Pantech is known for making relatively basic feature phones. Some have touch screens, like the Pantech Laser, and some don't, like the Pantech Jest. However, almost all of them have keypads or full keyboards--we had yet to see a touch-screen-only handset from Pantech. That is, until the Pantech Crux came along. The Crux is a slim slab of a phone, with external media keys, a unique screen-lock sliding mechanism, three home screens, a 3-megapixel camera, EV-DO Rev. 0, preinstalled social networking apps, and more. Though it wasn't as responsive as we would like, the Crux does work as a decent multimedia handset for those who aren't quite ready for a smartphone. The Pantech Crux is available for $49.99 after a two-year service agreement with Verizon Wireless.
Much like the Laser, the Pantech Crux is slim and slender at 4.3 inches long by 2.3 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick. The Crux has slightly rounded corners and a textured back for a more comfortable grip. While the back is matte black, the rest of the phone is clad in a glossy finish. The front surface is so shiny you can use it as a handheld mirror.
An unusual aspect of the Crux's design is that the entire front display actually slides vertically--you slide it down to activate the screen lock and slide it up to turn it off. The sliding mechanism feels solid and works as intended, and we have to admit it's a far easier way to unlock a phone than to press a couple of buttons.
Underneath that reflective surface is the 3-inch touch-screen display. It supports 262,000 colors and a 240x400-pixel resolution which results in a very sharp-looking screen. Graphics are vibrant, and text looks clean and legible. You can adjust the menu layout, the backlight timer, the brightness, the wallpaper, the display theme, the font type, the dial font size, the menu font size, and the clock format.
The Crux has three different home screens--one for the main menu, one for social-networking apps, and one for your favorite media files. The social-networking screen is made of two "layers" and you can swipe vertically to flip between the two. One layer is just for Gmail, a news feed, Google Talk, and YouTube, while the other layer is for Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, and Verizon's own Social Beat app that houses all those social networks in one interface. You can't add or remove apps from this screen, but you can customize the favorite media screen with videos, images, or music files.
You can flip between these screens either by swiping the display horizontally or by pressing the home button. By default, the home button leads to the main menu page. If you press it another time, you'll be presented with a three-dimensional graphic that you can rotate to get to the desired home screen. We thought the graphic was a bit gimmicky and would've preferred an easier way to switch screens. We also thought that switching between the different screens felt a little sluggish.
The Crux has a capacitive touch display, so we didn't need to apply as much pressure as with a resistive display for it to respond. Unfortunately, we had some issues with the touch sensitivity. For example, we sometimes launched an application when we wanted to swipe the screen. You can toggle the vibration feedback and adjust the vibration level, but not the sensitivity. As we mentioned above, we felt the phone was a little sluggish when switching screens, and when launching apps as well.
At the bottom row of each home screen are shortcuts to voice mail, recent call history, the phone dialer, and the contacts list. The phone dialer app has a roomy virtual number keypad, with a generous number input area. As for text input, you can either type with the alphanumeric keypad via T9 or you can rotate the phone sideways to activate the landscape QWERTY keyboard. The virtual QWERTY keyboard is roomy enough, but we still found it a bit difficult to type with speed due to the finicky touch screen. We had to slow ourselves down to make sure we weren't making mistakes. The Crux does have automatic word completion, which helped make typing a bit easier.
Underneath the display is the aforementioned touch-sensitive home button. The volume rocker and charger jack are on the left spine, while the right spine is home to the 3.5mm headset jack, microSD card slot, power key, voice command key, and camera key. On top of the phone are three external media keys. They are substantially raised above the surface with an angle and shape that remind us of old-school Walkman buttons. On the back are the camera lens, self-portrait mirror, and external speaker.
The Pantech Crux has a 1,000-entry contacts list with room in each entry for five numbers, two e-mail addresses, an IM username, two street addresses, a job title, a company name, a birthday, and notes. You can also associate each contact with speed-dial numbers, caller groups, a picture for caller ID, and one of 28 ringtones or alarm sounds. Basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, voice commands and dialing, a calculator, a tip calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stop watch, a world clock, a unit converter, and a notepad.
The Crux also has text and multimedia messaging with threaded conversations, mobile IM (Windows Live messenger, AIM, and Yahoo), mobile Web mail, and mobile e-mail. Mobile Web mail simply redirects you to a browser window with links to popular Web mail services; mobile e-mail actually lets you send and receive e-mail directly to a dedicated app. You can access accounts from Yahoo, Windows Live Hotmail, Gmail, and AOL Mail, or use your own POP3 account. Bear in mind that the mobile e-mail app costs $5 unless you signed up for a monthly data package that already includes monthly e-mail charges.