Pantech Vega Iron Review

The Vega Iron A870S is a smartphone launched in 2013 by the Korean manufacturer Pantech. Pantech was known for cheap cell phones but is now recognized for its recent high-end devices with creative quirky features, for instance the rotating camera on the No 6.

Specs: 8/10

The Iron has a 5-inch 720p screen, a 1.7 GHz processor, and 2 GB of memory. Sometimes there is lag when the keyboard is first displayed, but overall the system is responsive.

Physical Quality: 3/10

The build quality is fair, but after owning it for a year I have noticed some issues. The phone flexes quite a bit, and the back cover is very thin plastic with tough snaps. The cover has a crack where it was stressed by removal.

The screen is bright indoors but fades a lot in sunlight. The sound quality during calls is not great, and I often wish the volume could go higher. It is oddly difficult to capture non-blurry photos.

At this point I could give the device a 6/10, except that…

Much worse, about 8 months after buying it, one day the phone decided to no longer work with LTE. To be clear, I had been using LTE on the phone in the same city with the same carrier for 8 months, and one day all it had was 3G. I tried toggling airplane mode and even a full factory reset. The SIM was not damaged, and my carrier proved it by trying it in a different phone. Also, the phone was stock and had never been rooted.

I haven’t had more than 3G ever since. I can’t recommend a phone with a radio that breaks after less than a year.

Software Quality and Upgrades: 7/10

Pantech bundled the phone with their own layer over Android 4.1.2. It has a lot of annoying Korean-only apps that can’t be uninstalled.

The phone received an update for KitKat 4.4 during summer 2014.

There are no drivers that I could find, so I have been unable to connect the phone to my Mac and Windows computers. It also means that ADB doesn’t see the device.

A feature in Pantech’s custom OS that I enjoy is the ability to shrink the row of software buttons to 50% height. It is completely optional but I appreciate the extra bit of usable screen I get.

half-height software buttons

Rooting: easy, 10/10

I didn’t try rooting the phone while running 4.1.2 but after the upgrade to KitKat I had gotten fed up with the bloatware. The app that successfully rooted it was Towelroot, which makes the process a painless two minutes and doesn’t require a connected computer.

Unrooting the phone may or may not be possible - I haven’t tried it.

Support: 1/10

Nonexistent. The company seems to only have phone numbers in Korea that don’t work when I call them. The support website is Korean-only, and requires an account to be made. The account creation requires a Korean identity card of some sort. I have absolutely no hope of finding anyone that would honour the warranty.

Summary: 4/10

The Vega Iron has been a good phone, but frankly the loss of LTE was a really negative experience on such an expensive phone (about $550 CAD). Given the lack of support which meant I couldn’t get repairs, I really have to treat the device as a failure.