Pantech isn't really known for making smartphones, but they do have a decent track record when it comes to their featurephones. They've been kind of hit and miss with featurephones, but their hits, like the Link and Laser, were some of the best I've tested. So now Pantech has decided to venture into the Android smartphone market with the Crossover. It's not an aggressive device - no 3D display or dual-core processor here - but it offers decent mid-range specs and a physical keyboard, a rarity among smartphones today. So where does the Crossover stand in Pantech's endeavors? Is it a hit or a miss?
Design & Features
The Crossover is a thick device, unnecessarily so it seems. I understand that it has a physical keyboard and maybe I've just been spoiled by these 9mm-thin phones, but .56-inches feels too chunky in my hand. It's quite heavy too, 5.15 oz. That number might not mean anything to you, but to put it in simple terms, the first time I picked it up I said, 'wow this thing weighs a ton.' Again, I don't understand the weight. The phone is not that big, aside from its depth. It measures 4.45-inches long and 2.28-inches wide. It has a small 3.1-inch display. So this isn't a large device that we're talking about here. It's just really thick and heavy. It looks rather sporty and rugged, though it's not meant to withstand any sort of rugged conditions.
That 3.1-inch display has a resolution of 320x480 - pretty standard for a mid-range device. The display felt rather small, more so than I thought it would. I didn't think there would be such a noticeable difference between the standard 3.2-inch displays that we see on a lot of mid-range phones and the Crossover's 3.1-inch display, but there was. You may say I'm too picky, but I'm just telling you what I noticed. It's not a hindrance, but if you have larger fingers, you may want to look into something else. Though the resolution is somewhat low, text wasn't as pixelated as it is on other devices with the same resolution. This may be because Pantech used a bolder font with their UI. Either way, it's a welcome change.
Below the touchscreen display are the four Android buttons. The Home and Menu buttons are actual physical buttons, but the Back and Search buttons are capacitive-touch buttons. On the left side of the device is the volume rocker buttons and the right side contains the camera shutter button and the microUSB port. The top of the phone contains a 3.5mm headphone jack along with two keys on each corner. The right corner button is the Lock/Power key and the left corner button is a Function key. Pressing it brings up a list of shortcuts you have programmed.
The microSD card slot is hidden underneath the battery cover. The phone ships with a 2GB card and supports up to 32GB of additional memory.
Usability & Performance
For the most part, the Crossover's 600 MHz processor did a fine job of keeping multiple tasks running smoothly. There were several times when the display would not respond to touch, but I attribute this more to a low-quality touchscreen than the processor. There were times when the phone lagged and the homescreen would take a few seconds to refresh once I closed an app, but it wasn't any more than what you would expect from a mid-range device. The unresponsive screen, however, was frustrating.
The Crossover ships with Android 2.2 and uses Pantech's custom UI. Pantech added a lot to Android with their custom UI; pretty much every visual aspect of Android has been "skinned", as they call it. The unlock screen uses a "peel-off sticker" and shortcut icons to missed calls, messages, or e-mails. Dragging the icon to the center of the "sticker" unlocks the phone and opens that app. The dock on the homescreen has been customized, there is a new color scheme throughout the entire OS and Pantech has also added toggle buttons for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and Alarm functionalities in the notification bar. The App Drawer has a new look, the messaging interface is more relaxed and colorful, and the multi-tasking UI has a new paneled look. Pantech also designed their own custom widgets. These widgets are very well designed and each one has several options. There are widgets for e-mail, social feeds, clock, weather, an integrated clock that shows the time, weather, and calendar information, a memo pad and more. Personally, I enjoy custom UIs so all of this appeals to me as a user. Manufacturer UI's add color and eye-candy to the otherwise boring stock OS. However, some people prefer a phone with stock Android. If that's you, it would probably be best to shy away from the Crossover. For beginner users, it will be great.
There aren't a lot of smartphones out there with a physical keyboard so you always hope that when a phone does have a physical keyboard it's a good one. The Crossover's keyboard uses flat, island-style keys. The keys aren't as grippy as I personally prefer, but they aren't so slippery that your fingers will slide around while typing. The keys are somewhat firm, but they aren't so firm that they're hard to press. I would compare them to the keys on another Pantech phone with a physical keyboard, the Laser, except without the rubber grip that those keys have. All in all, it's a decent keyboard and a solid option for those who need one. Along with the physical keyboard, the phone also ships with the Android keyboard and Swype. The Crossover does feature threaded text messaging.
The Crossover's 3-megapixel shooter is really nothing to write home about though it does have an autofocus and captures 480p video. Picture quality was fairly good even without particularly good lighting. The autofocus helps to keep pictures clear, but I still wouldn't recommend it for those who use the camera on their phone as their primary picture-taking device. Video capture quality was also mediocre and the sound quality was terrible.
Data speeds with the Crossover were inconsistent but decent. While running speed tests, the download speeds were anywhere from 420 kbps to 800 kbps with peaks of 1.4 Mbps and lows of 250 kbps. While actually browsing the web, I didn't notice such inconsistent speeds. PhoneDog.com took 48 seconds to load over AT&T's 3G network with full Flash turned on.
Battery life with the Crossover was equally as inconsistent. With its first charge, the 1500 mAh battery died after about nine hours on standby. The next charge gave me two and a half days on standby with still seventy percent of the battery left. Crazy, right? Once I started using the device again, it dropped from seventy percent to forty-five percent within an hour and has since lasted another two days on standby. The bottom line is that, while on standby, the battery is managed very well. Most Android devices can only last one full day even on standby. However, while in use, you would be fortunate to get through half of a day before the battery dies.
While testing out the Crossover, I kept thinking that there was something about it that just wasn't right. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I finally figured it out. The Crossover doesn't feel like a smartphone. Everything, from the small design and display to the overly thick and heavy hardware down to parts of Pantech's UI made this feel like a featurephone. You can't blame Pantech since featurephones is what they do, but this is a smartphone. To me, it looks like a featurephone and acts like a featurephone. If you need a mid-range device WITH a physical keyboard and you're with AT&T, the Crossover is a viable option. However, if you don't need that physical keyboard, then AT&T has better devices you should look into.
What's Good: Well-designed UI; excellent battery life while on standby; decent physical keyboard.
What's Bad:: Terrible battery life with normal use; small display; thick, chunky, heavy hardware; looks and feels like a featurephone; unresponsive touchscreen.
The Verdict: If you need a physical keyboard, the Crossover should be satisfactory enough, but if you can live without it, check out AT&T's other mid-range smartphones.