While Pantech has dabbled with smartphones like the Matrix Pro and the more recent Crossover, its core business in the U.S. has always been in the feature-phone market. In fact, one of its more successful models has been its Breeze handsets, which are simple entry-level flip phones that are designed for ease of use. Indeed, the Breeze and the Breeze II were ideal for senior citizens and kids because of its bright screen, large fonts, and emergency speed dial keys.
The Breeze III continues on with essentially the same design, but it borrows a few features from the Pantech Ease, the company's other senior-friendly handset. It now has a "Breeze" (easy) mode if you want to keep it simple or an "Advanced" mode for those who are slightly more phone-savvy. The new Breeze III also now has a tip calculator, noise suppression, voice recognition, and yes, even a pill reminder.
If you've seen the Pantech Breeze II, you might experience a bit of déjà vu when you see the Breeze III. That's because Pantech has kept the same slim and trim flip phone design with the Breeze successor, with almost the same measurements, at 3.9 inches long by 2.02 inches wide by 0.74 inch thick. It has a smooth matte surface on the front, and a patterned textured on the back, presumably for improved grip. The Breeze III is slightly curved at the sides, which adds to the comfortable feel in the hand.
Like its predecessor, the Breeze III has a 1.38-inch external display on the front of the phone. It's designed for only a few basic tasks, like displaying the date, time, and caller ID. It is a color display with 65,000 colors and a 128x138-pixel resolution, so it will show picture caller ID as well. Beneath the display are three LED indicators that provide visual alerts for incoming messages, calls, and if you're low on battery life.
The Breeze III has a really stunning display for such an entry-level phone. The 2.2-inch display boasts 260,000 colors and a sharp 240x320-pixel resolution. Images pop with color and both graphics and text are sharp. You can adjust the wallpaper, the clock type, the greeting text, the color theme, the style and size of the fonts, the display's brightness, and the backlight timer of both the LCD and the keypad. In "Breeze mode," which we'll get to shortly, the options to change the clock type, the greeting text, the color theme, the font style, the brightness, and the backlight timer are not available.
As with the Breeze II and the Ease, the Breeze III offers two different menu modes. One is "Breeze mode," which is designed for ease of use, and the other is "Advanced mode," which opens up the phone's full list of functions. When in "Breeze mode," the menu interface is in the form of a super-simple list, with each menu option displayed in a large font. As you move up and down the list, your selection is highlighted prominently, and a graphic icon shows up on the right side. A few customization options and applications are unavailable to you in this mode, such as the aforementioned display settings, and the music player. As such, the "Breeze mode" is really meant more as an "easy mode" for cell phone novices. The menu interface in "Advanced mode" is much more like that of a normal phone, with the option of either grid or list as the menu style.
Sitting directly beneath the display are three shortcut keys numbered 1 through 3. You can assign each key as a "Quick Call" speed dial to an existing contact in your phone book (In other words, you must have already entered in that number into the phone book before assigning the Quick Call key). You can also assign these numbers as shortcuts to one of nine basic phone tools. These keys are roomy and large, but are rather slippery and flat to the surface. You also have to maneuver your thumb a little bit more to press them as they are located right above the phone's hinge.
The navigation array on the Breeze III is pretty standard. It consists of two soft keys, a square toggle with a middle select key, a dedicated voice command key, and a dedicated camera key. In standby mode, the toggle doubles as shortcuts to a new text message, instant messaging, the contacts list, and mobile e-mail, while the middle select key doubles as a shortcut to the Web browser.
The number keypad is largely unchanged from previous Breeze handsets. It's spacious and the keys themselves are large and easy to press. We did wish the keys were a little more raised above the surface, but the keys are separated enough that we could still dial and text with ease. The volume rocker is on the left spine, while the Micro-USB charger jack is on the right. On the back is the camera lens. You have to remove the cover and battery to get to the microSD card slot.
The Pantech Breeze III might be an entry-level phone, but that doesn't mean it's lacking in features. It certainly has the basics down-pat--it has a 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for six numbers, three e-mail addresses, a company name, five instant messenger handles, a Web address, a display name, a street address, a birthday, a social network ID, and more. You have the option of organizing your contacts into caller groups, and you can customize each contact with one of seven ringtones or eight alert tones. You can of course add your own if you like. You can use a photo for caller ID as well.
