When we reviewed the Pantech Pursuit last year, we were particularly taken by the phone's fun and smart design. It even had a unique "shake" control that you could map to a variety of different functions. With its basic messaging phone features, the Pursuit was certainly no replacement for a smartphone, but for young kids or just those who prefer a simpler handset, the Pursuit was a cute and affordable option.
That is perhaps why we're rather disappointed with its sequel, the Pantech Pursuit II. Gone is the shake control, and gone is the handset's playful and fun aesthetic. It's not at all unattractive; it just doesn't seem as distinctive as its predecessor. Moreover, we preferred the horizontal keyboard on the original, and the features of the Pursuit II are largely the same as before. Still, if you disregard its past, the Pursuit II works as a pretty good messaging phone for, with features like GPS, Bluetooth, a HTML browser, and preloaded social media applications.
While the Pantech Pursuit charmed its way into our hearts with its toylike look, the Pursuit II has a design that is a touch more generic. Indeed, we can't help but feel we've seen phones much like this before--the LG Remarq and the Samsung Strive come to mind. Still, that doesn't mean it's a bad design. At 3.98 inches long by 2.40 inches wide by 0.59 inch deep, the Pursuit II has a smooth and curvy shell, with a wavy back and rounded corners. There's a slight textured area on the front bezel, presumably for extra grip when sliding the phone open and closed.
The Pursuit II has the same display as the original--a 2.8-inch touch screen with a 240x320-pixel QVGA resolution. Oddly, however, we didn't find it as crisp as before; images and text just don't look as sharp and smooth as we expected. Still, this is a relatively minor quibble for a phone in this category. For a simple messaging phone like this, the display works well enough. You can adjust the appearance of the home screen, the lock screen, and the menu theme, choose from seven different font styles, and adjust the brightness and the backlight timer.
As with the original Pursuit, the Pursuit II has a proprietary BREW operating system. It comes with three different home screens, two of which are customizable. One is for your application shortcuts and favorites, and the other is for your favorite contacts. The main home screen with the time and date is not customizable. It's fairly easy to add these shortcuts; simply tap the Add button and select one from the list. You can add quite a number of shortcuts to the application screen as you're not limited to the size of the display. Simply scroll on down the screen to add more. There's a handy thumbnail on the right to see where you are on the list.
Fortunately, the Pursuit II does feature a capacitive touch screen instead of a resistive one, which is a step up from before. We found navigation intuitive: it takes no effort to scroll through the menu or tap at buttons. Along the bottom row of the home screen are shortcuts to the phone dialer, the contacts list, the messaging inbox, and the main menu. The menu interface is laid out in a grid, and comes with three pages of applications and functions.
You can still dial and tap out text messages without the help of the physical keyboard, but it's more tedious. The virtual phone dialer is easy enough to use, with large numbers and quick access to your contacts and recent calls list. But the only way to type text on the touch screen is via a nine-key ABC or T9 predictive method. It works in a pinch if you only have one hand available to you, but in general we recommend using the slide-out keyboard instead.
Underneath the display are three round buttons for the Send, Back, and End/Power functions. Sitting above the display is a proximity sensor that turns the display off when the phone is held to the face. On the left spine is the volume rocker, while the right spine is home to the screen lock key and the camera key. The camera lens is on the back.
Slide the display up and you'll reveal the full QWERTY keyboard. It doesn't feel quite as roomy as the keyboard on the horizontal sliding Pursuit, but we found it spacious enough. The keys are raised above the surface with a slightly domed texture, which makes it easy to text by feel. The number keys are highlighted in green, and there are the usual Shift, Function, and Symbol keys. The spacebar key is bigger than the rest, and we like the dedicated .com and punctuation keys. There's also a handy vibrate key if you want to silence the phone.
We usually expect the sequel of a product to have improved features, but that's not the case with the Pursuit II, which has only minor changes from its predecessor. Instead of a 600-entry phone book, for example, the Pursuit II comes with a 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for four phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, a street address, a company name, a Web URL, a messenger username, a social networking ID, and other information. You can customize each contact with any of eight alerts or ringtones.
The basics include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, an alarm clock, a calendar, a notepad, a sketchpad, a voice memo recorder, a world clock, a calculator, a tip calculator, a unit converter, a stopwatch, and a timer. It also has voice command support, Bluetooth, and GPS in the form of AT&T's Navigator app. We were also happy to see that it has a full HTML browser, but it is pretty bare-bones. For example, we weren't able to load the CNET page because it kept getting hung up on site redirects. The relatively small screen size also doesn't make for a very satisfying Web-surfing experience. The browser does let you track news feeds and tab through different pages, however.