AT&T Pantech Duo Review

A common complaint that QWERTY phone users have is that it is hard to dial a simple number with a qwerty keyboard (vs. searching a contact by name), especially while driving (well, is one supposed to do that?). Pantech believes that customers don’t have to choose between a “normal” numeric pad and a large QWERTY keyboard, that’s why it has included both in the Duo, a design that is not unique, but rare. We have put the Pantech Duo to the test to see if it really is the best of both worlds.

Test Conditions
It’s important that you know our test conditions, so that you to figure out how much of our experience might translate with your own: The phone has been used for several days, using Push-Email (24/7), moderate web browsing and little voice usage ( <20mn/day).

Physical Design
In your hand, the Pantech Duo feels like a Nokia N80 or N95, it feels thicker than it actually is, but the keyboards have to go somewhere… Talking about keyboards, they are both easy to slide in and out, even with one hand. The sliding mechanism feels solid, but not as solid as the i-Mate 9502, which is heavier. It’s good enough, though, so nevermind. Take a look at the photo gallery to see how the Pantech Duo looks.

Basic Phone Functions
Being a Smartphone is a good thing, but only if it does the basic stuff well, like dialing, voice calls and texting. Fortunately all these function work well: the sound quality is very decent and dialing a normal number with the keypad is very easy, just like on a normal phone, thanks to the dual keyboard. When searching for a contact by name, I tend to pop the QWERTY keyboard and type the first few letter of a contact, but one can also open the Contacts application and scroll up and down, but it’s annoying if there are a lot of entries.

Smartphone Functions
Now that we have covered the basic stuff, what about the more interesting/productive functions? At the core of a WM6 smartphone, there is pocket office, especially the Outlook, Contacts and Calendar applications. Synchronizing this information is the most common reason to get a Smartphone. You can either sync via USB, or even better: via a hosted exchange server over a wireless connection on the cellular network (3G here). The latter will give you real Push-Email (the emails arrive in real-time), at a lower cost than a BlackBerry solution.

Strangely, many people that I know have never heard of Hosted Exchange. It’s like web hosting, but for your Exchange email (duh) – It is soo much better than pop or imap email. For less than $10 per month, you can get a multi-gigabytes account. The best Exchange hosting that I have used so far is Sherweb (Their support is a little slow, but they do reply to emails and are knowledgeable. The phone is often busy, but I called only once, during the setup).

For this test, a Hosted Exchange was used and it worked like a charm. Emails arrive on the Pantech Duo about half a minute before they do on my desktop PC.

The Qwerty keyboard provides a comfortable hold (with both hands), but it has the usual downside for such “wide” keyboard: it is a little too wide (at least for me), the keys travel space is too short and finally, the keys are flat. Typing on it was much slower than on a Treo or on the Blackjack. Granted, I have been using it only for a few days, but experience has taught me that it rarely gets a lot better. Even with these flaws, a QWERTY keyboard is still much faster than using the numeric pad. Anyhow, unless you’re sure of what you want, you should always go to a store, and try the unit by typing a message in the notes application.

3G Connectivity
In the office, we don’t have an optimal GSM reception, so it’s best that I don’t benchmark the bandwidth right now, but from a real-world usage (in San Francisco) I would say that it feels as fast as the Samsung Blackjack, so I don’t expect a big surprise (good or bad) from the actual measurements.

Battery Life
During our test, the battery life was 28 hours, from “full charge” to “shut down” (see our “test conditions” up there). If you are curious, the battery is a 1320mAh.

The Pantech Duo is an interesting device that addresses the lack of numeric pad on QWERTY Smartphones, but it is not the “best of both worlds”. To sneak in a numeric pad, Pantech had to make the QWERTY keyboard flat, making it not as effective as a classic QWERTY Smartphone like the Blackjack, Treo 750 or the Motorola Q9. The Duo is for users who wish to get a numeric pad that feels like a “normal” phone, but at the same time enjoy the benefits of a QWERTY keyboard, for mild texting. Heavy texters should go for a classic QWERTY phone.

AT&T Pantech Duo product page

Comparable phones
(in order of preference)
i-mate 9502 (review)
Samsung BlackJack (review)
Motorola Q9 launches with AT (news)

Pantech Duo Specifications

  • Windows Mobile® 6.0 with Direct Push
  • Dual slider keypads – Standard and QWERTY
  • 1.3 megapixel camera with 4x zoom
  • Bluetooth® Wireless capable with A2DP
  • Edit Microsoft® Word or Excel files & view PowerPoint files
  • AT&T Music, Billboard, Music ID, XM, Napster, Yahoo • Cellular Video capable – Get news, sports, and video
  • Microsoft® Office Outlook® Mobile and XpressMail capable
  • Instant messaging using AOL®, Yahoo!® and Windows Live®
  • Quad-band GPRS/EDGE with dual-band UMTS/HSDPA
  • Internet Explorer Mobile for surfing the Internet
  • Windows Media® Player 10 Mobile
  • MicroSD(TM) memory expands up to 2 GB
  • Simultaneous voice and data capabilities
  • Text, picture, and video messaging
  • Simultaneous voice and data capabilities
  • Communication Manager 6.5 supoort
  • 5-way navigation key
  • Speakerphone

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