When it comes to photos, the Pocket's 5-megapixel camera proved to be a handy sidekick, taking some crisp, clear outdoor shots with good color representation. Indoor photos presented more of a challenge, especially since the camera lacks a flash. Colors were flatter, details were more blunted, and focus was harder to achieve. Still, it's a serviceable shooter, and fine for the camera's price, though I think that had Pantech put in more resources, it'd be even better.
Let's take a look at the camera software, for example. There are all the usual tools for white balance and self-timer, multiple shooting modes, brightness adjustments, and zoom. However, it has limited effects (the filter setting) compared with many other cameras. There's autofocus, but no flash. Shutter lag is present while the autofocus kicks in. Though you can easily view your last shot right after you take it, and can skip over to the image gallery from there, Pantech requires a bit more work to access the view mode and photo gallery once you reactivate the camera mode (you'll need to press Menu, then tap an onscreen button).
The video camera repeats much of the same story. You've got white balance and filter options, and you can also set the duration from 10 minutes up to an hour. The Pocket shoots video in five resolutions, starting from 176x144 pixels (perfect for multimedia messaging) up to 1,280x720-pixel (720p) high-definition video. You can choose from one of two encoders, MPEG4 or H.264, a high-definition standard.
Video playback looked "off" in my test films. It was at the same time both overly severe and not quite focused. Worse, pixelation plagued the videos when I played them back both on the phone screen and on the computer as well. The lack of a flash will hamper night videos, too. Still, if your only intention is to take casual movies, this will do. However, Pantech unfortunately wastes the 720p HD video on this phone.
The Pocket has 600MB of internal memory for photos, videos, and music, and holds up to 32GB total. As a reminder, it comes with a 2GB card preinstalled.
I tested the quad-band (850/900/1800/1900; UMTS 850/1900/2100) Pantech Pocket in San Francisco using AT&T's service. The first thing I'll point out is that it requires a Micro-SIM card rather than the full-size SIM that comes with most phones. Call quality was OK, but not great. Volume was fine, but voices sounded slightly distant to my ears, cutting in and out a little. It wasn't a totally smooth listening experience.
To my callers, volume ranged from normal-loud to a little too loud. A low-frequency distortion made my voice sound unnatural and a little muffled, they said. Distortion followed almost every syllable.
Pantech Pocket call quality sample
Speakerphone was much worse. Volume noticeably dropped off to the point where it sounded like the speakerphone was hardly projecting. A metallic buzz occurred each time the caller spoke. The volume also cut on the listener's side, and they said I sounded "canned" and my voice had a metallic, "distracting" quality.
In better news, the Pantech Pocket runs on AT&T's HSPA+ network. The New York Times' mobile site loaded up in 7 seconds, with the full site finishing its download in about 20 seconds. It took about 20 seconds for CNET's mobile site to completely load, and about 22 seconds for the graphically rich desktop site to do its thing. I tested speeds on the diagnostic Speedtest.net app and found that they ranged from about 1Mbps down to 2.7Mbps down over HSPA+.
The Pantech Pocket has a rated battery life of up to 6 hours' talk time on its 1,650mAh battery, and up to 18 days of standby time.
Its extra-wide face may make you take notice, but at the end of the day, the Pantech Pocket is only as good as what's inside. When it comes down to it, the phone's form and performance have ups and downs. The Pocket can ride AT&T's faster HSPA+ network and can take nice outdoor photos, but call quality is rocky, video playback disappointed, and having no flash holds the camera back. The $50 price tag and nice 4-inch screen are the phone's saving graces, making the Pocket an accessible and easy-to-use Android phone. Still, if you're open to other smartphone platforms, the $50 running Windows Phone is a step up in quality, though with a smaller screen.
Editors' note: This review was updated with the results of our data speed tests.