Pantech has sure come a long way. From the tiny C300 to the double-slider Helio Ocean, Pantech has mostly been known as a feature phone maker in the U.S. So we were quite surprised to see the Pantech Crossover, the company's first-ever Android handset for the U.S. market. Of course, the Korean company has released a few Android handsets before, but only in its native region. The Crossover is an entry-level handset, while its Asian cousins are decidedly more high-end.
The Crossover is so named because it's designed as a "crossover" product between a feature phone and a smartphone. Features are fairly basic, like a 3-megapixel camera without a flash, and it only has a 3.1-inch screen. It also ships with only Android 2.2. However, it's one of the few Android phones for AT&T to have a physical keyboard--the others are the Motorola Flipside and the Motorola Flipout. As long as you don't set your expectations too high, the Crossover makes for a decent starter smartphone.
If Pantech wanted to deliver a smartphone experience in a feature phone package, it has succeeded with the Crossover. Indeed, it looks and feels like a lot of messaging phones, with its black color scheme and plastic build. Yet, it doesn't look too bad. Measuring 4.45 inches long by 2.28 inches wide by 0.56 inch thick, the Crossover is quite slim for a slider handset, and the angled corners add visual interest to the phone's otherwise boring design.
Pantech says that the Crossover is "durable" but that claim isn't certified. So while the Crossover does have rubberized corners and a textured back, it won't survive a beating the same way a true military-certified phone like the Casio G'zOne Commando would. The textured surfaces might result in an improved grip, however, so you hopefully won't drop it as often.
In our opinion, the smallest usable touch-screen size for a phone hovers around 3.5 inches, so the 3.1-inch screen on the Crossover pushed our limits a little bit. The display has a 320x480-pixel HVGA resolution and 262,000 colors that resulted in crisp graphics and text, but everything just seemed that much tinier. It certainly made us wish we could increase the font size of the menu at least. This is not a phone for those who have poor eyesight. Additionally, there's more scrolling to be done with Web pages.
However, the touch screen felt quite responsive. There was no hesitation when we swiped through the phone's five home screens, and it takes less than half a second to launch apps. We did notice the slightest bit of hesitation when scrolling through long lists, but it didn't bother us too much. The phone also has a built-in proximity sensor and accelerometer.
Underneath the display are the usual Android shortcut keys--the Back and Search functions are touch-sensitive, while the Menu and Home functions take the form of physical buttons. On the top of the phone are two shoulder buttons, one of which is the power/screen lock key, and the other is a Function key that brings up a list of shortcuts. The volume rocker is on the left, and the Micro-USB port and camera key are on the right.
The Crossover comes with Swype as the virtual onscreen keyboard, and you also have the choice of the default multitouch Android keyboard if you prefer. But since the screen is a little small for our tastes, we really appreciate the fact that the Crossover has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Simply slide the display to the right and you'll reveal it--the display will change orientation from portrait to landscape mode.
The keyboard has four rows, with the letters sharing space with numbers and frequently used symbols. The bottom row of the keyboard has the usual Alt and Shift keys, plus a big spacebar. There's also a handy navigation D-pad on the right side if you don't feel like using the touch screen. The keyboard is very roomy. Even though it looks a little flat, the keys are actually separated and raised above the surface, so we found it easy to text by feel.
On the back of the phone is the 3-megapixel camera lens without a flash or self-portrait mirror. The microSD card is accessible if you remove the battery cover.