Pantech has sure come a long way. From the tiny C300 to the double-slider Helio Ocean, Pantech has mostly been known as a feature phone maker in the U.S. So we were quite surprised to see the Pantech Crossover, the company's first-ever Android handset for the U.S. market. Of course, the Korean company has released a few Android handsets before, but only in its native region. The Crossover is an entry-level handset, while its Asian cousins are decidedly more high-end.
The Crossover is so named because it's designed as a "crossover" product between a feature phone and a smartphone. Features are fairly basic, like a 3-megapixel camera without a flash, and it only has a 3.1-inch screen. It also ships with only Android 2.2. However, it's one of the few Android phones for AT&T to have a physical keyboard--the others are the Motorola Flipside and the Motorola Flipout. As long as you don't set your expectations too high, the Crossover makes for a decent starter smartphone.
If Pantech wanted to deliver a smartphone experience in a feature phone package, it has succeeded with the Crossover. Indeed, it looks and feels like a lot of messaging phones, with its black color scheme and plastic build. Yet, it doesn't look too bad. Measuring 4.45 inches long by 2.28 inches wide by 0.56 inch thick, the Crossover is quite slim for a slider handset, and the angled corners add visual interest to the phone's otherwise boring design.
Pantech says that the Crossover is "durable" but that claim isn't certified. So while the Crossover does have rubberized corners and a textured back, it won't survive a beating the same way a true military-certified phone like the Casio G'zOne Commando would. The textured surfaces might result in an improved grip, however, so you hopefully won't drop it as often.
In our opinion, the smallest usable touch-screen size for a phone hovers around 3.5 inches, so the 3.1-inch screen on the Crossover pushed our limits a little bit. The display has a 320x480-pixel HVGA resolution and 262,000 colors that resulted in crisp graphics and text, but everything just seemed that much tinier. It certainly made us wish we could increase the font size of the menu at least. This is not a phone for those who have poor eyesight. Additionally, there's more scrolling to be done with Web pages.
However, the touch screen felt quite responsive. There was no hesitation when we swiped through the phone's five home screens, and it takes less than half a second to launch apps. We did notice the slightest bit of hesitation when scrolling through long lists, but it didn't bother us too much. The phone also has a built-in proximity sensor and accelerometer.
Underneath the display are the usual Android shortcut keys--the Back and Search functions are touch-sensitive, while the Menu and Home functions take the form of physical buttons. On the top of the phone are two shoulder buttons, one of which is the power/screen lock key, and the other is a Function key that brings up a list of shortcuts. The volume rocker is on the left, and the Micro-USB port and camera key are on the right.
The Crossover comes with Swype as the virtual onscreen keyboard, and you also have the choice of the default multitouch Android keyboard if you prefer. But since the screen is a little small for our tastes, we really appreciate the fact that the Crossover has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Simply slide the display to the right and you'll reveal it--the display will change orientation from portrait to landscape mode.
The keyboard has four rows, with the letters sharing space with numbers and frequently used symbols. The bottom row of the keyboard has the usual Alt and Shift keys, plus a big spacebar. There's also a handy navigation D-pad on the right side if you don't feel like using the touch screen. The keyboard is very roomy. Even though it looks a little flat, the keys are actually separated and raised above the surface, so we found it easy to text by feel.
On the back of the phone is the 3-megapixel camera lens without a flash or self-portrait mirror. The microSD card is accessible if you remove the battery cover.
Interface and apps
The Pantech Crossover ships with Android 2.2.1 with no promises that it'll be upgraded to 2.3 in the future. Still, for an entry-level smartphone, we're pleased with what Android 2.2 offers. You get the usual benefits of Android, like access to Google services like Gmail, Google Maps Navigation, Google search, and YouTube.
Pantech didn't really add a whole lot to the default Android interface. The four static icons on the home screen have a slightly different design, and are arranged in a simple row. They consist of the phone dialer, the messaging menu, the browser, and the main menu. There's also a unique lock screen that asks you to "peel off" a sticker in order to unlock the phone and you can add a widget to the home screen that acts as a digital counter of all the messages, e-mails, and phone calls you've missed.
Some of the apps that are preloaded on the Crossover include a unit converter, a data manager, a document viewer, Facebook, Twitter, Stocks, S-board (an app for sharing information in a group), YPMobile, Allsport GPS, and SketchPad. AT&T included a few of its own as well, like AT&T Code Scanner, AT&T Family Map, AT&T Mark the Spot, AT&T Navigator, and Live TV, AT&T's U-verse application that lets you watch live television and on-demand video if you happen to be a U-Verse customer. You can remove some but not all of the preloaded apps.
The Crossover has all the typical smartphone features we've grown to expect from Android. They include GPS, Bluetooth with stereo A2DP support, and Wi-Fi. It also has mobile hot-spot support for up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices, though it does cost $20 extra a month for that feature. You won't get any fancy 4G speeds here, but 3G is good enough for an entry-level phone.
Other features include a speakerphone, speed dial, voice commands, conference calls, and text and multimedia messaging. A few other standard apps include voice recording, a weather app, an RSS reader, and of course the Android Web browser. If you would rather not use Gmail, the Crossover also supports other e-mail platforms like POP3 and IMAP.
The Crossover has rudimentary multimedia features like the standard Android music player and a fairly basic 3-megapixel camera. Camera settings include four different resolutions, a shutter sound toggle, three focus modes (auto, infinity, and macro), white balance, filters, a self-timer, multishot modes, brightness, and zoom. Image quality is actually not bad for a 3-megapixel camera. Though we would've liked brighter colors, the pictures are pretty sharp. The Crossover can record video in 480p quality as well. The Crossover ships with a 2GB card though it supports up to 32GB cards.
We tested the Pantech Crossover in San Francisco using AT&T's service. Call quality was mixed. We didn't hear a lot of interference or background buzz, but callers said our voice sounded muddy. We heard our callers quite clearly however. On their end, they also said our volume was softer than they would like, and we had to speak up at times. Speakerphone calls didn't help the audio quality--we not only sounded muddy, but echo-heavy as well.
Pantech Crossover call quality sample Listen now:
The Pantech Crossover has decent 3G speeds. We loaded the mobile CNET page in just 15 seconds, and the full CNET front page loaded in 1 minute and 2 seconds. YouTube videos required a few seconds buffering, and video quality was rather choppy.
The Pantech Crossover has a rated battery life of 5 hours of talk time and 15 days of standby time. According to our tests, it has a talk time of 5 hours and 25 minutes.
The Pantech Crossover's small screen is not ideal for viewing Web pages or watching video, but the phone more than makes up for it with basic smartphone features and a great physical keyboard. The Pantech Crossover is also one of a few Android phones for AT&T to have a decent keyboard, and it's affordable at only $69.99 with a new two-year service agreement.