That pool looks cool and refreshing, and all of the kids are having the time of their lives. Problem is, it's in an exclusive club, leaving you to stare at it longingly from the opposite side of a chainlink fence. We know the feeling, and it ain't fun -- yet, the state of LTE in the US over the last year has had just a pinch of elitism due to its high cost of entry and exclusion from most rural areas. Needless to say, lots of customers have felt the underlying feeling of inadequacy because their wallets may come up a Benjamin or two short.
The Pantech Breakout is the fifth phone in Verizon's LTE lineup, and the first clear departure from the piggy bank-busting prices that its predecessors command. With Big Red boasting a 4G lineup full of monotonous 4.3-inch behemoths, we've been anxiously awaiting something different. Something -- anything -- that could likely appease a different set of customers eager to take advantage of this speedy network. The 4-inch Breakout certainly is capable of appealing to a wider demographic.
What's this -- Verizon's LTE selection has now grown to include a handset that doesn't offer a 4.3-inch display? 'Tis true: the Pantech Breakout feels like an appropriate name for the first device to break from the 4G mold by featuring a smaller screen and a much lower cost. We know, it's not too often that we gush about a phone that takes advantage of less screen space, but we feel strongly that a variety of different options in a lineup is typically a good thing; the average customer likes having an opportunity to choose from a wide selection of devices.
The Breakout's also the lightest choice in the lineup, weighing 4.9 ounces (138g). Measuring 12mm (0.47 inches) thick, it sizes up well against the Samsung Droid Charge and is only a millimeter bulkier than the Motorola Droid Bionic. Despite landing in the budget category, the Breakout doesn't feel all that cheap -- it's not likely to shatter into a million pieces if dropped on concrete, though it's probably not the most durable option in the lineup, either. If nothing else, it's easier to hold in the palm of our hand comfortably, due to its smaller size, gently inward-sloping sides and textured back.
Despite its bargain-price status, Pantech managed to toss in a WVGA display -- the same as the Thunderbolt and Revolution. The only difference here is a slightly higher pixel density as a result of the smaller screen, and consequently our viewing experience was never interrupted by pixels attacking our eyes. Not shying away from performance, either, the Breakout has a modest but fully usable 1GHz single-core CPU with 512MB of RAM. In addition, the device comes with a 5MP shooter in the back, a VGA front-facing cam, an 8GB microSD card and a 1,500mAh battery.
Interestingly, the Breakout crams all of its ports and buttons onto the left and right sides. We typically see a few features on top or bottom, but these were likely moved to help maintain the body's smooth curves without disruption. The microUSB port, power / lock button and dedicated camera button are all found on the right side, while the left side houses voice activation, the volume rocker and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the upper left -- though forcing the headphones to shoot out the side of the phone isn't our top design choice.
On the front, we're greeted by four physical navigation keys -- the standard setup of menu, home, back and search apply here. Much like the Samsung Conquer 4G, the buttons offer just the right amount of give without sticking too far out of the device itself. We also felt they enhance the Breakout's overall design, causing this budget phone to exhibit a more expensive aura. Above the display we find the front-facing cam, sensors and phone speaker. Giving the phone a full 180-degree turn, the 5MP camera and external speaker grille sit atop the textured back. The obligatory Verizon 4G logo is emblazoned on the battery cover, which hides the battery, SIM card (for LTE, not GSM -- sorry travelers, this phone won't help you overseas) and microSD.
Pantech's decorated Android 2.3.3 with its own proprietary skin, which we'll dive into in more detail since the company's only released one other device in the US that runs off of Google's mobile OS: the Froyo-based Crossover on AT&T. The UI has grown up substantially in the last four months in terms of look and functionality, adopting select features from other Android skins and bringing them into its fold.
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