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Pantech Verse (U.S. Cellular) Review
The Pantech Verse is fine for texting, but there are better choices on U.S. Cellular.
(2 out of 5)
- Compact design
- Decent keyboard.
- Terrible battery life
- Non-standard headphone jack
- Poor camera
- No 3G
- Styling isn’t for everyone
A verse by any other name would smell as sweet. At least, that’s the case with the Pantech Verse. You see, the Pantech Verse is the same phone as the Pantech Jest 2 we reviewed on Verizon (Free, 2 stars). We weren’t big fans of that phone, and it doesn’t fare any better on U.S. Cellular, rebranded here as the Verse. The phone’s primary strength, a tiny but comfortable form factor with a full QWERTY keyboard, isn’t enough to outweigh its shortcomings, of which there are many. There’s no standard headphone jack, so media is pretty much out. The camera is best left unused, and slow 2G speeds means you’re stuck in the Internet slow lane. Even at just $29.99, you can get more for your money elsewhere.
Design, Keyboard, and Voice Quality
The Verse is short and squat, at 3.7 by 2.6 by 0.6 inches (HWD) and 4.1 ounces. It’s made entirely of black plastic, with a textured, rubberized back panel, and a neon green ring around the middle. It’s an interesting look, to be sure, but it probably won’t appeal to everybody (myself included). Still, the small size makes the Verse especially portable—it should fit into the pocket of even the skinniest skinny jeans.
The phone’s 2.4-inch, 320-by-240-pixel LCD looks acceptably bright and sharp. There’s a five-way control pad beneath the display, in between two function keys. Four additional function keys sit beneath the control pad. They’re well sized and easy to press, but given the small size of the phone, it feels a bit crowded.
The Verse opens up to reveal a four-row QWERTY keyboard, with more of that neon green embellishment. The keyboard feels surprisingly roomy given its small size. The keys are somewhat flat and it’s easy to press the wrong one at first, but I quickly grew used to it. Text messages are threaded, so they appear as a conversation. That, combined with the keyboard, makes the Verse a decent texting device.
The Pantech Verse is a dual-band 1xRTT (850/1900 MHz) device with no Wi-Fi. That means you’re stuck with slow 2G speeds. This isn’t much of an internet phone, so that’s not a major deal, but it makes for slow Web browsing.
Reception is fine, and voice quality is about average. Voices sound thin and grainy in the earpiece, but they’re easy to understand and volume is good. Calls made with the phone are somewhat mumbled, and noise cancellation is average. Calls sounded good through a Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset ($129, 4.5 stars) and the Nuance-powered voice dialing worked fine over Bluetooth. The speakerphone sounds a little distorted but goes just loud enough to use outdoors. Battery life was terrible, unfortunately, at just 3 hours and 7 minutes of talk time.
Apps, Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions
The main menu is a grid of 9 icons. It’s easy to navigate, but that’s because there isn’t very much you can do with the Verse. There’s no built-in email, which is disappointing, given that this is a messaging phone. Still, you can access email through the Opera Mini browser. Opera’s server side compression helps to deliver Web pages more quickly, but there’s no denying that 2G data is slow. There’s little in the way of additional apps; you get the standards like a calculator, calendar, and stopwatch, but that’s about it.
You can pretty much count the Verse out for multimedia. There’s a scant 42MB of free internal memory, along with an empty microSD card slot, in which my 32 and 64GB SanDisk cards worked fine. The Verse recognized all of the music and video files on my microSD cards without needing to place them in a specific folder, but the non-standard 2.5mm headphone jack means there isn’t an easy way to listen to them. The Verse played AAC, MP3, and WMA audio files as well as H.264 and MPEG-4 video files at resolutions up to 320-by-240-pixels, but audio was low and sounded tinny through Altec Lansing Backbeat Bluetooth headphones ($99.99, 3.5 stars).
The 2-megapixel camera lacks flash or auto-focus. Shutter speeds are fast, at .5 second, but photos are pretty poor. Colors look average, but details are sorely lacking. Unfortunately, the video camera is worse. Videos max out at 176-by-144-pixels, which is about the size of a postage stamp. They look soft and blurry, and play back at a stuttering 14 frames per second. It’s not even worth using.
The Pantech Verse is a decent choice if all you want to do is text. But even then, better options are available. The LG Saber (3 stars) is free, and features a more universally appealing design than the Verse, though it too lacks anything in the way of additional features. If texting is your top priority, your best bet is the Samsung Character (Free, 3.5 stars), which gets you much better multimedia options, a roomier keyboard, and a touch display. If you’re just looking for something simple and don’t need a keyboard, the LG Wine II ($29.99, 3.5 stars) offers good call quality and large buttons in a simple flip phone design. On the other hand, if you’re looking to do more with your phone, the Samsung Mesmerize (4.5 stars) is a powerful Android smartphone that now costs just $49.99, though you’ll be paying more for a monthly data fee.
Continuous talk time: 3 hours 7 minutes
By Alex Colon, PCMag