Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Week 1 (almost) With The Pantech Matrix Pro

It's been almost a week since I started using the Matrix Pro and it's kind-of growing on me. There is one thing that makes me want to smash the thing every time it happens and there are a few others that I would ding it on but overall, it's a nice phone.

Physical Attributes:
The Pantech Matrix Pro is a dual slider phone based on the popular Pantech Matrix. Slide the display up and you get a 9-key number pad. Slide sideways and you get a qwerty keyboard. It's a very stylish dusky blue with chrome-like highlights. When closed, the rounded top and bottom give it an almost capsule shape.

The front has a mirror-like shine to it that looks fantastic... for about 30 seconds until you touch it the first time. It is a fingerprint magnet (although not as bad as some parts of the HTC Fuze). The finish on the rest of the phone does not promote the visibility of smudges and fingerprints.

Just under the display is the control button cluster. There are two soft buttons, a pickup and an end button, back and home buttons, and a 4-way D-pad with center selector. The left side has volume and Rec buttons while the right has the camera button and data/charging port. The slot for the MicroSD card is on the bottom of the phone. On the back is the camera and speaker.

Compared to my HTC Fuze, the Pantech Matrix Pro is just as tall, minutely thicker, a little lighter and a little narrower. It also has a nice rounded design that makes it comfortable to hold up to your ear.

The number pad is flush with no effective tactile markings indicating where the 5 key is. It does have a backlight that activates when you slide the display up so that should help with locating keys in low light. The keyboard has slightly raised keys but they are crammed together pretty tightly. Because of the more rounded edges, the caps/shift key on the lower left and the back key on the lower right are almost cut in half diagonally. Another thing I have discovered is there is no & key. Maybe it could replace the semicolon? Nobody knows how to use that punctuation mark anyway.

Operating System:
The Pantech Matrix Pro uses Windows Mobile 6.1 standard. That means it doesn't have a touch screen. Navigation is assisted by a well laid out home screen. I don't know if this is true of all WinMo Std phones but I still have yet to figure out how to add or remove items from the home screen (notice I didn't say Today screen). I can change between a few pre-programmed layouts but that's it.

It's no surprise that, even though I may close a program, it stays running. Unless the programmer had the forthought to put in an Exit or Quit function, I have to either reset the phone or kill it with the task manager.

Speaking of resets, I have only had to reset once. The screen went blank. I have no idea why but nothing I did would cause the display to come to life. Oh, yeah, get this: there is no reset button. To reset the phone, you have to pull the battery.

The Pantech Matrix Pro comes with a pretty standard Windows Mobile/AT&T loadout. The HTC Fuze came with WorldCard Mobile and Sprite Backup. This one doesn't include any premium extras (of course, the $200 price difference may account for that). Live Search, Google Maps and Facebook all work well. I was surprised to discover that My Mobiler works on this phone and, in fact, installed itself when I plugged into the computer.

The Negative:
  • I am used to having a lot of control over a WinMo phone. While the Pantech Matrix Pro does allow for some customization, the settings feel more like a dumbphone than a smartphone.
  • There is no way to customize the home screen. A few pre-selected templates have been included but there's nothing special about them.
  • The My Photos section of the home screen does not see photos in the default folder it saves ot on the stroage card. I had some pics leftover from my Fuze when I had used the card there and it's looking in that folder.
  • No & key
  • Cramped keyboard
  • It uses a proprietary connector. It's not so bad on a dumbphone like the Matrix but there's no reason for it on a smartphone unless you're talking about something like the iPhone where it allows you to interface with a variety of external devices. If I need to charge my Fuze, all I need is a standard mini USB cable and a power source (I have a USB wall charging block and a USB car charging adapter). With the Matrix Pro, if I don't have the proprietary USB cable or proprietary charger, I'm screwed.
  • It's picky about ringtones. Look, just play the MP3 file I point to. Is that so hard? What difference does it make if it's under 300K?
  • Voice Command. This... THIS is the reason I have wanted to take a sledge hammer to the phone. The voice command on the Pantech Matrix Pro absolutely, totally, unequivocally SUCKS!!! Half the time I can't understand the voice. The basic words are fine but when it is trying to pronounce a name or something that isn't in its standard word set, forgetaboutit. To top it off, it seems to have a problem understanding me.

    To be fair, the problem seems to be a combination of my Blueant Z9 headset and the voice Command. When trying to disconnect a call, I am so used to tapping the main button on the headset but on the Z9 that changes the voice isolation level. You have to hold the button down for three seconds or something to disconnect. What ends up happening is that I set the VI to max, then switch it back to standard. By that time, the other party has hung up and when I try to disconnect, voice commander thinks I want it to kick in. It asks me to say command so I say "cancel." A few seconds later, it asks me to say command. I again say, "cancel." A few seconds after that, it says "try again." Listen, bitch, just SHUT THE F&*% UP AND GO AWAY OR I'M GOING TO REACH IN THAT PHONE, RIP OUT YOUR CIRCUITRY, AND DISOLVE IT IN ACID SO YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY ZERO CHANCE OF PISSING ME OFF EVER AGAIN!!! To which it responds, "Call bzzrtth mrafrozzth Mo-bile? Is this correct?" I just can't win.
The Positive:
  • This phone just feels so damn good to hold and use. Its physical size and shape are just about perfect.
  • Slide up answer, slide down disconnect. It doesn't get any simpler.
  • Shit just works. When you push a button, it does exactly what you expect it to do.
  • Familiar dialing interface. Hand a non-smartphone user any other smartphone and the first thing they'll ask you is, "How do I make a call on this thing?" Slide up the display on the Pantech Matrix Pro and almost anybody knows what to do next.
  • Good battery life. Twice I've gone two days between charges.
  • Limited customization. I know I put this on the negatives as well but maybe, just maybe, this is the reason shit just works.
  • A2DP support for stereo bluetooth
  • You can get a GPS lock in seconds, not minutes (the new ROM for the Fuze fixes that)
  • Uh... it was free
The Pantech Matrix Pro is a really nice little phone. It has taken a lot less time to get used to than I thought it would and, actually, I kinda like it. Unfortunately, because of its lack of customization/control of settings, it doesn't really feel like a smartphone. Yes, it gets my email but I've actually been ignoring it, which isn't good given that I'm paid to have email access wherever I roam. In the end, I will most likely switch back to my Fuze and will look at getting a slate-style phone the next time I upgrade. I'll see if the wife wants to swap out her Matrix for the Matrix Pro and, if not, I'll probably sell it on eBay.

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