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Pantech DM-P100 review: Pantech DM-P100

Though its design is nothing special, the Pantech DM-P100 offers a solid selection of services and content that stands out from other carriers'.

Kent German Former senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
6 min read
There is a new kid on the MVNO block, and this one has arrived with white gloves, red pants, and yellow shoes. The Walt Disney Company, which brought you theme parks, beloved animated films, and merchandising as we know it, is now bringing Mickey Mouse to the mobile world. Disney Mobile, which unveiled its ears last month, is aiming to grab a share of the family market through a unique selection of services, including GPS location, Disney-themed content, and parental controls. Make no mistake that it's not about the hardware here--the carrier's first two handsets are rather unremarkable as cell phones go--but rather it's all about what's inside. The result is mostly successful, but with the Pantech DM-P100, we were disappointed there wasn't more magic in the handset itself. It is fairly priced, however, at $59 with service. As is the case with all MVNOs, Disney Mobile does not operate its own network; rather, it rents space from Sprint.

The DM-P100 joins the LG DM-L200 as Disney Mobile's first offerings. Pantech is a relatively new player in the United States, so we're not sure what to expect each time it introduces a new model. But with the DM-P100, we weren't bowled over. The flip phone isn't ugly, but it's not really pretty either. In all honesty, we were expecting a little more excitement from Disney Mobile, though the candy-apple-red LG DM-L200 comes a bit closer in that regard. Styled in a simple silver color scheme, DM-P100 has average dimensions for a flip phone (3.4 by 1.9 by 0.9 inches; 3.9 ounces), but it comes off looking a bit chunky. The extendable antenna is rather flimsy, but the phone has a solid construction overall and feels comfortable in the hand.


Pantech DM-P100

The Good

The Pantech DM-P100 offers unique content and services designed for the family market. It's a decent performer, too.

The Bad

The Pantech DM-P100's design is uninspired, with a chunky design and a tiny external display.

The Bottom Line

Though its design is nothing special, the Pantech DM-P100 offers a solid selection of services and content that stands out from other carriers'.

The postage stamp external display (96x64 pixels) is small for the phone's size, and it is dark even when the backlighting is on. It shows the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID, and though it doesn't support photo ID, it does function as a very rudimentary viewfinder for self-portraits. Unfortunately, none of the display's settings are changeable. Below the display is the camera flash and lens and a small speaker. A covered headset jack is on top of the phone, while the left spine holds a volume rocker and a camera shutter.

Inside the phone is the 1.75-inch (120x160 pixels) display. It supports 65,000 and is relatively bright and vivid. Graphics aren't supersharp but fine for viewing photos and games and browsing the user-friendly animated menus. You can change lots of options with the display, including the menu style, the contrast, the backlight time, the greeting, and the font color. Below the display is the large and tactile navigation array. A four-way toggle with an OK button in the center doubles as a shortcut to four user-defined functions. There are also two soft keys, a nifty dedicated speakerphone key, a camera button, the talk and end/power keys, and a back button. The keypad buttons are flat with the surface of the phone, but they are large and brightly backlit.

The 300-contact phone book has room in each entry for four phone numbers and two e-mail addresses. You can organize callers into groups or for caller ID purposes and pair them with a photo or a polyphonic ring tone. Only six tones come on the phones, some of which are Disney tunes, but more choices are available for download. Basic offerings include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a one-minute voice recorder, a scheduler, an alarm clock, a notepad, a calculator, a stopwatch, voice dialing, a speakerphone, and a world clock. The carrier also offers a roadside assistance service for stranded motorists.

The DM-P100's camera comes with a flash.

You might be surprised that Disney Mobile even includes a camera in a phone designed for kid use. But that's the point, actually, as the carrier's intention is to make a phone that's usable for family members of all ages. Plus, you can control the photo-messaging function (see below) and the camera is a simple VGA model. You can take pictures in three resolutions (640x480, 320x240, and 160x120), choose from three quality modes and six color effects, adjust the brightness and contrast, and use the 4X zoom (not available at the highest resolution). Other features include a self-timer, 18 fun frames, a flash, and three shutter sounds. Missing from the list, however, is video capability. When finished with your shots, you can save them to the phone's 32MB of shared memory or send them to friends. Picture quality is average for a VGA camera; objects in our tests were grainy and colors didn't pop out.

The DM-P100 has average picture quality for a VGA camera phone.

Disney Mobile's hallmark offerings are its themed content and applications. The Entertainment menu takes you to a variety of choices, including downloads for Disney (and non-Disney) wallpapers, color themes, ring tones, and images. You also get two demo games (Nemo's Aquarium and Tetris), a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser, and a choice of downloadable applications. And if that's not enough, you can access the Disney Zone for Disney radio and applications such as Disney Trivial Pursuit.

In keeping with the family theme, Disney Mobile offers a number of parental controls and applications designed to keep track of your brood. With Family Manager, parents can keep track of how their children are using the phone and how much money they're spending. You can set limits on calling minutes, messaging, and downloads, and you can ask to receive an alert when the limit is reached. Family Located enables GPS tracking through the phone or the Web of all phones on your family's network, while Family Alert sends a message to one or all members simultaneously. Lastly, Call Control is a Web-only feature that lets the parent, or Family Manager, schedule times when your child's phone can make or receive calls, and you can create a list of prohibited phone numbers.

Individual service plans range from $39 for 400 anytime minutes per month up to $169 for 3,500 anytime minutes. Family plans start at $59 for 450 anytime minutes and go up to $249 for 4,500 minutes. It's all a bit expensive, yes, and there seems to be a litany of fees involved as well. They include 10 cents per text message, 25 cents per multimedia message, and activation fees of up to $35 per line. Some messaging services are offered in a bundle, however. Also, while the coverage through Sprint's network is nationwide, off-network roaming charges are 40 cents per minute. Finally, directory assistance is $1.40 per call, and the aforementioned roadside assistance is $2.99 per month.

On the upside, much of the Disney-themed applications are free or almost free, including the Family Alert, Family Monitor, and Call Control functions. Family Locater is free for the first five locates a month. Additional locates are 49 cents each, or you can get an unlimited package for $12.99 per month. Access to the Disney Zone is also free, but as with any other carrier, additional content downloads vary in cost.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) PM-D100 running on Sprint's network in San Francisco. Call quality was good overall, though some calls had a scratchy quality. It wasn't too bothersome, though, and while callers could tell we were using a cell phone, they reported satisfactory audio on their end. Speakerphone quality was decent despite the fact that callers had trouble hearing us in noisy environments. Volume for both normal and speakerphone calls was admirable. For a full review of the carrier's GPS tracking services, see our review of the LG DM-L200.

The DM-P100 has a rated talk time of three and a half hours and a tested talk time of a little less than that at three hours and 20 minutes. It also has a promised standby time of 7.9 days. According to FCC radiation tests, the DM-P100 has a digital SAR rating of 1.15 watts per kilogram.


Pantech DM-P100

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 7