- User Interface
All the latest buzz about smartphones has been strictly about Apple’s new iPhone 4s. However, despite Apple’s recent prominence in the tech news media with their iPhone 4S launch, Android-powered smartphones have quietly steamrolled over the iPhone in terms of total marketshare, holding a collective 43.7% compared to Apple’s 27.3%. Consumers have greatly enjoyed using the Android mobile OS, and as a result a plethora of phone manufacturers have been shipping numerous smartphone models powered by Android. One such smartphone is the Pantech Crossover, which I was able to review last week. While I must disclose that I am a happy iPhone customer (with my newly purchased iPhone 4S), I did enjoy using the Crossover during my week of testing.
Set up was a breeze on the Crossover. A Google account is required for the device, but you almost certainly have an account anyway (most likely for Gmail), so that should be no problem. And in fact, it makes syncing up all your important stuff (email, calendars, contacts) way easy – assuming you use Google products for all of those things already. Even for someone like me who doesn’t keep my mobile contacts in Google, a quick download of the iDrive app from the Android Marketplace made uploading my contacts no problem at all.
Though I mentioned it just above, I really want to highlight the easy syncing with Google Calendar. As a graduate student who works in a lab core with eight different labs, I share a lot of equipment with other students and research staff. And each one of the core instruments has a sign-up calendar on Google. On my iPhone, I would have to create an iCal link for all of them, and that is way too time consuming. But on the Pantech Crossover, they all show up just fine. For anyone who keeps track of all their daily events with Google Calendar, this feature is extremely useful.
The Pantech Crossover has a sleek design and sturdy build.
The Pantech Crossover looks really cool, which is always a plus. The phone fits perfectly into any normal pants pocket, and if you somehow miss while trying to put it away, don’t fear, as the Crossover is quite durable. When you pick it up you can tell that it is manufactured well. But don’t worry, at only 5.15 ounces, it’s not like you’ll be carrying around a lead brick.
The user interface for the Crossover is a bit clunky. I must admit, this probably has somewhat to do with my familiarity with Apple’s iOS (and not so much with Android), but nevertheless, a mobile OS learning curve should be pretty small. I got the hang of things toward the end of my testing week, but I kept missing having everything been touch-screen based, as opposed to directing much of the app requests through what I’m calling the “list” button (left of the up-arrow button at the bottom of the phone). One of both the pros and cons of the Android OS is that it can be customized for each different smartphone. With the Pantech Crossover, I found myself thinking that the specific Android OS design could have been improved (it’s more in line with the HTC layout rather than the Samsung Galaxy layout).
Two shining features of the Crossover are its screen and camera. The screen is extremely crisp and clear, which is a welcome surprise for an entry-level smartphone. Even more pleasantly surprising is the camera quality, which took above-average photos despite being billed as only 3 megapixels. As you can see from the below comparisons, the Pantech Crossover photos are much closer to the iPhone 4S quality (which is rated at 8 mega pixel) than the iPhone 3GS (which is also rated at 3 megapixels).
Most important for any phone is its performance. Thankfully for the Pantech Crossover, call quality was good. For most people these days, though, the primary use of a smartphone is for apps and messaging. While the Crossover has access to the Android Marketshare (and over 500,000 apps), you probably will want to stick to your basic social networking type of apps. While switching from app to app, or even to the web browser, the performance can be a bit sluggish at times. This is to be expected somewhat from a phone that is branded as a user-friendly, entry-level smartphone, but still, for anyone who has used a higher end smartphone, the speed drop is noticeable.
Overall, the Pantech Crossover is a solid device for someone wanting to take a plunge into the realm of smartphones. It is completely free with a 2-year contract, so that is a great incentive for someone wanting to make the switch to a smartphone, as other higher-end models can cost upwards of $400 even with the 2-year contract. As a standalone phone, the Crossover costs $349. And finally, the Pantech Crossover is only available on AT&T, so sorry Verizon and Sprint customers.