Earlier this month, we looked at the Pharos Traveler 127. The GPS-enabled smartphone offered the advantage of coming with its own navigation software and maps, which eliminated the need for fee-based location services and a cellular connection. Unfortunately, the benefit of this was lost on the clunky software and the device’s sluggish performance. We had higher hopes for the Pharos Traveler 137. After all, the smartphone features a sleeker design with a full touch screen (perfect for viewing maps) as well as a faster processor and more memory. In addition, it offers 3G support, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a 5-megapixel camera. Sadly, the Traveler 137 also let us down with its inconsistent performance and navigation capabilities. The device could be extremely slow at times, and directions weren’t always accurate, so it’s really hard to justify paying $600 for the phone. If Pharos can make the performance improvements, the company could certainly give the competition a run for its money.
The Pharos Traveler 137 is a sleek and attractive device, with a nice clean and streamlined design similar to other candybar-style, touch-screen smartphones like the Samsung Omnia. The device measures 4.6 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide and 0.5 thick and weighs 4.9 ounces, so it’s a pocketful but it has a nice, solid construction and soft-touch finish on back.
The real attention-grabber is the Traveler 137’s display. It measures 3.5 inches diagonally and displays 65,000 colors at a sharp 480×800-pixel resolution. Images and text looked extra-clear and vibrant on the screen, and the larger display definitely made it easier to see and read maps compared to the Traveler 127. Adding to goodness, Pharos ships the smartphone with the Spb Mobile Shell 3.0, which provides a lot more information in a more user-friendly and attractive interface than the standard Windows UI.
The Spb Mobile Shell features three sliding panels; the center panel and default home screen, features the mainstays, such as your calendar, messages, time, weather, and so forth, while swiping the touch screen to the left will bring up an Apps panel, and the right panel offers your multimedia features. Along the bottom of every panel, you also get one-touch access to a Favorites page of all your, you guessed it, favorite programs, a Contacts (also customizable by favorite contacts), a handful of Settings, and a button that lets you scroll through more panels in a 3D carousel view.
To enter text into the Pharos Traveler 137, there is an onscreen portrait and landscape QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard is a bit cramped in portrait mode, but you can use the included stylus for more precision, and the keyboard provides haptic feedback. As a Windows Mobile device, you also get the older, more traditional input methods, such as Block Recognizer, Letter Recognizer, and Transcriber.
The touch screen also has a built-in accelerometer so the screen orientation will automatically switch from portrait to landscape mode when you rotate the phone. However, we found the accelerometer to be quite temperamental. At times, it was sluggish and the screen would momentarily freeze halfway through the transition, while other times it was almost too sensitive, changing at the slightest movement. Needless to say, we got pretty frustrated by the inconsistent performance.