Do you have kids? Do you hate technology? Pantech's Breeze 3 is the perfect phone for children and senior citizens, or if you just want to make calls and nothing more.
The Breeze 3 is stuck in 2008, so don't even glance at it unless you can face the stink of technological antiquity. Okay, you can do other stuff besides calls, but AT&T's pricing will charge you exorbitant rates, so if you want add-on services, you're better off with a smartphone -- like the iPhone 3G -- with a small data plan, since it'll be cheaper in the long run.
From a glace, you can tell it's as basic as it gets. It looks like the original Breeze and Breeze 2 -- a thick, curved and compact clamshell with big buttons. The grippy pattern on the back offers a textured look and feel. A 1.4-inch external screen displays useful information like the time and battery life. It shows off 65,000 colors, so you can view picture caller IDs, too. At 138-by-128 pixels, the resolution is as basic, yet useful, as the design -- I only wish it were larger. Below, an LED light lets you know if you have a message.
The 2.2-inch internal screen is too small to browse the Web or watch a movie, but the 320-by-240 resolution produces a surprisingly detailed display for reading text -- better than I expected for a 182-ppi pixel density. The 260,000 colors are somewhat wasted for making calls and reading text, but it comes in handy to view pictures.
The buttons are well-spaced, and an oversized keypad is fantastic -- even for the most fumbling fingers. I particularly like the three shortcut keys -- you can pre-program one for an emergency contact, so kids can just press it for a one-step help line. One small gripe: the keys lay flat against the frame, which makes them harder to press than raised buttons -- but it's not a big deal. The keyboard is just great.
But the "basic is better" philosophy extends to the camera, which is an unimpressive 1.3-megapixel lens that takes only the blurriest and haziest of photos you'll ever see. No matter how I fiddled with the four resolutions and white balance, colors looked duller than plain toast for breakfast.
The music player, though, is a better. The interface is just as simple as the rest of the phone -- I really liked the setup for creating playlists on the go. You can only store a few songs on the 80-megabytes of memory, so if you plan to listen to music, buy a microSD card -- you can add up to 32-gigabytes. AT&T bundled the player with Shazam, a music recognition app, and its AT&T Radio app. But I'd stick to the music player, since 3G use will set you back a pretty penny. The proprietary jack means you can't use your headphones.
You'll get two different versions of the proprietary software. "Breeze mode," an easy setting if you aren't used to technology, cements its status as an ideal beginner's phone. Think of it as training wheels. Then there's "Advanced," which is just a normal version of the basic software -- you can add e-mail services, GPS navigation, weather updates or other add-ons, but again, data charges are expensive. The list-based menu and pared-down interface is intuitive, so it's hard to get confused. Meanwhile, a pill reminder program and emergency speed dial keys make it perfect if you're buying it for the elderly. The battery lasts for three to four hours of talk time and about a week on standby, so it's great if you go out for a day and need it in case of an emergency.
Overall, the Breeze 3 is a great pick if you're buying it for a kid, a senior, or simply want a no-fuss phone. But if you want to use data, it doesn't make sense. Still, it's a tiny step up from its predecessor and bare-bone phones like the Pursuit 2. ♦
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