The budget Android market and the high-end Android market have traditionally been worlds apart; but that’s beginning to change with phones like the Pantech Discover that start to bridge the gap between the two. The budget price tag of $50 is slapped onto a phone that’s equipped with specs to rival some of the high-end phones out there. But can the Discover really compete with the myriad of other phones in the market? Let’s take a look in my full review.
As a whole, the Pantech Discover fares quite well with a consistent speediness about it and decent hardware. Lag was quite rare and the fluidity was comparable to the HTC One X and came close to the Galaxy S III. The software certainly wasn’t up to par in terms of looks with things like Touchwiz, Sense, and Motorola’s UI, but it did perform well. The hardware on the device was solid and worked very well. Overall, the Pantech Discover would fit the bill nicely for any average user.
Moving onto hardware, the Discover is fitted with a 4.8″ 720p LCD display, 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, 1GB RAM, 12.6-megapixel camera, NFC, and a 2,100mAh battery to power the whole device. The phone kept up well with the paces that I put it through and rarely encountered any sort of lag or stutter. Quadrant Standard scores were generally around 5,000 so they were quite similar to other phones with Snapdragon S4 processors. Apps opened quickly and scrolling was surprisingly smooth during most things. Even after loading plenty of my apps onto the device, it still maintained a high level of performance which is surprising for budget phones like this as many others will slow down a lot after you install your apps. So it looks like the Discover can hold its own in the performance department.
Of course, hardware involves the build quality of the device and I’m happy to say that in most ways, the Discover doesn’t disappoint. The plastic back of the device is extremely sturdy and doesn’t feel cheaply made like some other manufacturer’s plastic backs. Yes, Samsung, I’m talking to you. The phone is also nicely curved with the back curving slightly outward at the top and the bottom to both make room for the dual speakers and charging port as well as to provide a comfortable feel in the hand. Unfortunately, the display was a bit disappointing. As time went on, I found that it was both sharp and bright but lacked accurate colors and deep blacks. Even worse were the viewing angles which were absolutely atrocious. With just a slight bit of tilting, things became quickly washed-out and discolored. Disappointing, to say the least. While it may not bother some people, it could be an issue for many who may want something like a Galaxy S III or HTC One X due to their infinitely better displays. This is quite possibly the biggest downfall of the Discover.
But we have to consider the software as well, because that can truly make or break a device. On the Pantech Discover, I’m still confused as to which one of those things it does. The design is conflicting and has elements of both old Android and new Android mashed together into one. And yet, it does work well and once you get used to the odd design choices, it’s not too bad. It certainly wouldn’t win any awards but it is usable and works well at that. The software doesn’t slow the phone down and has some nifty features such as two rows of quick controls in the notification shade with the second row being collapsible. Both are also scrollable to allow for more options so most settings are available right in the notification shade. The stock Messaging app was also quite nice to use as it was very fast and simple. There are voice and gesture controls that you can use, similar to what Samsung has on the Galaxy S III and Note II, but the gesture controls were a bit quirky and the voice controls were incredibly unreliable, giving me a server error message every five seconds in most situations. However, the software worked well for the most part and while it wasn’t the prettiest, the average consumer will probably be just fine with it.
Looking at the battery life, the Pantech Discover actually surprised me quite a bit with this. I expected it to run out pretty quickly as is the case with many other budget smartphones. Instead, the 2,100mAh battery kept chugging all day long and after around two and a half to three hours of screen on time, it would be between 40% and 50%. That certainly exceeded my expectations for it and is definitely comparable to many high-end phones. Good on Pantech for paying some attention to the battery life of the device.
But what about that camera? With 12.6-megapixels it’s bound to be good, right?
Unfortunately, the answer is not really. Megapixels certainly aren’t everything and this further underlines that fact. Low light shots are predictably noisy and lacking in detail. The camera fares better outdoors where it is capable of taking some decent shots if you have good lighting. Macro shots also turned out surprisingly detailed. I did try out the panorama function and while it lacked in detail, colors were good and it was put together very well without any odd overlaps or strange distortions. But the biggest problem that I encountered was how slow the camera is. Focusing isn’t very fast and it takes forever to take the picture. I can guarantee you that the zero shutter lag cameras found in many other high-end phones is not present here. The shutter button doesn’t even have a visual or haptic response when you press it so you’re left wondering for a couple of seconds if you hit it or not. This might be able to be fixed in a software update though so that gives me at least a bit of hope for it.
I was happy with AT&T’s network when testing this device. Calls were clear and crisp on both ends and coverage was generally good, even covering some areas that Verizon didn’t. There was one night when I did have network problems though. It began with the phone flickering between and HSPA+ and EDGE in a strong coverage area and it eventually switched completely over to EDGE. It was the same all across town and when checking Facebook, I noticed a couple of other AT&T users in my area complaining about the same problem. Luckily, the problem was fixed by morning so I’m just going to mark it as a random network anomaly. Other than that, Big Blue did a great job with their network.
The Pantech Discover is an interesting phone, it labels itself as a budget phone but it packs powerful specs. And in the end, it doesn’t completely fit in either the budget or the high-end categories. But it does target the average consumer and not a power user and with that goal in mind, I feel that it succeeds. There were some things about the phone that could have been better but the average consumer most likely won’t notice those things. But for someone like myself who is closer to a power user than the average consumer, I also found it quite enjoyable. Sure, the screen and camera could have been better but besides that, the phone was mostly free of problems and I could use it for a daily driver and be fairly happy. So good job, Pantech, your device is worth taking a look at.