The handset runs on a skinned version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, which includes different native icons from the vanilla ICS (though you can customize many of the widgets) and a clunkier looking dial pad. You can choose among three dial pad styles, but all of them are pretty inelegant.
Google staples include Gmail, Google+, Latitude, Maps with Navigation, Messenger, Search, Talk, Places, Play Books, Movies, Music, and Store, and YouTube. Users will get basic task-management apps like a native Web browser and e-mail client, a calculator, a calendar, a clock with alarm features, a music player, a news-and-weather app, a task manager, a voice dialer, and a recorder.
Verizon also included a slew of its own features, such as its local app store; mobile hot-spotting; My Verizon Mobile, which lets you check your account info; V Cast Tones for buying ringtones; and its own navigation app.
Extra goodies include Amazon Kindle; Amex Serve, which lets American Express users access a prepaid digital money account; a document viewer; two games (Let's Golf 3 and Plants vs. Zombies); and a Net Media app.
Camera and video
In addition to touch focus, a zooming meter, and geotagging, the 5-megapixel camera has two photometry options (wide and center), three color effects, five shooting modes (including a Polaroid-esque option!), an exposure range from -4 to +4, a timer, five white balances, and nine scene choices. The front-facing camera has all the same options, save for touch focus and the scene modes.
Video recording options also consist of a zooming meter, geotagging, the same white balances, color effects, and scene modes, four video sizes (ranging from 720p HD to QVGA), and, interestingly, a time-lapse effect that includes tilt-shift.
Photo quality was perfectly adequate. The automatic white balance was accurate, but colors were a bit muted. In sunny outdoor shots, edges and small details, like the ripples of running water, were well-defined. Photos had more digital noise in dimmer lighting, as exemplified in indoor shots, but in general, images were in focus. Pictures taken with the front-facing camera were understandably more blurred and colors blended together, but were altogether passable.
Video quality was also average. Images were in focus, and the feedback did not lag behind my moving of the phone. However, bright, white colors were washed out, and dark hues were hard to distinguish. Also, audio was picked up poorly. A subtle buzzing sound was recorded, and voices nearby came off tinny and hollow.
I tested the dual-band (CDMA 800, 1900) Pantech Marauder in San Francisco using Verizon's services. Call and signal quality were strong. Volume was ample; voices came across loud and clear. In both calls made outdoors and indoors, there were no dropped calls, extraneous buzzing noises, or audio clipping in and out. Likewise, I was told I could be heard fine as well, and that I could be easily heard.
Verizon's 4G LTE network (1xEV-DO rA) was impressive. For example, loading the CNET mobile site took an average of 7 seconds, while loading our full site took 32 seconds. Funnily enough, The New York Times desktop site took more time on average, clocking in at 44 seconds, and its mobile site took 11 seconds to load. ESPN's mobile site took 12 seconds, and its full site loaded in 21 seconds. On average, the game Temple Run, which is 22MB, took 3 minutes and 14 seconds to download. And the Ookla speed test app showed me an average of 1.3Mbps down and 0.22Mbps up.
During our battery drain tests, the device lasted 9.28 hours. Anecdotally, the handset has a less than stellar battery life. While spending a handful of hours browsing the Web, talking on the phone, and playing games, the battery's reserves drained to about half or even less than that. According to FCC radiation tests, the phone has a digital SAR rating of 0.63W/kg.
Putting aside its bulky size and flat keypad, the Pantech Marauder is an excellent QWERTY phone. In addition to running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, it has a no-brainer UI for beginners, and operates on Verizon's 4G LTE speeds. More importantly, it won't break the bank. As previously mentioned, it's currently being offered for free, but even without the promotions and discounts, it'll still just be $100 under a two-year contract.