Despite the growing trend of smartphones in the country, AT&T has maintained its commitment to the messaging handset market, claiming that there's a huge market for so-called "smartphone lite" devices. As part of this, AT&T has launched a number of what it calls "quick messaging phones," one of which is the Pantech Pursuit. It's Pantech's first-ever touch-screen phone with a sliding keyboard, and we have to say, we're impressed. Despite its toylike appearance, the Pursuit is quite sleek, with unique features like shake and gesture controls in addition to a solid set of multimedia offerings. The Pursuit is available for a very affordable $49.99 with a two-year service agreement, and we think it would make a great phone for a teenager or young adult.
At first glance, the Pantech Pursuit looks a little bit like a Fisher-Price toy, or perhaps a grown-up version of the LG MiGo. Indeed, measuring 3.6 inches long by 2.5 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick, the Pursuit has an adorably chubby and compact design. Yet, the textured casing on the front bezel and the back cover makes the Pursuit feel a tad more grown up than that. It also feels nice and sturdy in the hand. The front surface is very reflective and shiny, so much so that you can use it as a mirror when the phone is on standby.
The front of the Pursuit is dominated by a 2.8-inch touch-screen display. The size of the screen is certainly smaller than most other touch-screen handsets, but we found it surprisingly usable. We absolutely love how colorful and crisp the screen looks, thanks to the 262,000-color support and the 320x240-pixel resolution. We like the clean and well-rendered text, and the choice of graphic icons and fonts is commendable. You can adjust the backlight time, the brightness, the menu theme, and the font style.
Like a lot of other touch-screen phones, you get three different home screens that you can flip through by swiping your finger to the left or right. Two of the Pursuit's home screens are customizable--one for your favorite application shortcuts, and one for your favorite contacts. Along the bottom row of each of the Pursuit's home screens are shortcuts to the phone dialer, the contacts list, the message in-box, and the main menu. The menu interface is quite extensive, with three pages of applications and functions by default.
The Pursuit has a resistive display, so you do need to apply a bit more pressure in order for your touch to register. Still, we found it surprisingly responsive--it takes less than a second for the screen to react. You can also go through a touch calibration wizard to improve your accuracy, and the Pursuit offers haptic vibration feedback as well.
The phone dialer is as you might expect--it offers a large virtual keypad with big digits that are easy enough to press. As for text-messaging, you can opt for either a virtual keyboard or Graffiti handwriting recognition, but we would rather use the physical keyboard for faster typing. The Pursuit also has a Drawing Commander application that will let you launch certain applications or functions based on certain Graffiti-like finger gestures. For example, you can map "a" for the Address book and "m" for the music player. We didn't find this that helpful, but your mileage may vary.
Aside from the touch screen, the Pursuit also has an accelerometer and a unique "shake" control that you can configure for a number of different functions. You trigger it by pressing a multitasking button on the side and then shaking the phone once, twice, or three times--the number of shakes corresponds to a user-defined function. For example, you can map one shake to launch the music player, and two shakes to launch the browser. We admit it's a little gimmicky, but we do think it has genuine practical use. We especially like it for snoozing the alarm clock, for example.
Underneath the display are touch-sensitive keys for the Send, Clear, and End keys. We generally prefer physical keys when it comes to these oft-used buttons, especially since there's a danger of accidentally making or ending a call. On the left spine are the microSD card slot and the volume rocker while the headset/charger jack, the aforementioned multitasking key, power/screen lock key, and dedicated camera key are on the right. If you hold down the multitasking key, you'll be presented with a pop-up box of open applications plus a task manager. The camera lens is on the back.
The display slides to the right to reveal a full four-row QWERTY keyboard. The sliding mechanism feels smooth and locks securely into place. The keyboard seems deceptively diminutive at first glance, but it's actually quite spacious thanks to the large keys. The keys are distinctly delineated from each other, and the raised bubblelike feel of the keys make it easy to quickly type out a message. Indeed, the keyboard on the Pursuit is possibly one of our favorites of the year.
The Pantech Pursuit has a 600-entry phone book with room in each entry for six numbers, three e-mail addresses, a company name, a messenger user name, a Web address, three street addresses, a birthdate, an anniversary date, and a note. You can also add a photo for caller ID, assign a contact to a caller group, configure a speed-dial number, and pair him or her with a custom ringtone--you have eight default ringtones and eight alert tones to choose from.
