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Pantech Breakout (Verizon Wireless) review: Pantech Breakout (Verizon Wireless)

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That doesn't even cover Verizon's apps, like VZ Navigator; the suite of V Cast apps for music, videos, and ringtones; and other Verizon account management apps. If you're unhappy with the arrangement of icons, you can go into the Menu to manually rearrange them.

In addition to all these, there's the Swype keyboard, which is turned on by default, but you can always switch over to the default Android keyboard. Of course, there are also other essential apps: a calendar, an alarm clock, a calculator, and voice search.

We found both the front-facing and rear-facing cameras on the Breakout unimpressive.

Apart from the custom interface, the Breakout's largest claim to its own individual character comes in the two cameras. However, these also this phone's weakest point. We've never taken high-quality, or even flattering, shots from a front-facing VGA camera on any phone, and this is one of the worst we've seen in a long time. Photos were grainy, unfocused, blurry, and generally poor.

The rear-facing 5-megapixel camera fared better, though it definitely falls short of best-in-class. The shutter takes a long time to focus and colors were washed out and uneven. Flash can be hit-or-miss, sometimes overexposing or distorting color, but we'd rather see it than not.

And then there's video. In our tests, video playback lacked any software stabilization, which resulted in herky-jerky playback that also had a tendency to pause or lag, which made for an unpleasant viewing experience.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; LTE 700) Pantech Breakout 4G on Verizon's network in San Francisco. Call quality in San Francisco was mixed. On our end, volume was loud and clear, and uninterrupted by background crackle or white noise. A friend's voice sounded a bit buzzy at times, almost like it was mildly autotuned. On their end, callers said our voice was loud, but sounded muddied and not entirely natural.

Pantech Breakout call quality sample Listen now:

We were pleasantly surprised when it came to the speakerphone and wound up carrying on a 15-minute conversation over speakerphone while holding the phone at waist level. In addition to excellent volume, voices sounded rich. It wasn't all fun and games, though. The phone vibrated slightly when our caller spoke, and there was still a mechanical element to the sound. On the other side of the line, callers reported that speakerphone volume was uncomfortably low, making it hard to hear. Our friends were less eager than we to carry on a 15-minute discussion. Voice clarity was about the same as on the standard call, our friends said--a clear line but slightly muddied voice.

The Breakout is a 4G LTE phone on a network that prides itself on being fast. So far, Verizon has given us great performance as well from phones like the Motorola Droid Bionic and the Samsung Droid Charge. The Breakout loaded CNET's mobile-optimized site in 11 seconds and the full, graphically rich CNET site in about 25 seconds. Similarly, the New York Times' mobile-optimized site loaded in just under 10 seconds, while its full site loaded in about 30 seconds. We also didn't have too many complains about the internal performance, with the exception of the camera's multiple seconds of shutter lag.

The Breakout has a rated battery life of 5.8 hours talk time and 12.6 days standby time on its 1,500 mAH battery. FCC radio frequency tests measure a digital SAR of 1.05 watts per kilogram.

In a perfect phone, the strength of the hardware would match that of the software. In this case, the Pantech Breakout 4G's software bested its hardware. If all you do is make calls and operate apps and the browser, you and the Breakout will get along just fine. The custom interface and dial pads are all easy to use on the nice, large screen. Call quality was pretty good to our ears, and the phone felt fine in the hand. Those 4G LTE speeds didn't hurt, either. Try out the video and camera, however, and watch the contempt march in--unfortunately, the camera quality ruined the experience for us.

The $99 price tag (after $50 rebate) is a good price for 4G access--if you don't plan to use the camcorder or front-facing camera much, then it's worth considering. If camera quality is important to you, though, you'd be better off shopping around.

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