There are a few key factors when choosing the right phone for the elderly--the handset needs to be easy to use with a minimum of fuss, it should have a bright display with large fonts, the keypad should have large and tactile keys, and call quality needs to be top-notch. Several phones have managed to meet these criteria, including the Verizon Wireless Coupe and the Samsung Jitterbug Dial, but most of them are still pretty basic phones, based on the thesis that senior citizens don't need a lot of features. Enter the Pantech Breeze, a phone definitely focused on ease of use, but one that kicks things up a notch by incorporating a simple VGA camera, multimedia messaging, and even Bluetooth. Pantech and AT&T are marketing the Breeze as a phone ideal for the elderly as well as those with vision problems, but we think the Breeze is such a pleasure to use that it would be great for anyone who wants an excellent entry-level phone. The Breeze is available for $49.99 after a two-year contract and a mail-in rebate.
Most entry-level phones aren't too attractive, but the Breeze is an exception. It has a delightfully slim and trim profile, with curved corners and sides. Measuring 3.9 inchs long by 1.97 inches wide by 0.77 inch thick, the Breeze is wrapped in an all-white matte plastic shell and feels nice and light in the hand. The Breeze also comes with a 1.04-inch diagonal external screen, which we like to see on basic phones like this. It supports 65,000 colors and displays information such as date, time, battery, and signal strength, plus photo caller ID. A volume rocker sits on the left spine as does the charger jack. On the back of the phone is the camera lens, but there is no self-portrait mirror.
When you open the phone, you'll find a very bright and vibrant 2.2-inch display with 260,000 color support. Images look simply brilliant, with sharp graphics and colors that pop. There are two menu interface styles--"breEZe" mode, which organizes the options in a simple list, and Advanced mode, which is icon-based. When "breEZe" mode is activated, all the menu options are listed in a large yellow font for easier legibility. Regardless of mode though, the submenu options are also all listed in big type. This makes the Breeze incredibly easy to navigate through. You can adjust the backlight time but not the brightness or contrast.
Directly underneath the display is a row of three "quick-call" keys numbered 1, 2, and 3. Each number can be assigned to any contact you want, though we recommend using these quick-call keys for emergency contacts, similar to the emergency buttons on the Verizon Wireless Coupe. To assign a number, you press a quick-call key, select options, and then select Assign Contact. You can even assign a picture for photo caller ID. Though we appreciate the usefulness of having these three dedicated speed-dial keys, we found them a little uncomfortable to access. The keys are directly above the hinge bump, and they are slippery and flat to the surface.
Underneath that is the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a four-way toggle, a middle OK key that doubles as the Web browser shortcut, a dedicated speakerphone key, and a Camera shortcut that leads to the Camera menu. The four-way toggle also doubles as shortcuts to a new text message, the alarm clock, the contact list, and the My Stuff menu. Under the navigation array are the Send, Clear, and End/Power keys, plus the alphanumeric keypad. The Clear key doubles as a shortcut to the calendar. We absolutely love the entire keypad and navigation array--all keys are large, well-spaced, with a raised bubblelike texture that make dialing and texting quite easy. You can also toggle an option that makes the phone beep whenever a key is pressed.