If you’re looking for a slim, affordable messaging phone, Pantech’s Link will set you back just $10 (with a two-year contract from AT&T). The Link is delightfully slim (just 0.39 inch thick); and though it’s array of features is a bit modest, it is perfect for money-conscious texters.
The Link has a candy bar design with a textured, rubberized back. The thin-yet-durable phone measures 4.5 inches long by 2.4 inches wide, and weighs just 3.2 ounces. It has a bright, 2.4-inch TFT LCD screen (not a touchscreen) and a full QWERTY keyboard. The keys are rounded and raised, and feel sturdy enough to hold up to heavy texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging. In fact, the entire phone feels sturdy (despite its lightness) and the rubberized back is nice for gripping.
The 320-by-240-pixel LCD screen is bright and easy to look at, and the Link’s interface is attractive and dynamic. Below the screen are two softkeys: on the home screen, the right softkey points to the menu, while the left softkey opens a list of up to 12 customizable shortcuts. Next to the softkeys are a dedicated clear button and a dedicated speakerphone button. Navigation is a snap with the directional pad. The side of the phone features a volume rocker, a microSD card slot (which supports cards with up to 32GB of memory), a headphone/charging jack, and a camera button.
The Link’s preinstalled apps are perfect for well-connected individuals. It has an instant messaging app that supports AIM, Yahoo Chat, and MSN Messenger; a mobile e-mail app (which costs $5 a month after a 30-day trial); and AT&T’s mobile Yellow Pages app. You also get AT&T Online Locker, Mobile Web, GPS, and AT&T Music.
The operating system supports multitasking with up to three apps simultaneously. Each time you exit an app, the system prompts you to choose whether you want to close the app or push it to the background.
From the home screen, you can press the middle button on the directional pad to launch the Web browser. The browser loads reasonably quickly, and pages are easy to read and navigate, even though the browser doesn’t use full HTML. The dedicated ‘.com’ button on the keyboard is a nice feature for avid Web surfers.
The Link is not primarily a music phone, but it does have a music player. The AT&T Music Player lets you upload your own music, download music from Napster and eMusic Mobile, and create playlists on the fly. Other apps in the music section include the subscription-based AT&T Radio, Shazam for music recognition (free for three days; then $3 per month), MobiVJ for music videos (you get a 5-minute trial), and Make-UR-Tonesfor purchasing a song and creating a ringtone from it. Pantech doesn’t supply a USB cable with the phone, so if you want to transfer songs from your computer you’ll have to buy your own cable.
To activate the camera app, you either press the shutter button on the side of the phone or select the app from the shortcut menu. The settings are pretty basic–you can adjust white balance, effect (normal, sepia, negative, or B&W), self-timer (off, 5 seconds, or 10 seconds), picture size (the maximum is 1280 by 1024 pixels), and some advanced settings (such as picture quality and sounds). The 1.3-megapixel camera also captures video in MPEG-4 format. Images looked blurry and dark.
Call quality was very good. In my tests, voices sounded crisp on both ends of the line. Callers said that they could hear me clearly in a number of loud places, including on a busy street corner in San Francisco and in a Mustang convertible with the top down. The Talk and End buttons are big and easy to press.
Overall, the Pantech Link is a solid phone for the price—and its call quality is especially good. I loved its light, durable styling, and the easy-to-use keyboard, but I didn’t like the 1.3-megapixel camera or the fact that most of the features (including mobile e-mail) cost a little extra. Still, at $10 plus the cost of the optional features, the Link is a pretty good deal.