As we said before, the C300 is the most diminutive phone we've seen. That quality in itself makes it somewhat cute, though the handset's overall design is uninspired. The silver, textured finish is nice, but the form factor is flat and boxy. Understandably, the construction is a bit flimsy and the hinge somewhat loose; this is not a phone that will withstand a lot of knocks and bumps. On the upside, the external display is bigger than we expected (1 inch diagonal), and it supports a brilliant 260,000 colors. Though you can't alter the backlight time or any other preferences, it shows everything you need, including the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and even photo caller ID. Below the display are a small flash and the camera lens.
Inside the phone is the 1.5-inch-diagonal (128x128 pixels) internal screen. It supports 65,000 colors as well, so it's adequate for scrolling through the simple menus and viewing photos. It's a bit small for playing games, but the C300 is hardly an entertainment phone by anyone's measure. The only preferences you can change here are the backlighting time and the contrast. Below the display are the navigation controls, which for the most part are spacious and tactile for the phone's size. The four-way toggle doubles as shortcut to the phone book, the downloads and applications folder, the messaging menu, and the instant-messaging application, while the two soft keys give one-touch access to the menu and the camera. Inside the toggle is an OK button, which in standby mode acts as a Web browser shortcut. The talk and end/power keys are ample as well, but the dedicated Back/Clear control is way too small.
Like the navigation controls, the keypad buttons are completely flat with the surface of the phone. They're bigger than you might expect, however, and they're spaced far enough apart. Dialing was not a problem, and though texting was tedious, that was more due to the size of the phone rather than the buttons. The keypad buttons also have bright backlighting so that you can dial in the dark. The only controls on the outside of the phone are a volume rocker on the right spine below a covered headset jack.
The Pantech C300's feature set is pretty basic, but it has a few surprises nonetheless. The phone book holds an impressive 800 contacts with room for three phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, and notes (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts) for each. You can assign contacts to groups or pair them with one of eight polyphonic ring tones. One monophonic tone and one MP3 tone also come with the phone. Other offerings include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, a memo pad, instant messaging (Yahoo, ICG, and AOL), a one-minute voice recorder, a world clock, a calculator, a unit converter, and a stopwatch. There's even a speakerphone, but you can't turn it on until after you make a call.
The VGA camera is beyond basic, but it's serviceable enough, and we commend Pantech for cramming a camera into such a tiny mobile. You can take pictures in two resolutions (640x480 and 128x128), and you can snap self-portraits using the external display as a viewfinder. Other options are limited as well. You get a flash, a brightness control, a multishot option, a self-timer, and three shutter sounds (plus a silent option). You also get a 4X zoom, but it's usable at only the lowest resolution. One note: Picture quality was pretty good for a VGA camera--colors were mostly sharp and objects distinct. The C300 has a shared memory of 13.4MB.
You can personalize the C300 with a variety of wallpaper and alert and function sounds. There's just one game (AquaPangPang), but the Java (J2ME) support means you can always buy more. You also can purchase more applications, wallpaper, and ring tones with the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. And if you're ever lost in the dark, you can use the flash as a tiny light.
We tested the Pantech C300 in San Francisco using Cingular's service. Call quality was decent, though voices sounded hollow and the volume wasn't very loud. Callers reported the same; they had no trouble understanding us but knew we were on a cell phone. Also, they had trouble hearing us when we were in noisy environments. The speakerphone wasn't so nice; it did the trick, but we avoided using it because of its poor quality.
The Pantech C300 has a rated talk time of 3 hours and a promised standby time of 10 days. In our tests, we managed to eke out an impressive 5 hours, 30 minutes of talk time. Standby time fell somewhat short, however, at 8 days. According to FCC radiation tests, the C300 has a digital SAR rating of 1.42 watts per kilogram.