The Pantech C3b might have you rethinking the whole "bigger is better" thing. With surprisingly good voice quality, this tiny 2.5-ounce clamshell phone from AT&T (which is only $19.99 with a two-year contract if you buy online) is the smallest flip phone on the market. It's like the phone from Zoolander-except this one works. It even comes with Bluetooth, but you'd be lucky to find a headset much smaller than this cell.
About the size of a pack of gum, the 2.7 x 1.7 x 0.8-inch phone not only leaves you with more than enough room in your pocket for your wallet but is also bound to have you digging around to find the little guy. With a boxy shape and silver-matte finish, the Pantech C3b's style is simple, though you can easily snap off the textured cover and replace it with the included blue faceplate. (Accessory packs with multicolor faceplates are available for $14.99 through AT&T). The phone's overall build is quite sturdy; the hinge felt solid but requires only one finger to flip it open.
The external color screen displays the time, date, battery status, signal strength, and incoming-call information. Just below that display sits the phone's VGA camera lens and flash. The volume rocker lies on the left edge just below the sealed headset port.
Open the C3b and you find a bright but small 1.5-inch color display and a cramped keypad with a D pad, two soft keys, and Send and End buttons. The screen is understandably small, and if you're far-sighted, this phone will feel like you're reading an eye chart. Though the menu was easy to navigate and we didn't have to squint when text messaging, the tiny screen made having more than two Yahoo Messenger chats at the same time impossible.
The tight keypad didn't make chatting any easier, and even more frustrating is that the top can't flip open as fully as other clamshell phones. Though this seems like a minor issue, it's our biggest complaint, as we couldn't get the phone to fit comfortably to our ear.
On the plus side, we were blown away by the C3b's call quality. We could hear our callers with absolutely no echo, which is surprising for such a small phone; don't bother with the tinny speakerphone, though. Surfing the Web delivered quick response times over GPRS (that's right, you don't even get EDGE), but this fashion phone wasn't designed for data hounds. We see most users at most downloading ringtones or wallpapers.
The device's VGA camera was good enough for sharing pics via MMS, and the flash even let us take some decent pictures at night. We also had fun with the C3b's multishot mode, which lets you take four, six, or nine quick frames of a moving image. We like that you can use the phone as a flashlight by holding down the external volume button. Other features include an internal stopwatch and a measurement converter.
Our tests proved that Pantech's reported three hours of talk time and ten days of standby time weren't generous enough, as we chatted for about 4.5 hours before the C3b's battery drained. With that kind of endurance, you don't have to worry too much about using the Bluetooth connection. Pairing the C3b with our Kyocera Bluetooth headset was easy.
Even though the Pantech C3b looks like a gag gift, it performs well given its small size. However, if comfort is important to you, and you're a heavy texter, you would be better off buying a slightly bigger phone with a wider keypad and larger screen.
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