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Category: Hardware Published on Wednesday, 10 August 2011

New Phones from Pantech and Samsung Lighten the Load 

Who says small isn't beautiful?

The folks at Pantech and Samsung have hit the mobile phone market with two small devices that deliver big-time smartphone capabilities.

The Pantech Laser ($79.99) is a thin, so-called "messaging phone" that boasts a slide-out keyboard and touchscreen. It's also a "world phone" that needs a SIM card to operate. You simply install the card for the AT&T network needed for the country where you're using the phone.

One of the thinnest 3G phones offered by AT&T, the Laser weighs a hair more than four ounces. Its 3.1-inch 600x800-pixel touch screen can be used to socialize (there are built-in apps for Facebook and Twitter), chat, check email or browse the Web. And the keyboard is similar to most of the others I've played with.

Additional features include:

  • A three megapixel camera and MPEG4 video camera.
  • Tons of built-in aps, including AT&T GPS, games, music and video players and other tools you'd expect from today's mobile phones.
  • Access to the AT&T AppCenter to purchase additional applications.
  • Easy touchscreen navigation by either swiping your finger to the left or right or by pressing on the app you want to use.
  • You can dictate your messages and chats using Voice Mode.
  • AT&T Social Net gives you access to all of your social networks using only a single app.
  • Up to five hours of talk time or 14 days of standby time between charges.

The touchscreen is "resistive," which reduces the chances of clicking on an app you don't want. It takes a bit more pressure from your finger to activate the phone’s features than just a casual swipe of the thumb.

The Samsung Restore 3G Slider ($79.99) is similar to the Laser in that it has a full, slide-out keyboard and several apps. But that's where the similarity ends.

This is a "pay-as-you-go" phone marketed by Virgin Mobile and uses the Sprint 3G network. It's also one of the lightest phones on the market, weighing in at 3.7 ounces and is made of 83 percent recycled materials (excluding the battery).

The 2.4-inch screen offers a fair 240x320 pixel resolution, which is pretty much standard for phones of this type. This is fine for using the usual apps for chatting, emailing, etc., but really isn't sufficient enough to display web pages.

As with the Laser, you can access your favorite social network and chat or email with no problem. You also have access to several applications including built-in GPS navigation, calendars and music and video players.

Unlike the Laser, you use a rocker key to navigate through and select the app you want to use.

Other features include:

  • More than five hours of talk time.
  • The ability to load photos taken with the built-in camera to Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, PhotoBucket, Blogger and MobileMe.
  • Up to 12 days of standby time.
  • An external MicroSD slot for additional storage of photos, videos and music.
  • Virgin Mobile Navigator gives you turn-by-turn directions for an additional fee of $1 per day or $5 per month.
  • Dedicated keys on the keyboard for direct access to the Web or email (there's even a key for a smiley face).

The calling plans are relatively inexpensive. There are three service plans: $35 per month with 300 minutes, $45 per month with 1,200 minutes, and $55 per month with unlimited voice calls. All three plans come with unlimited text, email, data and Web access.

The call quality on both phones was excellent. There were few dropped calls and the reception was as clear as you'd expect from telephones marketed by major carriers such as AT&T and Sprint.

Check out the companies' websites at www.pantechusa.com/phones/laser and www.samsung.com/us/mobile/cell-phones/SPH-M570ZKASPR for more information.

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