Pantech's last handset for Cingular service was the diminutive. Though it offered respectable features and performance, it was so tiny that it would be easy to confuse it with a toy--certainly not the best way to appeal to a mass audience. With its new C120, however, Pantech aims to cast a wider net of users. Though the C120 is still small, its simple candy bar shape casts a bigger shadow. The feature set doesn't go beyond a VGA camera and a low-quality speakerphone, but it's a decent handset for anyone who wants an uncomplicated phone for occasional--but not frequent--use. It's available for $89 with a monthly service plan or with the carrier's Go phone prepaid service.
In the cell phone fashion show, the Pantech C120 doesn't even get invited. Its basic candy bar shape is about as minimalist as you can get, and its ordinary silver color scheme makes no effort to stand out. That's not a bad thing by any means, and it's almost welcome after seeing so many design-centric models this year, but it's clear the C120 is not meant for anyone hoping to stand out on the street. At 4.06x1.67x0.53 inches, it's a hair taller than many flip phones but small enough to slip into a pants pocket. At 2.65 ounces, it's slightly heavier than its predecessor, but this time Pantech built an internal antenna. The phone feels mostly comfortable in the hand--though usually we prefer a bit more girth--and it had a solid construction.
The display measure 1.5 inches diagonally (128x128 pixels) and supports 65,000 colors. It won't knock your socks off, but it does its job quite well considering the phone's size and price. Colors were vivid, though the display had a slight washed-out effect. You can't change the brightness but you can alter the contrast and the backlight time. The menu interface is simple and easy to master.
The navigation controls are on the small side, but they're user-friendly and Pantech did the best it could on a compact handset such as the C120. A five-way joystick and two soft keys are your primary navigation tools, while the talk and end/power buttons and a clear key sit just below. In standby mode the joystick acts as a shortcut to the messaging menu, the instant messenger, the phone book, and the "My stuff" menu. Pressing the joystick down opens the Web browser, while the soft keys give one-touch access to the main menu and the camera. The keypad buttons are tactile, and we like that they're raised above the surface of the phone. They're brightly backlit as well.
The camera sits on the back of the phone just below a self-portrait mirror and next to a small speaker. Unfortunately, there's no flash. A volume rocker sits on the left spine, while a covered headset jack and a camera shortcut sit on the right spine.
The C120 has an 800-contact phone book with room in each entry for 3 phone numbers, 2 e-mail addresses, and notes. You can pair contacts with a photo or one of 10 polyphonic ring tones. Other features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, a memo pad, a voice recorder, a world clock, a stopwatch, and a unit converter. Beyond the basics, the C120 also offers a speakerphone and instant messaging for AOL, MSN, and Yahoo.