Like its predecessor, the Jest 2 has a 2-megapixel camera that takes pictures in five resolutions, from 1,600x1,200 pixels down to 160x120. You can adjust the white balance and brightness, use the self-timer and digital zoom, and choose from three color effects and three shutter sounds (and you can silence it completely if you prefer). That's not a lot of options, frankly, and I'd prefer to see a second model offer some improvements, but it's suitable for quick shots. As you'd expect, the photo quality is rudimentary with washed-out colors and image some noise. What's more, the viewfinder doesn't use the full width of the display.
There's also a video camera that records only in a 176x144-pixel resolution. Videos meant for a multimedia message are capped at 15 seconds, but you can shoot for as long as an hour if you're saving the clip to the phone. Videos are pretty poor, but in line with what I've seen from other low-end phone cameras. The Jest 2 has about 40MB of user-accessible memory and you can use a memory card for more room. The phone accommodates cards of up to 32GB, though you don't get a microSD card in the box.
Audiophiles can use the included music player. No, it can't compete with an iPod in terms of audio quality or features, but it's better than I was expecting. You can create playlists and use the repeat and shuffle modes. Getting music onto the phone was easy and I like the menu option for transferring tunes between the phone and the memory card. You even can lock tracks so you can't delete them accidentally. Don't forget to use headphones when playing music, as the sound quality over the external speaker is pretty poor (more on that later). The Jest 2 also comes with a fair number of ringtones, which you can pair with individual contacts. Plenty of alert tones and message tones are onboard, as well.
Even in the context of a basic phone, the Opera Mini browser isn't a pleasure to use. Graphics and photos don't render well and the 2.5G 1xRTT delivers a slow connection. The mobile sites of CNET and the New York Times (the phone defaults to mobile versions of sites where available) took about 20 seconds each to load. Busier sites will take longer, of course. Full HTML sites took almost a minute, but usually with incorrect formatting. Also, because the Jest 2 doesn't have a touch screen, scrolling through pages, zooming, and clicking on links using the navigation toggle became tedious quickly.
For the same reasons, I didn't enjoy using the included Web-based applications for Myspace, Facebook, and WeatherBug (not that I ever had a Myspace account). You can download more applications, including the carrier's VZ Navigator, but I really don't see the point. Honestly, if apps are that important to you, you're better off getting a more capable phone.
I tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) Pantech Jest 2 in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless service. Big Red's reliable reception delivered here: I didn't have a problem getting a signal and it remained strong when I was in a building or underground. Audio clarity, however, was a different story. Voices on my end sounded flat and a bit robotic and the volume fluctuated slightly. When it was all the way up, I could hear very well, but the Jest also has a sensitive sweet spot. Even when I barely moved it from my ear, the volume fell sharply.
Pantech Jest 2 call quality sample
On their end, my friends didn't report any significant issues outside of some background noise. They did know that I was using a cell phone and a couple mentioned the flat audio that I heard, but on the whole my callers were more positive about the Jest 2's audio than I was. Maybe the phone performs better one way or maybe I'm just too picky. For keeping track of your calls, the Jest 2 has call timers.
Speakerphone quality was serviceable, but far from outstanding. I could carry on a conversation, but I needed to be close to the phone and remain in a quiet place. If I used it outside, it was pretty much a no-go.
I've no problem with basic phones, so take a minute to read this before you call me a smartphone snob. Indeed, basic phones are very appropriate for people who just want to text and talk, maybe snap a photo or listen to tunes, and avoid a data plan. The trouble here is that the Pantech Jest 2 isn't a very good basic phone. If it had a bigger keyboard and better call quality, I'd be all over it. But for now, I'd recommend other Verizon options.