Feature phones like the Pantech Jest 2 for Verizon Wireless are pretty rare these days, so I have to get in a different frame of mind when one lands on my desk. "Remember," I tell myself, "It's supposed to be a simple device, so don't get too picky about what it lacks."
Actually, I don't really say that, but it is important to judge a feature phone like the Jest 2 for what it is. Unfortunately, I wouldn't put the Jest 2 at the top of my list as a text-messaging phone, either. It offers a fair number of features, a bright display, and an easy-to-use interface, but the keyboard is cramped and call quality was mediocre. Even though it's free with service, I'd recommend paying a bit more and going for the LG Cosmos 2 instead.
If you're familiar with the original Pantech Jest, you'll see that the Jest 2 inherits its squat shape and rounded corners. Personally, I've never much liked square phones, though I can understand how their compact builds endear them to other users. At 3.7 inches long by 2.5 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick, the Jest 2 is exactly the same size as its predecessor and it weighs just as much (4.1 ounces). It travels well and feels sturdy even with the plastic shell.
The display measures 2.4 inches, which is a bit smaller than the Jest's 2.6-inch display. It's an odd change, but it makes no difference in usability. Of course, given the phone's shape, the display has a landscape rather than a portrait orientation, which makes it suitable for composing tests. The display supports just 262,000 colors and 320x320 pixels. That's low compared with a smartphone, but fitting for a budget device. The display is bright with sharp graphics and animation, and you can personalize the wallpaper and text font size. The menu interface is easy to use, as well.
Below the display is the navigation array. I was glad to see that the circular toggle and central OK button are easier to use than they were on the Jest, and I appreciate the extra space surrounding the soft keys, Talk and End/Power controls, speakerphone shortcut, and Clear button. In a nice move, those last two controls also have a textured surface.
The backlit keyboard just below has four rows of keys so numbers share space with letters. There are a few useful shortcuts, but it's a basic arrangement on the whole. The bigger problem is that it's much too cramped. Granted, I have big hands, but I think that even someone with smaller mitts may have a problem, especially when dialing phone numbers. On the upside, the keys are raised and the slider mechanism is appropriately stiff. A red ring around the keyboard adds some style, but basic black is the dominant color.
On the right side are a Micro-USB/charging port, a camera shutter, and a control that opens a shortcuts menu. They're easy to use, but it's disappointing that the headset jack just above is 2.5mm (the standard 3.5mm would be better). On the left spine are a microSD card slot, a voice commands control, and a volume rocker. Though the Jest 2 gets props for having the first two items on that list, the volume rocker is too small. On the rear side are the camera lens, a self-portrait mirror, and a small speaker.
The Jest 2's feature list covers all the basics while offering a few extras for passing time when you're not communicating. The phone book holds 1,000 names with multiple fields in each entry and there's Verizon's Backup Assistant for storing your contacts on the carrier's servers. Other essentials include an alarm clock, a stopwatch, messaging, a world clock, a tip calculator, a calendar, and a notepad. Voice commands and stereo Bluetooth help you go hands-free and you can sync your phone with the USB mass storage feature.
The Jest 2 also supports POP3 and Microsoft Exchange e-mail and instant messaging. Just be aware that both services use a clunky Web interface and will cost extra. E-mail access is $9.99 per month and instant messages will count against your monthly message allotment. One feature I haven't seen before is an E-Diary. After selecting a "weather" and "feeling" setting (you get a few choices like sunny, cloudy, smiley, and angry), you can add a photo, text, and a wallpaper. It's cute, I suppose, especially if you like to chronicle your every moment.
Like its predecessor, the Jest 2 has a 2-megapixel camera that takes pictures in five resolutions, from 1,600x1,200 pixels down to 160x120. You can adjust the white balance and brightness, use the self-timer and digital zoom, and choose from three color effects and three shutter sounds (and you can silence it completely if you prefer). That's not a lot of options, frankly, and I'd prefer to see a second model offer some improvements, but it's suitable for quick shots. As you'd expect, the photo quality is rudimentary with washed-out colors and image some noise. What's more, the viewfinder doesn't use the full width of the display.