It looks like this will finally be the year Pantech's plan comes to fruition. The company originally entered the US market with low-end phones, but did so in the hopes that they could bring higher-end devices to the States. Verizon recently launched the PN-820. This spring Helio will launch the Ocean, and later Cingular will launch the C710, giving the company a spot in many carriers' mid- to high-end. All four phones announced at CTIA this week are destined for AT&T (Cingular), so they are GSM-based.
The C710 is a slim, light clamshell with external stereo speakers and an external screen, but no external music controls, which struck us as odd. It is fairly rectangular shape with a subtle hinge at the top. Even though it lacks curves, the size and proportions prevent it from feeling uncomfortable when holding the phone either to text or talk.
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Inside there is a large, crisp screen which reminds us of the phone on the Kyocera E5000.
The keypad is stylish and flat, but the numeric keys have a nice click to them, and it was easy to text on. The navigation keys were less impressive - the 2 soft keys are vertical shapes and are set too low so they don't really match up with the on-screen labels. The D-pad was a ring around a center select key with virtually no way to feel where the select key stopped and the directions started.
The C710 was scheduled to launch this summer as a 3G (WCDMA) handset, most likely when AT&T (Cingular) launches video sharing, since that feature is included here. However it may be delayed until fall to upgrade the radio to HSDPA.
The C600 is Pantech's other 3G phone for AT&T and will be limited to the slower WCDMA speeds. It is designed as an entry-level 3G model with very few features.
It is a surprisingly small and light clamshell, especially for a 3G phone. The hinge does not open all the way, only about 60 degrees, which makes looking at the screen while texting and using other phone features awkward. However this makes the C600 fit tight against the face when talking on the phone, a subtle feature which many people have been looking for.
Like the C710, the C600's D-pad is a ring with a center select key. Only because the phone is so small, the ring has been reduced to a very narrow surface - too narrow for me to hit accurately and i don't even have big American meat-hooks. The keypad it self is much more usable, however, with individual keys that are decently sized.
Because of the size, the C600's screen is also small, which seems odd for a 3G phone where data services and streaming media are such a selling point.
The C510 joins a few other new phones sporting a slightly thicker shape and a backwards facing hinge. After opening and closing so many of these new phones, it is clear this hinge design has a superior feel to it. It is so solid and confidence inspiring.
Outside it has a one-line OLED display and music keys. The display is too small and dim to be of any real use - especially when displaying track information. However the external music keys, which are real keys and not touch sensitive, feel great and are very responsive.
The C510 also has the best keypad of the new batch. The numbers are snappy and have a great click and the D-pad is easy to use. The screen is not that large, but the C510 is EDGE only, so size is not as important.
The C150 is an entry-level candybar that doesn't have much to offer. Instead of a D-pad it uses a joystick which is coated in rubber like a stick shift in an inexpensive car. although joysticks are not popular because they poke people through their pockets, they are very easy to use. This one was no exception.
Other than the C710, all these models are due out in the second quarter.
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