It has been a long time since I tried out a Pantech phone, and I honestly never considered their devices as competitive with current smartphones. After using the Pantech Discover for the last couple weeks, I am ready to admit that I was wrong.
The Pantech Discover has one of the best form factors I have tried in a long time, and it feels great in my hand. I love the curved soft touch back material and was frankly shocked by how solid the construction is. It is available now for just $49.99 with a 2-year contract on AT&T, and is a pretty compelling low cost Android device for people to consider.
I'll take a walk through the device and my experiences in this image gallery. However, since the focal point of this device that was pitched to me by AT&T is the integrated DriveMode service that helps prevent texting and driving, I will start with the software.
Nokia Lumia 920, Pantech Discover, and Apple iPhone 5. (Image: ZDNet/Matthew Miller)
As I wrote earlier, I am very impressed with the quality of the Pantech Discover and think they did an excellent job releasing a compelling piece of hardware. Specifications include:
1.5 GHz dual-core processor
1 GB RAM
16GB integrated memory with microSD card slot
4.8 inch HD (1280x720) display
12.6 megapixel camera
VGA front facing camera
Stereo speakers (each side of display, near the top)
2,100mAh removable battery
Dimensions of 5.3x2.7x0.36 inches and 4.76 ounces
The specifications are great for a $50 Android smartphone, and people will like the flexibility with the microSD card and removable battery. The display looks good, but seems a bit washed out to me. The stereo speakers are a nice idea, but music wasn't as loud and clear as I thought it would be.
Pantech definitely impressed me with the Discover, and it looks to be a nice option for those looking for a low cost subsidized smartphone. The $400 no-contract price obviously makes something like the LG Nexus 4 a better option for people not eligible for a full upgrade discount.
Back of the Lumia 920, Pantech Discover, and iPhone 5.
The 12.6 megapixel camera on the Discover.
One stereo speaker and volume rocker.
Other stereo speaker and power button.
Top of the Pantech Discover.
Pantech Discover in hand.
Back of the Pantech Discover.
Lock screen options. (Image: Screenshot by Matthew Miller)
The Pantech Discover has Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) installed out of the box. I don't know if Jelly Bean is coming to the device or not, but imagine the value Android smartphone buyer is not that concerned with the specific version on this device.
Like Samsung, HTC, Motorola, and others, Pantech has a custom UI for Android as well. Pantech has both Easy Experience and Standard Experience modes so you can toggle their experience on and off. I do like their lock screen dial that gives you quick access to six apps by simply dragging the icon into the center of the circle.
Typical home screen panel.
You will also find a Pantech notification/quick launch bar, app launcher with ability to file apps in groups, and fairly typical Android task switcher. You will find three small icons below the task switcher to access select apps. There are three home screen panels, customizable by tapping and holding on a blank space on the home screen. Overall, it's a fairly non-obtrusive UI that I think meets the needs of the new smartphone owner with flexibility for power users.
I am a serious phone geek and regularly have three or more phones in my gear bag. Thankfully, I ride the train for my daily commute and don't spend a lot of time driving around in a car. If I am driving, I set the example for my teens and do not text and drive, so I am 100 percent behind this campaign and lifestyle.
The AT&T DriveMode software is available in the Google Play Store for AT&T Android devices, but comes preinstalled on the Pantech Discover. The software is toggle on to auto mode by default, but can be setup to have an "allow" list or even turned off manually in case you might be a passenger in a moving vehicle.
Automatic activation means that DriveMode launches when you move faster than 25 mph. When DriveMode is on, all calls will be sent to voicemail while texts and emails will get auto replies telling people you are driving. You still have full control on whether or not these auto replies are sent, so don't worry that it is spamming people. You can edit and customize the message that goes out with your auto replies, too. Up to five phone numbers can be listed that can be called while moving as well.
In the upper left there is an icon for 911 so in an emergency, you can also still make that important call. The idea of DriveMode is great.
Along the bottom of the DriveMode screen you will see icons for your Allow List, Music, and Navigation. Thus, if DriveMode is active you can set one music application to enjoy music and one navigation app to get around in your vehicle. BTW, I used Google Music and Google Navigation as my default apps.
I personally would like to see such an application on all smartphones, and encourage people to use it if you are on AT&T. If you are tempted to text or call, this application helps reduce the likelihood that you will use poor judgement.
Pantech quick actions bar.
This is an AT&T Android phone so you will indeed find lots of preinstalled AT&T apps and services. These include myAT&T, AT&T Messages, AT&T Locker, AT&T Navigation, AT&T Smart WiFi, AT&T Family Map, AT&T Ready2Go, AT&T Code Scanner, Live TV, and Mobile Hotspot. Some of these are useful utilities and I do like that they have them stored in an AT&T folder so you can jump in and find them easily.
Another page of apps.
Third page of apps on the Discover.
Final screen of loaded apps.
Selecting widgets for the home screen.
Settings on the Discover.
Pantech user mode selection.
Camera user interface.
Custom group setup.
Voice control options.
AT&T app folder.