AT&T’s Pantech Pursuit. Quick review

Word of the Pantech Pursuit, one of Pantech’s latest touchscreen phones, hit the wires earlier this year in an AT&T press release alongside several other like-minded Quick Messaging Devices (QMD), including the Pantech Link, Samsung Strive, and Samsung Sunburst. The Samsung phones were pictured all over the place, but Pantech was much more shy, only giving basic specs on its new offerings.

When I finally was able to look at the Pursuit up close and personal, pictures were not available. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of it, though I could play with it as much as I wanted to and write up my thoughts and some specs on the device. You can find those thoughts and specs here.

My first impressions of the Pursuit were very positive. With both the Link and Pursuit it appeared as though Pantech were progressing well in the quality of its handsets, as both were built as solid phones that looked like they would hold up for a long period of time. Not all of Pantech’s phones have felt the same way in the past (read: Slate) so this was a welcome sight to see.

With some extended time with the Pursuit, have my thoughts changed or were they reaffirmed? Read on for my review of the Pantech Pursuit.

Design of the Pantech Pursuit

Pantech has been known for making smaller-sized devices (remember the C300?). Even though the Pursuit has a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard with fairly sizable keys as well as a touchscreen, it could never be considered bulky by any stretch of the imagination. It measures at 3.6” long, 2.5” wide, and .6” thick.

It’s meant to be a petite, mid-range feature phone. When I first saw it, I was actually reminded of the Motorola PEBL clamshell that had a soft rounded out design. There is definitely nothing square about the Pursuit; all of the edges are curved, sleek and fashionable. One drawback to this design is that the keyboard can be difficult to slide out because it’s completely flush with the top half of the phone.

When closed, the Pursuit feels decently comfortable in hand. The only awkwardness is that it’s a bit shorter than most typical phones, due to its small size. So in some ways it does feel as though there should be a taller phone in my hand.

Typing on the keyboard when open has a natural feel, with keys slightly raised like little bubbles and thus easy to type on. However, I would mash my fingers when typing keys on the top row, since there’s very little room left between the top row and the screen. This does throw off my typing groove ever so slightly, but not enough to be a huge concern to me. Besides that little annoyance, I enjoyed typing on the Pursuit’s keyboard.

I love that the keyboard has its own dedicated .com button, which adds convenience when emailing or surfing websites.

Pantech is attempting something it never has in the US: a touchscreen UI. And for a first attempt Pantech didn’t do half-bad, emphasis on the “half”. The interface itself is clean, simple, and set up in a similar fashion to what you’ll find in iOS or Android (though much, much more basic). Your main screen encompasses three front panels and has room for shortcuts, and along the bottom you’re provided with 4 soft buttons for dialpad, contacts, messages, and main menu.

When you slide the keyboard open, that main screen transforms into what already looks like a menu, albeit in landscape mode. The difference is that you only have the one front panel, though it has additional icons.

The main menu itself is similar in style to the iOS. Several preloaded apps are located here and sprawled out over three different pages. Scroll to those pages and click on the icons the same exact way you would on iOS.

One extra note on the touchscreen itself is that it uses a 2.8” resistive screen, thus forcing you to apply more pressure than the typical capacitive screen. As I am used to using capacitive screens normally, this is a rather large adjustment for me. But if this is one of your first touchscreen phones, it shouldn’t be much of an issue. Not to mention that if you are using the Pursuit for messaging — the main purpose for this device — you likely won’t be using the touchscreen for much more than screen navigation and random information anyways.

Available in both light green and sky blue, the Pursuit is designed primarily as an ideal messaging and social networking phone geared towards young adults.

There are no physical buttons on the front; just touch-sensitive call, end and go-back buttons. With a resistive screen, I really would have preferred these to be physical buttons because they can sometimes take two or three attempts to register a touch.

On the sides we have a microSD slot and volume up/down on the left, and the right offers a camera button, power/screen lock, shake control/multitasking, and port for proprietary Pantech charger.

The back has the lens for 2.0 MP camera and uses a similar rubbery-like material that Pantech put on the Link.

Features of the Pantech Pursuit

I just mentioned my impressions of the touchscreen itself, but there are a few nice unique features built into the Pantech Pursuit that are of interest. The first is the sketch pad, found in the tools folder. This is exactly what it sounds like: a doodle pad. Check out the masterpiece I drew on it!

