Texting Phones for Teens

Pity my poor nieces.

They're at that age where the cell phone they carry says so very much about them. If they show up at school with an outdated phone or can't answer a text with the speed of an Olympic athlete, well, they might as well just stay home. The 14-year-old begged me; "Please, Auntie Andrea, tell mommy to switch so I can get a texting phone."

See, we are a family of AT&T talkers. My sister and I speak every day, sometimes twice a day, so we talk for free on our cell phones. It made good sense when the plans first came out. Now that she has a teen and a pre-teen on the plan, it makes even better sense. The problem is, for a long while, AT&T just didn't make great text phones for teens.

Sure, they make great phones for adults. The BlackBerry Curve is my weapon of choice and I can text right up there with, well, the speed of a 5-year-old now. The Pantech Duo that came out last year is a great slider phone but with Windows Mobile, Internet Explorer and GPS, it's not really a kid's phone. Same goes for the Tilt.

So when the latest crop of phones was announced by AT&T, you can imagine the glee in that household when I said they could test the latest phones for me and see which ones answer the call.

The Pantech C610 is a flip phone with a music player, a megapixel camera, stereo Bluetooth, and good call quality. When you flip open the phone, the 2.2-inch display looks crisp and easy to read. For kids who like to keep their friends all neatly organized, contacts can be grouped and paired with a photo or one of 10 polyphonic ring tones for caller ID.

The 411: The Pantech C610 has a very flat keypad. The keys need to be a little mushier so you actually feel like you're typing. You also can't use the music-player without opening the phone. And, the 12-year-old says, it takes two full steps to reply to a text ... way too long in the life of a pre-teen. The Pantech C610 is available from AT&T for $19.99 with a two-year contract, making it one of the most affordable 3G phones around.

Pantech's Matrix C740-Dual Slide was built for texting and emailing. What more could a teenager ask for? It's basically a Pantech Duo without the Smartphone OS which makes it much more affordable. Sliding the phone up reveals the number keypad, great for speedy dialing. Sliding it sideways offers that all-important QWERTY keyboard for instantaneous texting. There's a 1.3 megapixel camera, a microSD port for memory expamsion, as well as most major IM clients are preinstalled.

The 411: Again, this Pantech phone suffers from flat keys. The need to me more tactile. The girls would really like them to be a little more responsive but since they are expert texters, not a huge problem here. It feels good and solid and easy to carry around. And it looks cool! Pantech's Matrix C740-Dual Slide is available from AT&T for $79.99 with a two-year contract.

For Queen Bee's and BlackBerry wanna-be's, the Pantech Slate C530 answers the call. It's a slim messaging phone with a great QWERTY keyboard for text messaging. In fact, it looks just like a BlackBerry that's been put on a diet. Pantech claims the Slate is the world's thinnest messaging phone. Its features are pretty thin too, but if all you want to do is text and send email, this is the phone for you. It also has a 1.3-megapixel camera and a textured, faux-leather backing that gives it an extra grip.

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