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If you've been hunting for an affordable Android phone with a full QWERTY keyboard, consider the Pantech Crossover on AT&T. The Crossover ($70 with a new two-year AT&T contract, as of June 13, 2011) makes for a good messaging phone, but it doesn't seem to handle games or other processor-heavy apps all that well.
The Crossover won't win any design awards. The phone feels plasticky in the hand, and at first glance you might easily mistake it for a simple feature phone. Measuring 4.45 by 2.28 by 0.56 inches and weighing a reasonably light 5.15 ounces, the Crossover isn't terribly bulky, despite the slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The phone looks rugged, though I don't expect that it can take as much abuse as, say, the Casio G'zOne Commando can.
The power and function keys are located at the top of the device, and a 3-megapixel camera occupies the rear (more on that later). The volume keys are on the left edge of the phone, while the charging port and the dedicated camera key are on the right. The front face of the Crossover is where you'll find the standard Android buttons (Back, Menu, Home, and Search), all situated under the 3.1-inch touchscreen.
If you hate typing on a touchscreen, the Crossover features a sleek slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Texting was as easy as pie. I found the keys quite responsive, though they did feel a bit cramped under my large hands. Using the on-screen virtual keyboard proved annoying due to the small buttons. The Crossover comes preloaded with Swype, but I still ended up using the physical keyboard more often. Unlike other keyboard-equipped phones, the Crossover lacks shortcut keys.
The Crossover runs Android 2.2 (Froyo) with a custom Pantech overlay. While not as dramatic as Samsung's TouchWiz, the overlay does add a bit of color to the plain-looking Android interface. We don't yet know whether the Crossover will be updated to Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), though I wouldn't hold out for that. The buttons are a little more finger-friendly, and the notification pane allows you to toggle your Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and alarm on and off without having to dig through the settings.
Much as Verizon does with its Android phones, AT&T and Pantech preload a handful of apps onto the Crossover. They include the standard AT&T apps (Navigator, Code Scanner, myAT&T, and the like) as well as a Compass app and a shortcut to install AllSport GPS from the Android Market. Something to note is that the Crossover allows you to sideload applications not found in the standard Android Market.
Specs and Performance
The Crossover packs a 1GHz processor, which is pretty good for an entry-level Android device. In my tests the phone ran smoothly in day-to-day tasks, though I noticed some lag when running multiple applications at once. The 320-by-480-pixel display was not very sharp, and the screen sometimes had issues registering touch input. The Crossover also struggled with GPS, and was never able to pinpoint my location on the map successfully.
Games such as Angry Birds suffered from the occasional slowdown, too. You'd think a phone with a 1GHz processor would be able to handle a (relatively old) game like that without much trouble. After I closed all other apps, the games ran better, but they still had their share of hiccups.
Calls on the phone were a little too quiet for my taste, and the person I called said that they could hear a large amount of static on their end. As for the battery, the Crossover lasted a full day on a single charge. Entry-level phones seem to have better battery life, mostly because they don't have to power massive 4-inch displays or 4G radios.
The Crossover's 3-megapixel camera performed admirably, though you wouldn't want to capture precious memories with it. Colors were represented quite well, and I didn't detect any white balance issues.
Videos were plagued with artifacts and became extremely blurry when I panned the phone. The Crossover also had difficulty picking up sound. Audio that it did capture sounded as if it were coming from a tin can.
Music playback was just as bad. I heard a strange echo effect on the MP3 file that I tried--which is a shame, considering that the Crossover's music player has more features than the standard Android one does. You can rate songs in the music player, and you can skip to the next song in your playlist by shaking the device.
As with other entry-level Android phones, with the Pantech Crossover you really get what you pay for. Sluggish performance, subpar call quality, and horrific audio playback make this phone a tough sell. If you have a text-happy teenager who doesn't use apps and who already owns a stand-alone MP3 player, this phone will be suitable. For everyone else, any phone on our Top AT&T Phones chart will be much better.
The Pantech Crossover has terrible multimedia capabilities.
- Decent camera
- Physical QWERTY keyboard
- Sluggish performance in games
- Poor audio quality
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