It was only in June that Pantech released its first Android phone for U.S. markets, the Pantech Crossover for AT&T. Just months later, the phone maker is doing it again, this time for Verizon. The Pantech Breakout doesn't take its name lightly. In addition to being Pantech's first Android smartphone for Verizon, it's also grabbed hold of Verizon's 4G LTE network.
The specs are respectable, with a 5-megapixel camera, front-facing VGA camera, 720p HD video capture and playback, and a 1GHz processor running the show. However, performance hit some snags during our tests, which cast a shadow on the camera hardware in particular and on the phone's LTE readiness. At the time of writing, the Breakout costs $99.99 after a $50 rebate with a new two-year service agreement.
The Breakout may be the company's first CDMA smartphone, but Pantech has been making hardware for a long time, and has given the Breakout a physical design all its own. Matte black plastic all around, the Breakout sneers in the face of greasy fingerprint smears and butterfinger dropsies with its finely pebbled surface. A pair of metal accents--a navigation half-moon on the front and camera lens surround on the back--help break up the monotony of black and add a little class, but they can't save the handset from looking like a perfectly decent but plain and middling smartphone.
The Breakout's proportions, though, are good: 5 inches tall by 2.5 inches wide and just shy of 0.5 inch thick. At 4.9 ounces, it feels reassuringly heavy for its size. Those tiny plastic bumps on the phone's body should help keep it in your grip, but if it doesn't, the Breakout strikes us as sturdy enough to take a clout or two without dissembling. It feels a tad bulky for some pockets, but it's on par with many other smartphones, so you should get along just fine.
While nothing special, the Breakout's 4-inch TFT touch screen is definitely acceptable. Its WVGA (480x800-pixel) resolution supports 262,000 colors, rather than the millions of colors supported by premium phones. On its own, it's just fine to gaze upon, even though colors appear a tad washed out, the contrast isn't as good as on other phones, and nothing really pops. Still, it's plenty bright and colorful, and we appreciate the default background animations of Pantech's Android skin.
Speaking of which, the Breakout features Pantech's own flavor of Android, just like on the Crossover. It's just as easy to navigate as other Android phones, though we're not fans of the default wallpaper in the application tray, which visually mimics the phone's dotted finish. There are seven home screens by default, but you can pinch to see an overview of them all, and delete any you don't want. You can also pull down the notifications bar to access Bluetooth, GPS, data, and Wi-Fi controls.
Pantech does a couple of neat things to dress up the typical Android lock screen as well. You can easily unlock the phone with a swipe, or get more granular by dragging icons for either the dial pad, messages, or e-mail inbox into the center to unlock the phone on one of those--we've also seen this trick in the HTC Sense 3.0 custom Android interface. Pantech also has an eye out for your well-being: you or someone else can access your ICE (emergency) contacts from the lock screen without unlocking the phone.
Below the screen are four hardware buttons for the Menu, Home, Back, and search, which is Bing by default. Two buttons are black plastic, and two join together in that aforementioned half-moon that gives it some style. On the left spine are a 3.5mm headset jack, a contoured volume rocker, and a voice control shortcut button. On the right are the Micro-USB charging port, the shared power and lock-screen button, and the camera shutter button. On the back is the 5-megapixel camera, with the front-facing VGA camera lens.
Once you push off the back cover (hint: apply pressure about a quarter-inch under the camera lens, on the seam where the cover meets the chassis), you'll be able to access the Micro-USB card slot. The Breakout comes with an 8GB card preinstalled. Luckily for you, the phone accepts up to 32GB in extra storage. Less luckily, you have to remove the battery to swap cards.
Most Android phone makers seek ways make the software on their phones distinctive, most often with custom skins, preinstalled software, or both. After all, like other Android Gingerbread phones, the Breakout has a nearly bottomless address book capacity, Wi-Fi, texting and multimedia messaging, Bluetooth, GPS, and a direct hook to Google services, including turn-by-turn navigation and YouTube. There's also the typical Android music player.
It's customary to see the manufacturer and carrier add their own apps as fixtures, but on the Breakout Pantech goes overboard. The phone is stocked with Amazon Kindle, Blockbuster, CityID, Converter, DocViewer, Guided Tours, Handy Memo, and Let's Golf 2. On top of that, you'll find Mobile IM, NFL Mobile, NSF Shift (another game), Rhapsody, Slacker Radio, Tip Calculator, TuneWiki, and Nuance Voice Control.