Most of Pantech's messaging phones have been of the high-end variety. The Pantech Duo is a smartphone, the Helio Ocean is as close to a smartphone as you can get without having a third-party operating system, and the Pantech Matrix has HSDPA speed, along with multimedia features like a megapixel camera and a music player. The Pantech Slate, on the other hand, is fairly slim as far as features go, with only a 1.3-megapixel camera and Bluetooth as its main capabilities. It's also pretty slim design-wise, too--Pantech claims the Slate is the world's thinnest messaging phone, for however much that's worth. The Slate is available from AT&T for $49.99 after a two-year service agreement and a mail-in rebate.
At first glance, the Pantech Slate looks like a fancier version of the Peek or a slimmer, lower-end version of a BlackBerry. Measuring 4.2 inches long by 2.5 inches wide by 0.39 inch thick, the Slate claims to be the thinnest messaging phone in the world at the time of its release, and since it certainly is thin and lightweight, we'll take Pantech at its word. We like the Slate's slightly reflective display on the front, as well as the textured, faux-leather backing that gives it an extra grip.
The navigation array sits underneath the display, and consists of two soft keys, a square navigation toggle with middle confirmation key, a dedicated speakerphone key, a Clear key, and the Send and End/power keys. The entire middle square toggle is curved and raised above the surface of the phone. The rest of the keys have alternating bumps going down either the left or right side. We liked this arrangement since it provides texture and makes for easier navigation. The square toggle also doubles as shortcuts to a new text message, the instant messenger, the contacts list, and mobile e-mail. The middle confirmation key is a shortcut to the Web browser when the phone is on standby.
Underneath the navigation array is the full QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard felt quite roomy, and we love how bubblelike the keys felt--they were all raised above the surface of the phone, which allowed for easy texting and dialing. The keyboard has the typical function and shift keys and a dedicated key for the messaging in-box.
On the left side is a volume rocker, which also doubles as a jog dial/side key for navigating the menu and for scrolling through messages. The headset/charger jack is on top, while the camera key is on the right spine. On the back is the camera lens and external speaker--there is no self-portrait mirror, however.