First Impressions Of The Pantech Discover: My Thoughts

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Not long before winter storm Nemo blasted its way through Michigan on Thursday, the Fed-Ex man showed up at my door with a special package, the Pantech Discover. Now that I’ve spent a couple of days with it, I thought I’d throw up a brief post about what I think of it so far. So let’s cut the small talk and get down to business.

The Pantech Discover is targeted as a budget phone with a price tag of $49.99 but its specs don’t seem to match the price. With things like a 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 1GB RAM, 4.8″ 720p display, and a 12.6-megapixel camera, it sounds like it should have a starting price closer to $149.99. Instead, Pantech has their sights set directly at the lower-end of the high-end phone market. They packed high-end specs into a phone with a low price point and I’ve got to say, I absolutely love it.

Performance has been very snappy, even with a decent amount of apps installed. Lag is nearly non-existent and the smoothness even comes close to that of my Galaxy S III. It’s not quite as fluid in everything but it’s pretty damn close. I haven’t done extensive gaming on it but from what I have tried, it plays just as well as any other Snapdragon S4 device which in other words means that you won’t be disappointed.

As for the software, well, it’s something, that’s for sure. I’m not sure what exactly Pantech was going for but the design scheme is a strange mesh of Gingerbread and the Holo theme from Ice Cream Sandwich. It is running ICS and not Jelly Bean, sadly, but the user interface is the thing that I want to focus on. Once you get over the initial confusion at its design, it’s both easy to use and works well. Pantech took a leaf out of Samsung’s book and included things like a battery percentage meter in the notification shade, quick settings in the notification shade, and voice controls for the camera. It’s an odd blend of different things but like I said, once you get used to it, it’s not bad at all. In fact, it’s pretty enjoyable.

The hardware is actually quite nice for a budget phone like this. The 4.8″ 720p display is just a standard LCD but it”s sharp and quite bright. It’s not perfect as it lacks the incredible viewing angles of other screens, becoming washed out after just a little bit of tilting. But if you look at it straight-on, the screen is certainly able to compete with other 720p displays in the high-end market. The build quality is surprisingly great with a sturdy body that’s curved in all the right places. If you compare the plastic back of the Discover with that of the Galaxy S III, the S III seems positively cheap. Even better, they took advantage of the curve at the top and put dual speakers for true stereo sound out of the device. It’s good to know that even at this low price point, Pantech didn’t sacrifice much with the build quality.

Finally, I’ll give my thoughts on the camera and battery of the device. With a 12.6-megapixel camera, some might expect incredible results out of it. But it’s already been shown that megapixels aren’t everything so how does the Pantech fare? Well, I have mixed feelings on the camera. In good lighting, photos turn out sharp and vibrant and compare well with other competitors. In low light, photos turn out predictably noisy but still better than some. But I was surprised by the panorama function on the Discover, while not the sharpest panorama that I’ve ever seen, it fit the shot together better than any other that I’ve seen. There was nothing out of place and the distortion was kept fairly minimal. Quite impressive from a budget phone. My biggest gripe with the camera is that it’s not very fast. Focusing is a bit slow with an annoying sound to accompany it. Pressing the shutter button freezes everything for a second or two before you can snap another picture. I’m not sure if these could be fixed with a software update but if so then Pantech needs to get on that.

And I can’t forget battery life, with just preliminary tests so far, I can’t give a completely accurate view but it seems good. After a day of fairly heavy usage on AT&T’s network, the battery was down to about 10% when I ended the day a little past midnight. Not bad considering it’s a budget device. Today has been even better with light to moderate use on AT&T’s network leaving it at about 70% as of the time of writing. Consistency is everything though so I’ll watch it closely over the next week or two.

That about wraps up my first impressions which were lengthier than I envisioned. I’ll be back in a week or two with my full review of the Pantech Discover so stay tuned!

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