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printed September 19, 2014
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Review: Pantech Jest

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The Pantech Jest joins the ranks of squat messaging phones with little fanfare. It's a small, rounded phone with an array of buttons up front. The phone has a nice weight and a solid feel to it. The slide opens with a loud, spring-loaded snap. The back is textured and easy to grip, and most of the phone is coated in a glossy, but not too cheap-feeling plastic. The design is simple, not daring, and I can see it appealing to a wide audience.

Beneath the screen, there are two touch sensitive soft buttons and five hardware buttons. It's an odd mix. The touch sensitive buttons don't work very well. You have to jab at them, or better yet, slide your finger around to actuate them. On the periphery, there are Send and End keys, then a music key on the left side and a Clr / voice command key on the right. With the voice command key up front and a speakerphone key on the left side, I liked the selection of calling shortcuts offered by the hardware buttons.

In the middle of the phone is the so-called 'direction key,' which became my arch-nemesis over the testing period. The direction key is actually an optical joystick. Instead of a four-way button, you swipe your finger up and down, side to side over the key, and the selection on screen is supposed to react. It doesn't react, not usually. I would estimate that one out of every three swipes actually worked, and that's probably a generous estimate. This made for a horribly frustrating experience, and this was definitely a dealbreaker for me recommending this phone. The unresponsive optical key made every menu action and most apps much more difficult to use.

On the left side of the phone, above the speakerphone key you'll find a nicely raised and rounded volume rocker. Up top, there is a microSD card slot protected by a cover, as well as a slot for a wristband or dangling charm. On the right you'll find a covered microUSB slot. Beneath the USB slot there is a camera button and a Task Bar button. These were too close together. My finger always wanted to reach for the task bar when I meant to turn on the camera. Plus, at a quick glance these two look more like a volume rocker. The tiny icons on the keys are embossed, and hardly visible.

The keybaord is a bit small for my fingers, and my hands are not very large. Clearly, teens and young adults are the target audience. I like the shape and the feel of the keys very much. They are nicely raised in a dome shape, and the plastic has a matte finish that keeps the keyboard from feeling slippery. Still, there was not enough room for the keyboard, and I found myself typing with the tips of my thumbs to ensure accuracy.

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