Lately it seems that a cell phone is not just a cell phone anymore. With so many companies integrating cameras, music players, video recorders, and high-speed Internet capabilities into handsets, it's almost as if the phone itself is an afterthought in the manufacturing process. While we certainly appreciate this trend, many consumers simply want a cell phone that performs the No. 1 job of making calls. The Verizon Wireless PN-210 (manufactured by Pantech) is one such simple cell phone. It's so basic, it doesn't even have a Web browser. But at the incredibly low price of free with a two-year contract, the PN-210 may be a great solution for those of you who just want a simple, easy-to-use cell phone.
The internal screen measures a dinky 1.5-inches diagonally and is rather lackluster with only 65,000-color support. You can adjust the backlight time, the contrast, and the font size. Yet because the size of the screen is so small, we had to scroll through the menu options more than we're normally used to. On the other hand, because the PN-210 doesn't have too many functions to begin with, we didn't mind scrolling too much. Under the display are the navigation controls that consist of two soft keys, a four-way toggle that doubles as four user-defined shortcuts, a middle OK button, the talk and end/power key, and a clear button that doubles as a speakerphone control. The dial pad was raised enough above the surface so the keys felt tactile and easy to dial by feel.
As we mentioned, the PN-210 is a basic entry-level phone with not much in the way of features. It has a 500-entry address book, and each entry can hold up to five numbers, two e-mail addresses, and a picture ID, and the entries also can be organized into groups and personalized with one of 15 64-chord polyphonic ring tones. Because the phone doesn't have a camera and there isn't any way to download clip art into the phone, the picture ID feature doesn't seem to have much use. Other features of the phone include text messaging with enhanced messaging support, a speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, a voice memo, a vibrate and a silent mode, a calendar, a scheduler, a notepad, a world clock, a calculator, and a stopwatch. You can customize the phone with a few preloaded wallpapers, screensavers, display themes, and alert tones. You can download more options by using Verizon's TXT Download service that lets you purchase graphics and ring tones and send them to yourself via enhanced text messaging.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 850/1900) Verizon Wireless PN-210 in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless's network. Call clarity was fantastic, and though callers could tell we were on a cell phone, they could still hear us loud and clear and vice versa. Speakerphone quality was not as good, but it was still easy on the ears.
The Verizon Wireless PN-210 has a rated talk time of 3 hours and 35 minutes and a rated standby time of 7 days and 15 hours. Our tests indicated a talk time of 3 hours and 27 minutes. According to the FCC, the PN-210 has a digital SAR rating of 1.3 watts per kilogram.