The Hotshot is all flash and little function: it looks like a smartphone, but it's a feature phone -- and a fairly unimpressive one at that. By straddling that line, Pantech ended up way off the mark. The term "hotshot" is a bit ironic since you'd ever think of it as an ace.
Of course, as long as friends don't come close, you can trick them that it's a smartphone, but you can save money on a data plan. But on closer inspection, you'll see the awful screen and software. The Hotshot is a steep step down from even the lowest-level smartphone, and it's not even a decent a feature phone.
The Hotshot took design cues from Samsung, like the glossy plastic material, which attracts smudges. It comes in bright, metallic red -- the only reason to call it a hotshot -- for a livelier look than dull chrome and black phones. The body is compact and lightweight at just over three ounces. Watch out for the plastic flap covering on the micro-USB port, it'll get ripped off if you snare it on a purse. Overall, there's not much to mention. It's a cheap phone, and you get what you pay for. The black matte back has a diamond pattern for some aesthetic pizzazz.
Alas, the 3.2-inch screen is just as bad. The 400-by-240 pixel resolution is grainy, and the 146-ppi pixel density is bad -- wallpapers icons and images look heavily pixelated. The 18-bit color depth, meanwhile, makes each 262,000 color look washed out. Outdoors it's hard to see in direct sunlight. But, almost unbelievably, the touch is even worse. It's not "if" you'll get frustrated -- it's when you'll lose it when you use it. Every touch is slow to respond, due to the slow 480-megahertz chip, and you can clearly see a delay with each press -- whether you try to scroll between homescreens or type a message. Also frustrating, the onscreen keyboard works only in landscape mode. And, of course, a flip to portrait takes a few seconds of everlasting lag.
If you're still reading this, despite the Tale of the Worst Screen Ever, the 3.2-megapixel camera will seem like sweet relief: it's not completely awful, it's just mediocre. There are a surprisingly robust array of settings and editing tools, including a self-timer, four resolution settings and a number of color and lighting options. But alas, the treasure trove of extras doesn't make up for the lack of auto-focus and flash. Photos come out fine, but in low light, there's a lot of blur.
The Hotshot is a feature phone, so you won't have to pay for a data plan. But since it lacks Wi-Fi, you'll be charged an arm and a leg if you plan on browse the Web, or use Verizon's 3G network at all. The temptation to pay is minimal -- you can only watch YouTube clips from a tiny sliver of the screen, and they seem grainy and hard-to-see. While there's an e-mail app to check Gmail and Hotmail, among others, the ridiculous charges make it cheaper to buy a smartphone in the long run. Maybe that's what Verizon wanted. So unless you plan to just call and text, get a real smartphone so you don't have to deal with this headache of a device.
The 1,000 mAh battery, meanwhile, is the best part. I got around five hours of talk time and well over a day before having to charge. I suppose the dull screen and the poor Internet service saves power.
The Hotshot is free with a two-year contract, and since it's a little light and toy-like, it's best-suited for children, since they'll feel like they have a "grown up" smartphone. You can limit the Internet, and the painfully slow processor will teach them the value of patience. For adults, though, I emphatically suggest you pass unless you like to get irrationally angry at inanimate devices. ♦
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