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The cell phone market is a dog eat dog world and the big boys are duking it out daily in the courts and on TV fighting for our dollars. The race for the most powerful smartphone rages on, but there’s plenty of room at the other end of the market for savvy manufacturers catering for a forgotten demographic. Enter Pantech and a range of budget phones that provide a gentle entry point for mobile newbies and simple functionality for the technophobic elderly.
Truth be told, the budget end of the market is big business and Pantech have carved out a nice little niche without many challengers. You’ll find their phones at major carriers AT&T and Verizon. They are very reasonably priced. They also feature simple designs, mostly come with proprietary software, and they tend to be specifically designed to be easy to use. In practice “easy to use" means a simple interface, direct call buttons and large, well-spaced keys.
More recently Pantech has started to dabble in the Android market where the budget competition is stiff and they’ll clash with companies like LG and Samsung. It remains to be seen whether they can make any real impact there. What’s not in doubt is that they know how to produce low spec phones very cheaply. Let’s take a closer look at some of the line-up.
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It’s a cheap and basic clamshell cell phone with a big, easy to use, keypad and a simple user interface. The battery life is great and it makes calls, but that’s where the good news ends. The features on this phone are very limited.
The first Breeze is really not all that different from the latest version. It’s a simple clamshell mobile phone that doesn’t cater for much beyond calls and texts.
The Laser has a really nice display and it slides open to reveal a physical QWERTY keyboard for easy typing. There’s a good range of messaging options and it will double up as a digital music player or camera (3 MP). It’s a solid mid-range phone.
This is a cheap Android smartphone with a decent touch screen and a slide out keyboard for typing comfort. It’s very affordable, but pretty light on features. Is it a trade-off you’re willing to make?
The Slate really lives up to its name with a slab-like design. You’ve got a small display and a full keyboard beneath. It’s good for texting and that’s about all.
This is an updated version of the Slate and it also borrows the classic BlackBerry design with a small display and a full QWERTY keyboard beneath. It’s perfect for one-handed typing so it will suit text addicts, but the multimedia support is hampered by the small screen and the battery life and call quality are not the best.
The Caper looks an awful lot like a BlackBerry with a small 2.6 inch screen and a full QWERTY keyboard beneath. It’s designed as a messaging phone, so for email and text it has you covered, but if you’re looking for more it won’t fit the bill for you.
The Pursuit is a short, chubby kind of a phone with a 2.8 inch touch screen that slides aside to reveal a physical keyboard. It has a pretty unique look and there is a reasonable range of features although the 2 MP camera is a disappointment.
This is a solid feature phone with a fairly unremarkable set of features. It does, however, have an interesting flip open design that reveals a full physical QWERTY keyboard. The external display is handy for when the phone is closed and the keyboard is great for text addicts. Other details, such as the 2 MP camera, are less than impressive.
This is a touch-screen smartphone clone with a 3 megapixel camera and great multimedia support. If you need music, GPS, web access, Bluetooth and a decent camera then you’ll struggle to find it all cheaper than this.
Here’s another touch screen and slide out physical keyboard combo, are you noticing a pattern here? It’s a good texting device with well-spaced keys, but it lacks in the features department.
If some of the rest of the Pantech line up have borrowed the classic BlackBerry Bold and Curve aesthetic then the Jest has modeled itself on the Torch. It slides up the way to reveal the keyboard but it only has a 2.6 inch screen so it is very compact when closed. Get all the details in this review.
Well, you weren’t expecting this. The Duo is not content with just a side sliding keyboard it also throws a slide out keypad into the mix. This WinMo device is distinctly strange and it’s not a design you’ll see repeated.
Okay scratch that last sentence, here we go again with a side sliding keyboard and a vertical sliding keypad. The Matrix is bit more colorful than the Duo, but the feature list is sparse.
That’s the end of our Pantech round up. There are some exciting new Pantech phones on the way featuring Android, so keep an eye out for the Pantech Breakout.