Other basic features include a speakerphone, a vibrate mode, an alarm clock, a calendar, a notepad, a world clock, a calculator, a tip calculator, a stopwatch, a notepad, a unit converter, a voice memo recorder, and a timer. The last three tools are not available in Breeze mode. New to the Breeze III is the addition of a handy portable user guide plus a pill reminder. It also now has voice commands, which was lacking in the Breeze II.
The Breeze III has a number of messaging features like text and multimedia messaging, instant messaging (AIM, Yahoo, Windows Live Messenger), and mobile e-mail. Curiously, we weren't able to access instant messaging from the Breeze Mode menu, but we managed to launch it from the toggle shortcut regardless. Mobile e-mail is essentially a hub that lets you access any of the popular Web mail services like Hotmail and Gmail. You can also add your own login and server information if you like. Bear in mind that the mobile e-mail service does require a $5 monthly fee on top of monthly data charges.
There are a few more-advanced features on the Breeze III as well. They include GPS in the form of AT&T Navigator, an app that provides turn-by-turn directions, the att.net mobile Web browser, and Bluetooth. You're able to access these features on Breeze Mode, but Advanced Mode opens up a few more apps like the AT&T Music app, AT&T Social Net, YPMobile, My Cast Weather, and game titles like Uno, Tetris, Ms. Pac-Man, and Family Feud. You can get more apps from the AT&T Appcenter.
The AT&T Music app houses the music player along with an online music store, AT&T Radio, and the Shazam song recognition app. The music player's interface is fairly generic, but that doesn't mean it's bad. It organizes songs into albums, artists, and genres, and you can create and edit playlists on the go. You can set songs on shuffle and repeat, and you get up to six preset equalizer settings. The Breeze III supports multitasking, so you're able to keep the music player going as you're navigating in other parts of the phone. 80MB of internal memory is available for storage, or you can use up to a 32GB microSD card to supplement it.
We're a little disappointed that the Breeze III's camera is unchanged. It's still a 1.3-megapixel camera, and the photo quality isn't much better either. Images seem darkened with shadow, and colors were rather dull. Camera settings include four resolutions, three quality settings, up to 4x zoom, white balance presets, color effects, a self-timer, a shutter sound, and a timer sound, with silent options for both. There's also a built-in camcorder that can record in three resolutions, with similar settings to the still camera. The video taken was quite bad, with a lot of jerky movement and blurry images.
We tested the Pantech Breeze III in San Francisco using AT&T Wireless. We experienced solid call quality on both ends. Callers sounded loud and clear, with hardly any static or background noise. On their end, callers reported similarly impressive quality. Pantech claims the Breeze III has a new noise suppression technology that could help in blocking out extraneous sound. Indeed, callers had no issues listening to us above the din of traffic noise. They also said our voice was natural, as if we were talking on a landline phone. Speakerphone calls sounded great as well. Audio quality from the phone's tinny speakers left much to be desired, so we would suggest using a headset instead.
Pantech Breeze III call quality sample Listen now:
The Breeze III does have 3G support, but as the phone's features are relatively basic, we didn't need much speed anyway. Still we enjoyed decent speeds. We loaded the CNET mobile site in around 30 seconds, for example.
The Pantech Breeze III isn't a substantial update from the Breeze II. The design is similar, and the features are mostly the same. Yet, that's not entirely a bad thing if all you want is a simple entry-level flip phone. The Breeze III has both an easy and advanced mode to suit consumers with different proficiencies. It's also a step above a completely basic phone, as it has a music player, GPS, Bluetooth, and 3G speeds. While the pill reminder isn't a huge new feature, we did appreciate that Pantech finally added voice recognition to the Breeze III. We're also impressed by the noise suppression and overall great call quality. In sum, the Pantech Breeze III is a great basic flip phone not just for senior citizens and kids, but for anyone who wants an affordable and stylish handset that makes great calls. The Pantech Breeze III is only $39.99 after a rebate and a two-year contract.