Basic features include vibrate mode, a speakerphone, an alarm clock, a calendar, a world clock, a calculator, a tip calculator, a unit converter, a stopwatch, and a timer. You also get voice command, a voice memo recorder, a sketchpad, Bluetooth, and GPS with AT&T Navigator support. As we hinted above, the Pursuit also has the ability to multitask among open apps. However, you can have only up to three open apps at any one time.
As with the Pantech Link, the Pursuit is blessed with the att.net HTML browser, which is based on Opera. You can indeed view full HTML pages with the browser, but the small screen size does mean you won't get a true Web experience. You can read more about this browser in our review of the Pantech Reveal.
The Pursuit also offers support for AT&T's new cloud services like AT&T Address Book, which lets you store messages and contacts in the cloud, and AT&T Online Locker, where you can store photos and videos in the cloud as well. You can also transfer them to popular online photo sharing sites like Photobucket via AT&T's MobileShare. Note that you only get 250MB of online storage, and the file transfer isn't free--it's around 35 cents per transfer, or $10 for 50 transfers. There's a 10MB file size cap as well.
AT&T is clearly thinking of the Pursuit as a youth-friendly device, as they also introduced several social networking features in the phone. There's AT&T SocialNet, which acts as a hub for all the popular social networks like Facebook and Twitter. If you're a Facebook or MySpace fan, however, you might want to opt for the dedicated apps for those two services also available on the Pursuit.
The Pursuit is billed as a messaging phone, so you'll get the whole range of messaging features like text and multimedia messaging, instant messaging, and mobile e-mail. To get mobile e-mail, you need to launch a Web-connected app, and after that you can configure it to get email from several web mail providers like Yahoo and Windows Live, in addition to your own POP or IMAP servers.
Since the Pursuit has 3G, this gives it access to AT&T's array of broadband services. They include Mobile Video and Mobile Music. The latter acts as a music one-stop-shop with features like XM Radio Mobile, a song ID app called Shazam, a ringtone creator, music videos, and access to music fan sites. You can also purchase and download music over the air from Napster or eMusic for around $1 per song. The music player on the Pursuit is decent--you get the typical playlist creation tool as well as repeat and shuffle mode. You can store music via a microSD card--the Pursuit supports up to 16GB cards.
The 2.0-megapixel camera on the Pursuit can take pictures in three resolutions, and three quality settings. Other camera settings include a self-timer, color effects, white balance, geotagging, plus timer and shutter sounds. The camera also has six special-effect modes--normal, smile detection, self-portrait mode (it'll beep once it detects your face), blink detection, face detection, and panorama stitching. Photo quality is actually surprisingly good for a 2.0-megapixel camera. The images look crisp overall and though the colors are a little blue for our liking, it's still quite good. The Pursuit has a built-in camcorder as well, which can shoot in either 176x144- or 320x240-pixel resolution, and you can also stream live one-way video via AT&T's Video Share.
Thanks to the AT&T AppCenter, you can easily customize the Pursuit with a variety of graphics, ringtones, games, and apps. The phone comes with a few by default--YPMobile (Yellow Pages), Where, AT&T FamilyMap locator, MobiTV, AllSport GPS, My-Cast Weather, Mobile Banking, FunScreenz, PicDial, Hip Hop Official, Movies Powered by IMDB, Tetris, Diner Dash Flo, Bubble Bash 2, TextTwist 2, and Rolling with Katamari Damacy.
We tested the Pantech Pursuit in San Francisco using the AT&T Wireless. Call quality was above average, but nothing spectacular. On our end, we heard our callers very clearly, but the experience was slightly marred by the occasional static blip and hiss.
On their end, callers said they could hear us loud and clear--unfortunately they could hear a lot of background noise as well. They reported quite a lot of echo, even in a relatively quiet office environment. Voice quality sounded harsh as well. Fortunately, speakerphone quality wasn't too bad--they said it was similar to when we were not on the speakerphone.
Music playback quality over the phone's tinny speakers isn't the best, but it's loud enough for occasional use. We tested it with the MotoRokr S9 HD stereo Bluetooth headphones, which sounded a lot better.
We experienced pretty good 3G speeds with the Pursuit. We downloaded a 1.6 MB song in 40 seconds and loaded CNET's mobile page in around 24 seconds. Streaming video didn't take too much buffering either.
The Pursuit has a tested talk time of 5 hours and 35 minutes. We don't yet know the SAR for the Pursuit, but we'll update this review with that information shortly.