The Pantech Crux looks good, but the flashy exterior is the best thing about the decidedly mid-range feature phone.
The Crux is a slender 4.3-by-2.3-by-0.5 inches, making it plenty slim to slide into your pocket. One of the main features is its subtle sliding panel, which locks the touch screen if you open it about a quarter of an inch. When you slide it back up, the display unlocks.
But this major selling point is rather pointless. If you leave it sitting on a table, it locks itself anyway. Just use a traditional software-based screen lock, which is more convenient than opening the phone.
Meanwhile, the 3-inch screen uses haptic feedback, which doesn't require as much pressure as a resistive display, but you can't adjust sensitivity. That's a problem because sometimes apps don't launch on first touch, which makes the phone feel sluggish. Compounding matters, the touch display isn't very accurate, so make sure you're clicking on the right app to begin with.
Still the 240-by-400 pixel resolution is clear, but the small screen size means the on-screen keyboard is cramped. In portrait mode, there's a number pad; turn it sideways and you get the keyboard. Unfortunately, the same sensitivity problem appears when typing. The keyboard is much too sensitive, so the slightest brush-up types a letter. If you text too fast, you'll be fixing mistakes. In addition, often, a slight lag will delay the text and make jumble words. Fortunately, there's automatic word completion, but it's a minor consolation to a major flaw.
The Crux has three different home screens -- social networking, main menu and favorite media files. The social networking screen has two layers -- one for Google apps such as Gmail, a news feed, YouTube and Google Talk, and another for Verizon's Social beat, which houses Twitter, Facebook and MySpace all in one interface. You can't remove or add apps from this layer, but you can customize the favorite media screen.
It also has a good music player. If you tilt it sideways, it cues up a jukebox view of album covers, much like an iPhone, which is pretty cool, and it also syncs with Rhapsody and streams VCast videos -- all good features for a low-end feature phone.
Rounding out the list, the 3-megapixel camera takes decent photos in well-lit areas, but it doesn't have flash or auto-focus, so it's only good for the quick shot. Video quality is awful. At 640-by-480 pixels and just 12 frames per second, you're looking at grainy clips that aren't useable for much of anything.
The Crux does have some decent multimedia options, and a worthy 1-gigabyte microSD card included, so load up those songs, videos and photos.
Overall, the touch screen will frustrate you, especially if you do a lot of texting. There's also too many screens to navigate and the camera is subpar. But the Crux is an entry-level device and a step up over touch-less feature phones -- but really, only about a half-step up. They say you get what you pay for, and in this case, the lower price will buy you a mediocre, yet flawed, phone you'll replace before your contract is up. ♦
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