There are phones like the Jitterbug J and the DoroPhoneEasy 410 that are specifically designed for seniors, but there are also supersimple phones that could be seen as senior-friendly. The Pantech Breeze and the Breeze II, for example, are both really easy to use, with large fonts as well as big buttons. Pantech continues this trend with the Pantech Ease, which promises to be the most user-friendly touch-screen messaging phone on the market.
Though we do think you need some technological savvy to operate the phone, we do agree it's an extremely easy phone to navigate and use. If you get tired of the very simple Easy mode, you can also toggle on Advanced mode for a more customizable experience. Specialized features like a pedometer, a readout mode, a voice mode, and a pill reminder add to its whole-family appeal. The Pantech Ease is available for $69.99 from AT&T Wireless.
The Pantech Ease has the familiar look of most touch-screen messaging phones, with the long oval front and horizontal QWERTY keyboard. Yet, we find it a little more attractive than most because of its ergonomic and stylish design. Measuring 4.48 inches long by 2.28 inches wide by 0.56 inch thick, the Ease looks a lot like an elongated Pursuit. It has a nice sporty stripe along its border, and the rounded corners and textured back plate give the phone a solid and secure feel in the hand. The Ease is rather heavy at 4.86 ounces.
One of the highlights of the Ease is easily its 3.2-inch QVGA display. It has beautifully vibrant and colorful graphics, thanks to the 262,000-color support and 240x400-pixel resolution. We also like that you can bump up the font size to Very Large, which is great for those with bad eyesight. You can adjust the backlight time, the brightness, the color of the menu theme, the lock screen background graphic, and, of course, the wallpaper.
The Ease has two different interfaces: Easy mode and Advanced mode. Easy mode lays out the phone in a very simple fashion; you only get one home screen, and at the bottom of the home screen you only get two shortcuts, one to the phone dialer, and one to the main menu. The main menu itself is laid out in a straightforward list format, and we find the font to be larger as well. Some of the phone's features--like the mobile music app, instant messenger, mobile video, and most of the social-networking apps like Facebook and MySpace--are not accessible from the Easy Mode menu.
It sounds as if the Easy Mode is rather lacking, but the upside to this basic interface, however, is that it's incredibly easy and intuitive to navigate the phone. We can see touch-screen novices picking up the phone and knowing how to use it by just tapping around.
As for the Advanced mode, it has an interface that is downright identical to the Pursuit. You get three different home screens, two of which are customizable--one for your favorite applications, and one for your favorite contacts. Along the bottom row of the home screen are shortcuts to the phone dialer, the contacts list, the message in-box, and the main menu. The main menu itself is arranged in a slightly more complicated grid style.
Another great feature of the touch screen is that it is capacitive, which translates to a very quick and responsive display. Indeed, we were able to zip through menus and lists with hardly any hesitation. There is also no need for a calibration wizard, because the finger taps are just that accurate right off the bat. You can also add touch feedback with vibration and sound and adjust the intensity and volume of each, but we didn't find that to be absolutely necessary.
The virtual phone dialer has a large number keypad with a roomy area for display digits, and it has quick shortcuts to the contacts list and Recent Calls history. For text messaging, you are free to use the T9 keypad, but we would prefer to use the actual physical keyboard. In fact, if you are in Easy mode, the phone forces you to slide open the phone to type out a message.
When you do slide the phone open, the display will change orientation from portrait to landscape mode. In Easy mode, it immediately prompts you with messaging-related options--a new text message, the messaging in-box, mobile e-mail, and more--whereas Advanced mode adds social network options like Facebook. The sliding mechanism feels really sturdy, and we like how it snaps firmly into place.
Of course, you also reveal the aforementioned physical keyboard when you open the phone. It's a four-row QWERTY keyboard, and the numbers keys are highlighted in orange. You get the typical function and symbol keys, and we appreciate the inclusion of dedicated zoom-in and zoom-out keys for easier Web navigation. The overall keyboard is very spacious and the keys are raised sufficiently above the surface to type by feel. However, the keys could stand to be a bit bigger if the Ease is truly to be a senior-friendly phone.
Underneath the display are three physical keys: a Call key, a Quick Contacts key, and the End/Power key. Crammed at the bottom bezel underneath the select key is the Back key. Though these keys felt easy enough to press, we found them to be rather small and crowded at the far end of the phone. The Quick Contacts key brings up a layover box that displays shortcuts to Voice Mail as well as up to three contacts.
The volume keys sit on the left spine along with the charger jack; the camera key, voice command key, and screen-lock toggle are on the right. The camera lens is on the back. The microSD card slot is located behind the battery cover. The charger jack plays double duty as a headset jack because there's no 3.5mm or 2.5mm headset jack.