Review: AT&T Pantech Duo Bridges Lifestyle and Business

by Joseph Moran

Windows Mobile Smartphone with both a slider keyboard and keypad is a capable and versatile traveling companion.

Before you plunk down your hard-earned money for a smartphone, you've got some tough choices to make, and not just about deciding between the Windows Mobile, Palm, or Symbian operating systems. You also have to consider the design of the device—do you go with one that squeezes a keyboard into a conventional phone's vertical orientation, or do you forgo that familiar and convenient layout for the more spacious keyboard of a horizontal slider?

That's one choice you don't have to make with the AT&T Pantech Duo C180. This inexpensive ($199) dual-slider device aims to straddle the line between lifestyle phone and serious business tool, which it manages to accomplish for the most part.

The Pantech Duo runs the Windows Mobile 6 Standard operating system and is a quad-band GSM device that includes UMTS/HSDPA data support, so it will work with AT&T's 3G network. If 3G hasn't made it to your area yet you can fall back to relatively pokey EDGE support, but that will be the only fallback option since the Duo lacks Wi-Fi. Although not everyone needs Wi-Fi, we think it should be a standard feature in a phone of this type and price.

The first thing you notice about the Duo is its diminutive footprint, if not size. It weighs but 3.9 ounces and measures a scant 4- x 2-inches when closed, and while the .83-inch thickness is high, it's not surprising considering the three-layer design. The Duo also projects a fairly stylish look, as it's clad in glossy charcoal colored plastic with a faux-steel accent around a bright and vibrant 2.2-inch screen. The display is not a touch screen, and thus the Duo lacks a stylus.

 AT&T Pantech Duo C180
The AT&T Pantech Duo C180 with QWERTY keyboard.

The Duo's battery is rated for three hours talk time and 10 days on standby, and those estimates seem to jibe with our experience; we got more than three days out of a charge with moderate usage. For what it's worth, getting the battery in and out is a cinch probably because there is no separate battery cover to remove first.

Other than when inserting the SIM card, you won't have to venture behind the battery because the Duo's microSD slot-which can accommodate up to a 2GB card—is conveniently located on the top edge of the device. (You'll probably need to slide the phone vertically to open the slot's protective door though, especially if you lack any fingernails to speak of.) The Duo's built in memory is 64MB.

Below the screen are the standard array of controls consisting of send and end, a pair of soft keys, plus home and back buttons. There's an additional button to call up the profile list and which when held down will lock the phone.

Sliding the Duo up exposes the large twelve-button numeric keypad. Unfortunately, the keys are made of the exact same glossy plastic as the rest of the phone, the texture of which does little to keep your fingers from sliding around while you dial.

When you slide the Duo's face to the right, the full QWERTY keyboard is revealed. These keys have a better feel, but with no curvature and very little space in between they also lack a good tactile feel, particularly for quick thumb typing.

Switching the phone between its vertical and horizontal orientations is easy -- perhaps a bit too easy in the latter case. On a couple of occasions we inadvertently did a partial slide while gripping the phone with one hand. Although the Duo's display is not small for a device of this size, it can feel a bit cramped when using the phone in landscape mode.

We found the Duo's call audio quality to be very good, and that includes the speakerphone, which is quite clear and loud.

The Duo's offers the voice command feature built into Windows Mobile, which you can use to display contacts or dial phone numbers directly. You can also open some of the Duo's major applications by voice command, but not all of them-many of our attempts were met by a nonplussed response from the Duo, and you can't prerecord your own voice tags for specific applications. Forums. Join the discussion today!

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In terms of connectivity the Duo has the bases covered, as it comes with AT&T's Xpress Mail, which you can use to configure Microsoft Outlook for both personal and corporate e-mail accounts. Setting up the former is almost effortless, and we had no trouble using it with a Comcast account.

Windows Mobile also supports Direct Push e-mail with Microsoft Exchange, and if your organization doesn't support the feature you have the option of using Xpress Mail if you download and install a redirector application on your PC. AIM, Windows Live and Yahoo instant messaging services come preinstalled.

The Duo comes outfitted with software for tasks both professional and personal. Of course, this being a Windows Mobile device, you get Office Mobile with the ability to edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, and there's also the ClearVue PDF viewer included.

AT&T Pantech Duo C180
The AT&T Pantech Duo C180 with numeric keypad.

To help you make prodigious use of a 3G data connection, the Duo includes lots of options for mobile streaming of multimedia content. You can use AT&T Mobile Music to purchase and download music from Napster and eMusic, as well as stream 25 channels of XM Radio to the device (for an $8.99 monthly charge). For video, AT&T's Cellular Video feature offers news, sports, and weather clips from the likes of CNN, ESPN, Fox and NBC.

You can of course transfer your own music and video to the Duo for playback in Windows Media Player. One minor nit we found is that for some reason, the volume controls on the Duo's upper left edge that control call and overall system volume don't serve the same function in Media Player (you must instead use the D-pad).

To connect headphones to the Duo you must use the same mini-USB connector the device uses for charging and synching. Fortunately, the Duo includes the adapter that converts it to a standard 3.5mm audio jack, but its use monopolizes the port and prevents you from charging or synching at the same time (and we can also envision losing the adapter it before too long). The Duo's Bluetooth support includes the A2DP profile for wireless stereo headphones.

On the underside of the Duo resides the lens for the phone's 1.3 megapixel camera which lacks a flash, but does include a self-portrait mirror. 1.3 megapixels is nothing to write home about these days, and while the pictures we took weren't especially sharp, they did exhibit better color saturation than most phone-based cameras we've looked at. The camera can also record MPEG4 video at up to 320 x 240 resolution.

The Duo will set you back $299.99 with a two-year contract, which ain't cheap Ultimately we wish the Pantech Duo had built-in Wi-Fi and that a little more attention had been paid to the physical design of the keypad and keyboard. But in spite of these weaknesses, we think most people will find the phone capable and versatile traveling companion.

Adapted from SmartPhoneToday.com.

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This article was originally published on Wednesday Apr 16th 2008
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