Thanks to the Razr fad, there are plenty of thin phones out there by now. But in terms of sheer smallness, the options remain slim.
Little noticed among all the flashy handsets hitting the market is the remarkably tiny C3 flip phone from Pantech, available in the United states through AT&T Inc.'s Cingular Wireless. In this case, big things do come in diminutive packages.
What you don't get here are the latest multimedia features such as a music or video player or high-speed Web access. There's no high-resolution digital camera, and no ability to record video. This may not be the right tool for a budding citizen journalist.
But the main point here is size, and somehow Pantech managed to pack a wide-enough array of advanced capabilities into an easy-to-use, uniquely palm-sized handset.
While thicker than Motorola Inc.'s hugely successful Razr and its mimics, the C3 is smaller in every other way, starting with weight and ending with price, which at this point is zero if you're willing to sign a two-year service contract.
No, it's not quite as pretty as the dashing devices making their way down the cellular runway these days, and no doubt Apple Inc.'s iPhone will turn more heads. Even so, the compact, minimalist style of the C3 seems to catch some eyes when people see me take it out.
At just 2.5 ounces, a tenth of an ounce less than the Razr, the C3 appears to be the lightest cell phone on the market. The only phone I've played with that comes close is the splendidly slender Samsung M610, a 3.3-ounce flip available through Sprint.
Filling out its dimensions, the C3 is just 1.7 inches wide and 2.7 inches tall (vs. the Razr's 2.1 inches wide and 3.9 inches tall).
Now, putting aside this obsessive tale of the tape for a moment, the most important, deal-killing aspects of a mobile phone are call quality and the ease of interplay between buttons and screen menus. Notably, many Razr users have come to find their handsets to be frustrating in terms of the latter.
Well, despite expectations its size might make for cramped accommodations, I found the C3 perfectly simple and straightforward to use. Sure, the keys were smaller than on other phones, but not so much that I had trouble hitting the right ones for dialing and typing out text messages and e-mail.
Phone calls were clear on both ends, and battery life was impressive even when I was making heavy use of the mobile e-mail application to access my Yahoo account.
Non-voice functions were easy to find: The main navigational circle and keys provide one-click access to Cingular's Web browser, contact list, calendar, a low-resolution digital camera, text messaging, instant messaging via AOL's AIM, Yahoo or MSN, and downloaded content like video games and ringtones.
My biggest annoyance was the C3's delayed reaction in booting up or exiting many of these applications, though this is an attribute shared by many other cell phones, including some pricey Windows-based devices.
Now, if you require high-end capabilities in a small phone, you might be better off with the M610, a sharp handset packed with features, from a 2-megapixel camera to speedy wireless Internet access to download music or watch TV. While it's just a half-inch thick, there's an external memory slot to store extra music and video content. But such features come at a price: even with contract commitments, the M610 costs $180.
If, like a large number of cell users, you have more modest needs, the C3 is an option, though you might want to wait a short while. Pantech says it's about to introduce an upgraded version with Bluetooth capability for a wireless headset.