It's in the app tray, though, that you'll find Pantech's most creative flourish. You'll still be greeted by the same 4x4 grid of app icons, but you can choose a different background to add a little "spice" to your experience. Some backgrounds cleverly make each row look like shelves (which looks eerily similar to stuff we've seen come out of Apple's camp, such as Newsstand). It's different and looks kind of cool, but it's also completely unnecessary and likely hinders the phone's performance. We should note, however, that you can avoid these by simply choosing the all-black background.
Bloatware, as is typical with carrier-branded phones, runs amok on the Pocket. Along with the standard pre-installed Android apps (or Pantech's own version of each, anyways) comes a few proprietary Pantech apps as well as AT&T's suite. Games weren't a focus here, as evidenced by the fact that there aren't any that come on the device. Amazon Kindle, AT&T FamilyMap, AT&T Code Scanner, Live TV, Movies, myAT&T and YP are all uninstallable without needing to root your phone, but everything else on there remains stuck. Fortunately, Pantech threw in the ability to rearrange icons in the app tray so all of those useless apps you can't stand can at least be put to the end of your list so they're not getting in the way, but we were disappointed by the lack of folders within the tray in order to just hide these apps from plain view forever and ever.
Pantech threw in an app called PC Connector Suite, which allows you to access your phone from your computer using either a USB connection or the same WiFi network. If you're unable to find the desktop client for the Pantech suite, head over to the support page for the Pocket and you'll find it there as a downloadable program.
Another disappointment is the inability to change out the bottom row of static icons which features the phone app, messaging and browser. And adding insult to injury, AT&T has publicly admitted (though downloading a detector app would tell us the same thing anyways) that the Pocket is currently riddled with CarrierIQ
Two-handed typing on the keyboard was good, but it's a completely different story when only using one hand.
One perk of having such a large screen was that we had no difficulty typing with two hands on the virtual keyboard in either portrait or landscape mode. Using one hand, however, proved to be a bit more of a challenge in both modes. We expect to have a hard time doing one-handed typing in landscape mode, but it gets frustrating when we have to outstretch our thumbs and risk straining them just to hit a letter on the opposite site of the keyboard. By default you're given two virtual options: the stock Android 'board and the ever-popular Swype. Either one will do the job just fine, and your personal preference should easily steer you towards one or the other.
As for that frozen, dairy-flavored elephant in the room, it's unclear if the Pocket will be the lucky recipient of an upgrade to Android 4.0 -- also known as Ice Cream Sandwich
-- as the company has yet to confirm either way.
Performance and battery life
The news doesn't get a whole lot better with the phone's performance. Before we go any farther in our assessment, we'll quickly point out that the Pocket is a budget device that's likely geared toward first-time smartphone users or young adults, and is not meant to be the fastest phone on the planet. So if you fall into one of those categories and only need your handset to do basic tasks, you're likely not going to see (or care) what all of the fuss is about.
That said, the Pocket doesn't feel like it's using a 1GHz single-core CPU with 512MB of RAM. We would've guessed it was running on a 600 or 800MHz CPU instead. It's not dreadfully slow, but don't expect a zippy performance from it when handling multiple tasks. We saw some delays when swiping from one screen to the next, and internet browsing has a noticeable lag when scrolling up and down on a large site and even when pinch-zooming. As mentioned earlier, the camera itself exhibits a hefty amount of lag -- not just in processing the image, but even opening up the application takes a significant amount of time.
While we don't judge solely on benchmark scores, the ones we ran on the Pocket were all over the place. Its Quadrant score stuttered in the 1,300 range, but the phone had an above-average Vellamo and SunSpider score, and Nenamark and Neocore were both significantly lower than similarly-spec'd models.
In addition to feeling like you're holding a tablet to your face every time you make a call, the actual voice quality isn't top-notch either. While nobody complained about our mic or the way we sounded, the voice on the other end of the line would often be tinny or slightly distorted. Fortunately, we rarely ever had to ask the other person to repeat themselves, but the Pocket isn't the best when you're looking for noise-free calls.
The volume on the speakerphone and media player was workable in a quiet room while playing at an average level, but it was too soft to play in a louder environment; the sound was always distorted and the entire battery cover buzzed and vibrated whenever the meter was cranked up to a maximum.
The battery on the Pocket is rated for six hours of constant talk time, and when doing our standard video run-down tests, it lasted for six hours and fifteen minutes straight before dying. We were easily able to get through a full day of moderate use with roughly ten to fifteen percent left over, but you'll want to charge it up every night while you're asleep.
Lastly, on multiple occasions we locked the screen only to discover a few minutes later that the phone was in eternal sleep mode and would not wake up without a hard battery pull. This was most common when we were outdoors, leading us to wonder if the Pocket just isn't able to handle certain weather conditions very well.
We want companies to be creative and innovative. We often find ourselves rooting for the little guys that are willing to go out on a limb and try something new and clever, even if there's little chance of succeeding. After all, you never know if something's going to be a hit until you give it a shot. While we're disappointed that the Pantech Pocket didn't work out quite the same way we'd hoped, we applaud the possibilities being explored and would love to continue seeing new and creative ideas to break up the monotony of the same 'ol slate phones that dominate the industry today.
Here's the problem: it's so risky to put out a device like this that neither the carrier nor OEM want to invest much money into executing the concept to its fullest. Because of this, phones that fall under this category typically aren't made well, don't sell well and poof -- goodbye innovation. The Pocket could have been a powerful handset with terrific performance, but was instead regarded as an experiment. A phone like the Pocket may be perfect for a small slice of users who have large hands, need a basic smartphone that does simple tasks and offers a larger viewing experience, but it's not going to tempt anyone else.