesn’t “feel” durable enough and does not have enough of a grip to it. If you’re in a field where your mobile device really takes a beating, you might want to consider purchasing a rugged case to add protection and grip. Anyone in the business sector will love how sleek this phone looks and feels, but no matter what field you work in, one thing is for sure — the Admiral is ready to work.

It’s fast, reliable, features a responsive touchscreen keyboard as well as a full physical QWERTY, has Direct Connect and a battery large enough to last. Did I mention that the Motorola Admiral is only $99 on a 2-year contract? Not a bad price at all. As always, I recommend doing your own hands-on before making any decisions, but I’ll say this, I’d take the Admiral over a Blackberry any day. And for those that need Push-to-Talk, why not have it along with the worlds leading mobile phone OS!

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  1. Have to disagree with you on the toughness. I run an asphalt company and we switched over to these at the tail end of the paving season. These things hold up to some abuse. Drops are no problem, I’ve dropped mine about 10 times now, and the rain hasn’t had any effect to the operation to the phones (other than the fact the screen doesn’t work when wet). Honestly for our industry we’re waiting for a touch screen Nextel on CDMA, that opens to display a small basic screen with a 12 real button dial pad so you have textile response and can diali with gloves on. I know this stuff would make the thing a little bigger but if you used to lug around the old nextels with a cordless drill battery this thing would still be tiny.

    • im a business account manager working with Sprint and i have had great responses like yours on the Admiral, hope everything works out good with your company

  2. I can’t find a durable/rugged phone case for the admiral; need help fast. Just upgraded my husband to this phone & his pretty rough on them but I thought to myself “no problem I’ll just get him an Otterbox” well little did I know those types of phones are only made for high-end, popular phones. Any help would be grateful, all I keep on finding are cheap cases.

    • I’m wanting to get this phone, but I’m waiting for an otter box type case for it before I buy it.

  3. I appreciate this review. I’m glad you invested time into this phone. It’s a real keeper in production/construction scenarios.

    This phone is pro. I work end-all-be-all I.T at an Oil/Asphalt company, and I decided we needed this Admiral over our current Blackberry Curve 8350i on the Sprint Network. We have 54 in use by Managers, Supervisors, and Lead foreman type people. The reasoning was that, within two weeks of getting a test admiral phone, I was able to create an Android app that allows our guys in the field to clock in at various oil well sites via the NFC reader — this app also allowed for work and material requests to be submitted to our intranet, remotely. Managers can now activate/deny work and material requests, and our guys can get their entire day/week/month project/tasks directly to the Admiral.

    Preventing the user from doing anything to their phone is now easy. We have apps in place to restrict any phone setting changes. This seemed easier in Android 2.3 than it was in Android 1.5 (Horrible Motorola i1 Android PTT device) or any Blackberry we’ve ever messed with. Our users can’t take this phone home, load it up with crap, and then bring it back to work. They simply take the phone home, charge it, check emails and work requests, wait for calls…and stfu. Huge relief… because more than 1/2 our users were finding ways to f*ck up their devices “Accidentally” … It was starting to suck walking down the hall and having some douche hold out their phone and say “It’s not working…I tried loading music on it…and I opened a joke media txt…and…I change the system clock so i could clock into the oil well location at an earlier time…” etc etc

    We’re using the Admiral for 3 months now — none have been damaged or returned to me yet. It’s insane how well a user will take care of their work phone if you toss Angry Birds onto it ;)

    The coolest thing has to be that this phone’s browser loads almost every single website awesomely. This has been the first PTT phone I’ve worked with to do that. As an app developer specializing in oil technology, its pretty nice to finally be able to check live flow meter/gauge readings via our phones in some remote area — then simply upload them upon return to office.
    The second coolest thing is the tethering — its fast enough via 3G and very convenient for our travelling users. We no longer need to purchase Mobile Broadband USBs.
    Third — direct connect actually works well. Nextel Iden direct connect was like praying to jesus on the off chance the success Beep would occur and you connect and talk. This new style is… “hey, we can’t connect, but we’ll tell you as soon as you can…!” Which is very AWESOME.
    Believe it or not — PTT is still very damn handy. Bringing 2.3 Android OS to it is great. I just really [admire] the Motorola Admiral — and aside from the guys with thick fingers (which will never be a solvable problem in my hardhat wearing world)… all my company agrees this was a great upgrade.
    Speaking of big fingers — Speech to Text/Functions do work for most all our needs. We’ve implemented Dragon Go! app … and life is startrekesque now.
    Camera while indoors generally sucks. It’s all about lighting. Outside pictures are usually fine. Our company android app utilizes the camera to take pictures of equipment/situations out in remote areas — then uploads them when the user returns to office. This functionality works fine.
    Like all androids – make sure to use a task manager — the one that comes with the Admiral is pretty good… I find myself using it often — because I find myself opening 10 apps and switching between them like I’m on a desktop system. You will experience lag w/ this phone if you utilize everything it can do all at once. (browser playing flash in 3 different windows, music paused, checking work email, checking personal email and browsing to another page, remote web desktop and ftp in the background…company app opened…. angry birds not fully shutdown… etc….it lets you open more than you should)
    32gb SDcard is fine by us.
    Having tried and failed to adapt to the Motorola i1 (first android [1.5] push to talk device via sprint), the Admiral re-instills my faith in a durable, economy conscience, production/construction business work phone.

    We’re getting them from sprint right now for $0.99 . And, since we had no plans on switching from sprint to verizon (screw AT&T all together)… 99 cents is a steal… ROI was noticed immediately lol. That makes for great presentations.

    Just my thoughts on this device — again — thanks for the review it went towards my decision to get these blackberry killers.

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