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Don't buy these phones (roundup)

Fact of life: not everything can be a hit. Case in point: these phones, which really, really missed the mark.

It's no easy task birthing a cell phone, but despite the hard work that goes into designing and manufacturing these handsets, things can go (very) awry. If you've been thinking about picking up one of the following phones the next time you head out of the house, well, you might want to reconsider.

The good: The Pantech Hotshot is thin and light to handle. Call quality is solid, and photos taken on its camera are surprisingly decent. It doesn't require a data plan.
The bad: The Hotshot's processor is extremely laggy. The touch screen isn't sensitive, making texting, swiping, and pinch-to-zoom frustrating. If you want data, the network is slow.
The bottom line: With its delayed touch screen and sluggish processor, the Hotshot's smartphone-esque look is a detriment. It's better to commit to a full-on feature phone or a smartphone instead of a device that overlaps the two.

At first glance, the Pantech Hotshot from Verizon Wireless looks like a low-entry smartphone. It has a touch screen, three customizable home screen pages, and you can quit and transition between "apps" in a way that is reminiscent of iOS.
But with a $100 price tag with a two-year contract (or a pricey $269.99 if you pay full retail), the device is actually a feature phone. As such, though it doesn't require a data plan, it can browse the Web and check e-mail like a smartphone.
In the end, straddling between these two identities makes this device not so hot (yes I made an obvious pun, don't judge me). Those who aren't technically savvy may find the handset unintuitive. On the other hand, those who are keen to current phone technology will find this device too elementary. And given the handset's specs and price of Verizon data service, it's not worth its salt as a data device.
The Pantech Hotshot is 4.67 inches long, 2.35 inches wide, and just 0.35 inch thick. Because of its petite frame and plastic build, it's incredibly lightweight, weighing only 3.2 inches. Though the device is easy to handle, and it fits comfortably in a jeans pocket, it also feels incredibly cheap. It resembles a fake toy phone that you'd give a toddler to play with.
On the left side of the handset are a volume rocker and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Above those two is something that really brings me back to the pre-smartphone days of yore: two holes to loop in a cell phone charm or lanyard.
At the top of the Hotshot is the sleep/power button. Moving to the right of the device, you'll see a Micro-USB port that's covered by a small plastic attached door. Below that are two shortcut keys: one accesses the handset's voice command feature that is powered by Nuance Communications, and the other opens the camera function.
The back of the phone is decorated with a small, and rather unpleasant, black diamond pattern, and it includes a camera on the top-right corner. Adjacent to that is a small reflect circle for vanity shots. On the left-top corner are three open grid lines for the output speaker. Only about half the backing is easily removable; the top portion is secured by a small screw. The bottom half, however, just needs to be pushed downward with some force and it will slide out.
Once this segment is removed, you can see the 1,000mAh lithium ion battery, which covers the 2GB microSD card (you can replace the card by removing the battery). The phone can handle up to 32GB cards.

The Pantech Hotshot has a cheap build, and the back of the phone has an unattractive diamond pattern.
All around the display is a red accent border. The device's LCD display is 3.2 inches and has a resolution of 240x400 pixels. It can show up to 262,000 colors, and its color depth is 18-bit. Needless to say, with numbers like these, the image quality on this handset is understandably below par. Photos appeared grainy and streaky, wallpapers and icons were pixelated, and colors captured on video weren't as vibrant as their real-life counterparts. The only thing that looked decent was the retro game of Pac-Man the came on the phone.
In addition to that, the touch screen isn't responsive; my Pac-Man seemed suicidal since I couldn't get him to turn corners. With plenty of seconds to spare but no sensitive display to rely on, Blinky, Inky, and Clyde usually got the best of me. T9 texting was difficult and swiping between the home screen's pages became a pain; if I happened to press too hard initially, the app that my finger first landed on would open. But when I lightened my touch a tad, nothing registered at all. In the end, it felt like a crapshoot to find just the magical amount of sensitivity to move between pages.
Above the display is the in-ear speaker, and below that is the home button that lights up in white. To quit or switch between apps, hold this button down. Click it twice, and you can switch between your home screen's three pages.
The Pantech Hotshot comes with the bare minimum amount of task management features. Under the icon Tools, you can access the device's built-in voice command feature, tip and standard calculators, a calendar, an alarm clock, a phone book (that can hold up to a 1,000 contacts), a stop watch, a world clock, a unit converter, and a notepad.
There's also Bluetooth, and text, picture, video, and voice messaging. For texting, when you hold the handset in landscape mode, the keyboard switches from a condensed setting (where three letters share a key), to a full QWERTY keyboard. You can also listen to uploaded music and play games. Game prices, however, are ridiculous. When you download a game, you pay either a monthly rate, which varies from depending on what game, or get an unlimited subscription. Scrabble cost $3.99 for unlimited play, Bejewled costs $6.99, and Tetris costs a whopping $7.99. In addition to Pac-Man, the phone also comes with the game Uno.
Again, a data plan is not required, but if you do decide to get one for your Hotshot, you will have to use the onboard Opera web browser. The device also has a mobile e-mail client, where you can add your Microsoft Exchange, Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, or AOL accounts.
There's also a My Verizon app, which is a quick way to access your account information and phone plan on the browser; a Media Center that enables you to buy ringtones and wallpapers; and VZ Navigator, a map and navigation feature that costs an extra $9.99 a month on top of your data plan.
The handset's 3.2-megapixel camera features an exposure meter and a settings menu where you can customize your photo options, which include: six white-balance choices (auto, sunny, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, and darkness); a self-timer; a multishot option; five resolution settings that range from 1,600x1,200 to 160x120 pixels; and four color modes (normal, antique, black and white, and negative).


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