While television and newspaper ads may imply otherwise, there is still a market out there for basic, no-frills cell phones. A lot of consumers still want a simple phone that gets the most important job done: making calls. Verizon Wireless has a few such phones, the PN-210 that we reviewed a few months ago, and now the Verizon Wireless PN-300, both manufactured by Pantech. The PN-300 doesn't have a camera or a music player; nor does it have a Web browser or e-mail. However, it is also very inexpensive at only $29.99 with a two-year contract with Verizon.
True to its simple nature, the PN-300 has a rather boring and minimalist design. Decked out in a silver gray-and-black color scheme, the PN-300 is a pretty compact clamshell at 3.43x1.93x 0.98 inches and weighing in at only 3.32 ounces. Its smooth curves and light weight make it feel comfortable in the hand and when held up next to the ear. We were very pleased that even though the PN-300 is a basic phone, it still comes with an external screen. Despite the fact it's monochrome, it still displays the date, time, and signal and battery strength, as well as caller ID. On the left spine of the phone is the volume rocker as well as a display button that toggles among different date and time display configurations on the external screen. An extendable antenna is on the top-right corner of the phone.
Flip the phone open and you'll note a 65,000-color, 1.75-inch internal display, which we found rather lackluster but acceptable considering the phone's low price point. You can adjust the screen's backlight time as well as its contrast. Though the font size can't be changed, the default font size is nice and large, and we appreciated the super-simple menu interface that made navigation a breeze. Speaking of navigation, under the display are two soft keys and a five-way navigation toggle that doubles as four user-defined shortcuts. The phone also has a dedicated speakerphone key, a dedicated messaging shortcut key, the Send and End keys, plus a Clear key that doubles as a voice-command shortcut. All keys, including the alphanumeric dialpad, were a tad slippery but still tactile and easy to press.
Understandably, features are few and far between on the Verizon Wireless PN-300. It has a 500-name address book, and each entry can hold up to five numbers, two e-mail addresses, and can be assigned a caller group and a ring tone. Other features include text messaging, a speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, vibrate and silent modes, a calendar, an alarm clock, a calculator, a tip calculator, a voice memo, a world clock, a stop watch, and a notepad. Personalization options are limited because of the lack of a Web browser, but you can still choose from a few preloaded wallpapers and ring tones. We tested the dual-band (CDMA 850/1900) Verizon Wireless PN-300 in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless's network. We were amazed by how clear calls sounded, and callers reported the same. The speakerphone sounded nice and loud, though we had to raise our voices in order for our callers to hear us while on the speakerphone. The Verizon Wireless PN-300 has a rated talk time of 3.38 hours and a rated standby time of 7.9 days. We managed to eke out a disappointing 2 hours and 40 minutes of talk time, however. According to the FCC, the PN-300 has a digital SAR rating of 1.3 watts per kilogram.