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Pantech Ease - blue (AT&T) review: Pantech Ease - blue (AT&T)

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In both Easy and Advanced modes, features include the vibrate mode, a speakerphone, a calendar, an alarm clock, a calculator, a tip calculator, text and multimedia messaging, voice command, Bluetooth, GPS with AT&T Navigator, the HTML Web browser, AT&T's mobile e-mail, and access to AT&T Address Book, which lets you backup your contacts list on AT&T's servers. The mobile Web browser is based on Opera and lets you view full HTML pages, and AT&T's Mobile Email solution lets you send and receive e-mail via a browser-based app.

You also get Readout mode, which you can configure to announce incoming calls, messages, and voice mail, and even to read text messages out loud. This sounds great on the surface, but we found the voice to be too mechanical to really understand what it was saying, especially since we can't force it to slow down.

Interestingly, Easy mode contains two features that are not available in Advanced mode--a pedometer and a pill reminder--both seemingly crafted specifically for senior citizens. We understand how the pill reminder might fit this demographic, but we think the pedometer app should be available for both Easy and Advanced modes. Both apps work well enough--we especially like that you can minimize the pedometer app to run in the background and have a little step counter appear on the home screen.

When you flip over to Advanced mode, you will finally get access to certain features and apps like the notepad, the sketchpad, world time, a unit converter, a stopwatch, a timer, the voice memo recorder, AT&T Mobile Video, AT&T Mobile Music, AT&T Social Net, Facebook, MySpace, instant messenger, and location-based apps like Where and Loopt. We understand not including more-complicated apps like the music player in Easy mode, but we don't quite get why simpler apps like the notepad didn't make it.

The Ease comes with 3G speeds, which gives it access to the aforementioned AT&T broadband services; Mobile Video is a streaming-video service, and Mobile Music acts as a hub for the music player, the Napster/eMusic store, and a slew of music-related services. The music player is similar to other Pantech phones; the songs are categorized into albums, artists, and genres and you can create and edit playlists on the fly. Player settings also include the usual player controls and repeat and shuffle modes. You can also minimize and send the music player to the background. The phone has 50MB of internal memory, but you can bump that up easily with a microSD card. Up to 16GB cards are accepted.

The Pantech Ease has a 2-megapixel camera on the back.

The 2-megapixel camera on the Ease can take pictures in five different resolutions and three quality settings. Other settings include brightness, a self-timer, a shutter sound and timer sound toggle, four color effects, six white-balance presets, and geo-tagging. You also get 7x zoom as long as you're not at the highest resolution. In Advanced Mode, the camera has additional Special Effects features that include smile detection, self-portrait or face detection, wink detection, face effects, and panorama stitching. In smile, self-portrait, and wink detection, the camera automatically beeps and focuses in on the face to prompt you to take the photo (with wink detection, there's a timer mode). Face effects is an unusual feature that has up to 11 different ways to frame your face--they include "beauty blur," "fish eye," "big head," and more.

The Pantech Ease takes good photos.

Photo quality was quite good. We liked the crisp quality of the images, and the color accuracy was good enough as well. The Ease also has a video camera that can record MPEG4 video in either 176x144-pixel or 320x240-pixel video resolution, and it can play up to 15 frames per second. You can either send the videos as MMS (in the 176x144-pixel resolution) or save it for longer storage. You can also choose to share the video via AT&T's Video Share service.

Personalization options are plentiful with the Ease; you can customize the wallpaper and ringtones by downloading them from the AT&T AppCenter or by creating your own. As for games and apps, the Ease comes with AllSport GPS, Maps, Mobile Banking, MobiTV, My-Cast Weather, Pocket Express, WikiMobile, Bejeweled, Midnight Bowling 2, Ms. Pac-Man, The Sims 3, and World Series of Poker, but you can download more via the AppCenter as well.

We tested the Pantech Ease in San Francisco using AT&T Wireless. We were pleased with the call quality on the whole. On our end, we heard our callers with plenty of volume and superb clarity. There was still a bit of static, but it was a mild hiss and nothing too distracting.

Pantech promises a technology called Dynamic Noise Suppression with the Ease, and this was evident when we asked our callers how we sounded. They said we sounded very smooth and clear, even though we were speaking from inside a busy shopping center. They still detected a bit of background noise, but it was not intrusive. Speakerphone calls did not fare as well, though; callers reported a lot more echo and muffling, but we could still carry on a conversation.

The 3G speeds were adequate. We loaded the CNET home page in around 30 seconds, and downloaded a 1.8MB song in 48 seconds. We encountered little buffering time with the mobile video as well. That said, the video quality was still rather choppy and pixelated.

The Pantech Ease is compatible with HAC and M3/T4 hearing aids. It has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 15 days standby time. Our tests revealed a talk time of 6 hours and 1 minute. According to FCC radiation tests, it has a digital SAR of 0.537 watt per kilogram.

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