Needless to say, though I’m not the most artistic guy,  it’s not going to let you draw the Mona Lisa by any means (especially with resistive display), but it does the trick when you’re bored or you have bored children that are getting restless.

The second touchscreen feature thrown into the Pursuit is Drawing Commander. This gives you the ability to create your own gestures to launch certain applications. So you draw an “a” for address book if that’s what you want it to do.

Truly unique to the Pursuit is the Shake Control feature. Press the multitasking button located on the right side of the phone and then shake the phone once, twice or thrice. Each number of shakes will launch a phone function of your choice. For instance, customize it so one shake will launch messaging, two shakes will launch music player, and so forth. It’s definitely a fun way of accessing shortcuts.

Interestingly, the Pursuit has apps preloaded for Facebook and MySpace already. Since I don’t use MySpace, I could only access Facebook and could tell it was based on the service’s mobile website. Most basic things were accessible enough on it — status updates, walls, photo galleries, etc. — but don’t expect to be playing Farmville on it.

AT&T also has new services mainly based on its new Quick Messaging Devices, such as AT&T Address Book, SocialNet and Online Locker. You can read more about these services in my review on the Pantech Link.

Also included in the Pursuit are voice command, calendar, alarm clock (by the way, the snooze can be used as part of the shake control feature), music player, bluetooth, voice memos, and pretty much any other basic feature you’ll find in any phone. Its MicroSD slot will support up to 16 GB. Not bad for a small messaging phone.

The Pursuit also has an HTML browser based on AT&T’s newest service. The touchscreen definitely has an added benefit in this browser in that you can easily scroll up and down when navigating websites. The downside is that everything is smaller, and not every website pulls up the same way you would see it on most smartphones, as you can see in the picture below.

It also features a 2.0 MP camera, which will be good enough to satisfy most youth-aged users of the phone. The camera takes real good pictures for a mid-range messaging phone, but it’s not going to be the best on market. For the target age group the Pursuit is going after, however, this camera will work out wonderfully. Especially compared to most of Pantech’s previous offerings. It adds nice features like smile detection (which even just a year or two ago was reserved for only higher-end phones), blink detection, and panorama shots. The camera also has video recording capabilities available in two different resolutions.

Performance of the Pantech Pursuit

I’ll spend the least amount of time here, because it performs precisely how you would expect a small, mid-range and youth-centric messaging phone to act: pretty decent. Call quality was good, the speakerphones were loud enough for me though a little tinny-sounding, and battery life will last you up to 5 hours in talk time.

While the touchscreen was responsive enough for my needs, the performance of the processor seemed sluggish at times. Naturally, the processor isn’t going to be top-notch like you would find on a smartphone, but I still found myself having to wait for a few seconds after certain tasks. It took way too long to navigate through the Facebook app as I tried to look through a friend’s profile, and whenever I needed to press the back button I had to either wait for a few seconds or try pressing it again to actually register the action.

Overview of the Pantech Pursuit

All in all, I had an enjoyable time using this phone. The Pursuit was designed very cleverly, had all the necessary features plus a few unique ones that add extra value, and performed rather well. Frankly, the Pursuit is meant to be a good messaging phone with a few extra bells and whistles thrown in, and I think Pantech did a great job putting it together.

I loved how Pantech designed the keyboard, cramming it in a small space but raising the keys enough to make the keys feel bigger than they actually were.  I enjoyed the touchscreen as long as I didn’t have to rely on it heavily. It was great for light scrolling and accessing random information, but the more I relied on its touchscreen, the more frustrating the resistive screen style became to me.

Some other annoyances I had with the Pursuit were its sluggish processor (again, to be expected given the phone’s target demographic, but still) and placement of the touch-sensitive keys on the front as well as the keyboard’s top row.

Most of all, I appreciated that I found the Pursuit to be as exciting to review as it was to preview when I saw it at CTIA 2010. The big difference is that at least this time I was allowed to take pictures of it!

Get Pantech Pursuit Phone, Blue (AT&T) on

Speaking of pictures, below is a gallery showing off the Pursuit in all its glory.

Author: Brad Molen

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