The touch screen also has a built-in accelerometer so the screen orientation will automatically switch from portrait to landscape mode when you rotate the phone. However, we found the accelerometer to be quite temperamental. At times, it was sluggish and the screen would momentarily freeze halfway through the transition, while other times it was almost too sensitive, changing at the slightest movement. Needless to say, we got pretty frustrated by the inconsistent performance.
While you'll use the touch screen most of the time, there are some navigation controls below the display, including Talk and End/Home keys, a Start menu shortcut, an OK button, and a trackball navigator. We were particularly fond of the latter since it allowed for smoother scrolling than a traditional directional keypad.
There's a lone mini USB port on the left side, which also doubles as the power connector and headset jack. Unfortunately, this means you will need to get an audio adapter to use your own headphones with the smartphone. On the right side, you will find a volume rocker and a camera activation/capture button, while the power button is on top. Finally, the camera is on the back while the microSD expansion slot is located behind the battery cover. Unfortunately, the expansion slot is located in an inconvenient location where you have to remove the whole battery itself in order to swap out cards.
The Pharos Traveler 137 comes packaged with a 2GB microSD card preloaded with maps, an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and home page.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; UMTS/HSDPA 1700/1900/2100) Pharos Traveler 137 in San Francisco using T-Mobile service and call quality was mixed. There was noticeable background hiss on our end and while it didn't prevent us from having a conversation, it was bothersome. Speakerphone quality also sounded quite tinny, and we couldn't hear our callers in louder environments even with the volume at the highest level. On the other side, our friends had nothing but good things to say. They reported excellent sound quality, and they were quite impressed with the speakerphone, noting that they couldn't tell a difference between the speakerphone or regular voice calls.
T-Mobile provided reliable cell service throughout our testing period, and we were also able to get good 3G coverage throughout the city. As an example, CNN's and ESPN's mobile sites came up in 16 seconds and 23 seconds, respectively, while CNET's full site loaded in 51 seconds. We also successfully paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
In terms of general performance, the Pharos Traveler 137 wasn't quite up to task, despite having a faster processor (528MHz Qualcomm MSM7201A) and more memory (256MB SDRAM, 512MB Flash ROM) than the Traveler 127. As we noted in the Design section, we encountered inconsistent performance from the accelerometer and this behavior spilled over to everyday use. More often than not, we had to wait a few seconds for applications to launch and even simple tasks like switching between panels on the Today screen could cause the smartphone pause. On one occasion, while trying to exit out of Internet Explorer Mobile, the Pharos Traveler 137 seemingly froze but after waiting a couple of minutes, the device came back to life. Issues like this just added up to a frustrating experience.
GPS was also slightly off the mark. First, as noted in our Traveler 127 review, the Smart Navigator software isn't very intuitive. Entering addresses is a bit laborious, as is finding recent destinations and searching for POI. Navigating through the software can also get a bit confusing and clunky as you get deeper in submenus as well.
On the road, the smartphone handled tracking well; it consistently found our position within a couple of minutes and accurately tracked our movements as we drove around San Francisco. However, when we plugged in our standard trip from the Marina District to CNET's downtown headquarters, we noticed a major turn missing from the route summary. Fortunately, we knew where we were going, but it definitely didn't give us much confidence about using the Traveler 137 as a navigator in unfamiliar territory. To be fair, this didn't happen in every case and on other trips, the smartphone was able to get us to our destination with clear audible prompts and also was pretty quick with the route recalculations.
The Pharos Traveler 137 features a 1380mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 7 hours (5 hours on 3G) and up to eight days of standby time. We are still conducting our battery drain tests but will update this section as soon as we have final results. According to FCC radiation tests, the Traveler 137 has a digital SAR rating of 0.758 watt per kilogram.