Although Pantech has been around for a long time in Asia, the Korean company is finally making a dent in the U.S. cell phone market. The Pantech PN-215 for Verizon Wireless is one of the first few models available here in the States. It has a pretty basic feature set that includes an integrated camera with flash, but there isn't too much here to warrant a lot of attention. At an affordable $29.99 after an online discount and a two-year contract, the Pantech PN-215 makes for an average starter phone. The design of the Pantech PN-215 didn't exactly wow us. Its silver color scheme and blocky shape is rather boring and utilitarian, and its hefty size (3.5 by 1.9 by 0.98 inches; 3.5 ounces) kept it from fitting easily into our pockets. That said, the phone has a solid construction; it felt comfortable enough when held in the hand or cradled next to the ear. Opening and closing the clamshell phone takes little effort, and the stubby antenna is fully extendable. The external screen, at 1 inch diagonally, lies in the middle of a black oval centered on the phone's front flap. Though it's monochrome, it displays all the necessary information, including signal strength, battery life, time, and date. Instead of a mirror, you can use the external display as a camera viewfinder for self-portraits, but since it's tiny and black-and-white, you can't see much. On the left spine are the volume rocker and the dedicated camera button, and on the top is a headset jack with a rubber covering. The camera lens is located on the lower left of the front flap, while the flash is just beside it.
Flipping the PN-215 open, you'll note the unimpressive 65,536-color, 1.75-inch screen. Even so, the display is easy to read, even outdoors in sunlight. You can adjust the brightness, the contrast, and the backlighting time and toggle the font size between normal and large. Underneath the display are the navigational controls. There are two soft keys, a speakerphone button, a camera button, a send/talk button, a Clear button, an end/power button, and a four-way toggle with a middle confirmation key. The four-way toggle also provides shortcuts to Verizon's Mobile Web, Get Pix photo gallery, and Get It Now shopping portal, as well as a user-programmable shortcut key, which is a nice touch. All the buttons are spacious and easy to press, and the menu navigation was easy to use as well. Next are the dial-pad keys, which glow blue when activated. They too are spacious and easy to press, and they're raised far enough above the surface that we could dial by feel.The Pantech PN-215's phone book stores 500 contacts, with each entry holding up to five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, a ring tone, and a picture for photo caller ID. Contacts can be organized into two existing groups (Family and Work), but creating your own groups is a snap. The phone comes packaged with an astounding 31 polyphonic ring tones in addition to silent and vibrate modes. Organizational tools include a calendar, an alarm clock, a world clock, a notepad, a calculator, and a stopwatch. Other features include text and multimedia messaging, a WAP 2.0 browser, e-mail support, and a voice recorder. You can activate the speakerphone before making a call, which is great, considering that many other cell phones won't let you activate the speakerphone until a call is in session.
The PN-215 is equipped with a VGA camera that takes pictures at three resolutions: 120x160, 240x320, and 480x640. While the quality is a bit disappointing, we appreciate the long list of camera options, which include a self-timer, a flash, six white-balance settings (Auto, Sunny, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Darkness), three file-quality settings (High, Normal, and Economy), four color effects (Normal, Antique, Black and White, and Negative), and 16 fun frames. You can select one of three camera-shutter sounds or turn the shutter sound off. You can save the picture as wallpaper or a screensaver, send it via MMS or e-mail, or use it as a picture caller ID.
Although the phone can play BREW 2.0 games, it doesn't come with any preloaded titles. You'll have to buy and download the games via Verizon's Get It Now store. The same goes for additional ring tones, wallpapers, and screensavers. The phone does come with four preloaded wallpapers, six screensavers, and four display themes.The Pantech PN-215 is a dual-band, dual-mode (CDMA 850/1900; AMPS 800) phone that we're just beginning to test. We'll report back soon with our results.
The Pantech PN-215 has a rated talk time of up to three hours and a promised standby time of eight days. According to FCC radiation tests, the PN-215 has a digital SAR rating of 1.3 watts per kilogram.