Texting Phones for Teens

AT&T, Verizon and Sprint release teen-friendly phones.

Dec. 16, 2008— -- 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 If they show up at school with an outdated phone or can't answer a text with the speed of an Olympic athlete, well, they might as well just stay home.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.

The 411: The menu was easy to navigate and use. You can adjust brightness, font style, and the menu type. And no flat keys here! The Slate's keys are raised above the surface of the phone, which makes texting and dialing easy and quick.

Pantech Slate C530 is available from AT&T for $49.99 with a two-year contract.

For Verizon customers, there are a number of great messaging phones to choose from. The Blitz is their latest offering for people who want a basic phone that makes clear calls and offers a full QWERTY keyboard without the complications and expense of a Smartphone.

For starters, it's a short, squat-looking phone, measuring 3.5 inches long by 2.6 inches wide, but with its rounded edges, I guess you would call it cute. It's easy to carry and certainly fits well in a pocket or pocketbook. Open the slider and your thumbs can very quickly get to work. The 1.3 megapixel camera is average for a phone of this price range and it supports Bluetooth.

The 411: A dedicated My Messaging key takes you to the important messaging options like new text or voice message, the keyboard is well laid out and keys are raised and super responsive. The address book allows for organizing and grouping as well as multiple numbers and email addresses for one person.

The Verizon Wireless Blitz is available from Verizon for $69.99 after a $50 online discount with a two-year contract. For Sprint users, the Palm Centro comes in two new colors for the holidays. Olive Green and Vibrant Rose now join the red, black and pink models. In addition to email, IM and web, the new editions feature Facebook for Palm, and Google Maps with the My Location feature.

The 411: Palm's holiday offering is available at a special price with 128MB of available memory, twice the original storage. It has a built-in MP3 player, plus Palm's well-known OS.

Palm Centro is available for $79.99 from Sprint with a two-year service agreement.