It may not be called BlackJack, but the new Samsung Jack is the third release in the popular BlackJack series of smartphones. The original BlackJack and BlackJack II devices both reached the million plus sales mark. Can Samsung repeat that success with this new phone? If first impressions are any indication, then the new Jack should easily live up to the reputation of the BlackJack’s before it and reach that million seller mark.
Here’s a rundown of the technical specifications for the new Jack:
- Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard (Non-Touch)
- 528MHz Processor
- 256MB ROM / 256MB RAM
- Supports 16GB MicroSD
- GSM/GPRS/EDGE – 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz
- 3G UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA – 850 / 1900 / 2100 MHz
- HSDPA – 3.6 Mbps
- 320 x 240, 2.4 inch screen
- QWERTY Backlit keyboard
- 1480 mAh Battery
- 3.2 Megapixel Camera
- WiFi – 802.11b/g
- Bluetooth 2.0
- 4.4 x 2.4 x 0.5 inches (H x W x D)
- Weight – 3.6 ounces
If you compare these specs to the BlackJack II, you’ll notice that the processor is a whole lot faster, and the battery is a whole lot less. The BlackJack II sported a 260MHz processor, while the new Jack has a 528MHz processor. That’s a pretty significant upgrade in speed and it’s noticeable. The battery goes from 1700mAh down to 1480mAh. That’s a drop of 220mAh! We’ve got a faster phone with a smaller battery and if you guessed that battery life dropped, then you would be right. The BlackJack II would easily make it through a day and most of the second day before it would need a charge. With the Jack, you will get 24 hours our of a charge and then need to charge it. If you have a busy day, you’ll need to charge it when you get home. Otherwise, you’ll probably need to charge it on the way to work in the morning.
The next thing you’ll notice in the comparison is the increase in memory. The BlackJack II had 155MB to play with, which isn’t much at all. The Jack has increased this to 256MB. While it’s still a long way from 512MB, or 1GB, it’s certainly better than 155MB. Thankfully, the Jack supports MicroSD cards to expand the storage memory. I have a 16GB SanDisk card inserted in my Jack and it can easily hold just about everything short of the kitchen sink.
Samsung made a big change in the keyboard on the Jack. The original BlackJack and BlackJack II had very similar keyboards. The Jack keyboard changes the oval buttons to a more square design and pushes the buttons up against each other. I’ve been a long time user of the BlackJack (both I and II) for so long that I was very concerned about how usable this new keyboard layout would actually be. The new keyboard has less snap in the keyboard when you press a button, it’s a softer click than in the past keyboards. In the end, I was able to pick up the Jack and get up to speed on the new keyboard in a pretty short amount of time. I would consider it one of the better keyboards I have used in a while. It’s significantly better than the Pantech Matrix Pro and HTC’s s740 device. While both of those devices have nice keyboards, they’re just not at the same level as the Jack.
Finally, you’re going to notice the difference in size and weight. The actually size of the Jack isn’t much different than the BlackJack II. The difference is just 0.08” Height x 0.01” Width x 0.01” Depth (the BlackJack II measures in at 4.48” x 2.39” x 0.51”). That’s not a big difference, but the Jack has more rounded and gentle edges making it feel more comfortable in your hands. Along with the comfort is a lighter weight. The Jack is 0.49 ounces lighter at 3.6 oz from 4.09 oz. This lighter weight and more comfortable grip makes it almost disappear in your pocket.
So, enough of this comparison to the BlackJack II. It’s time to go one on one with the Jack. The top and bottom of the phone are heavily rounded and clean of any buttons or connectors. Down the left side of the phone you will find the power and volume buttons. On the right side is the charge / sync / headset port. Open the battery door and you will find the SIM and the MicroSD slot. You need to remove the battery in order to remove the MicroSD card. This is a great location if you’re concerned about the content on the card. It will force authentication on the deviec when it boots back up and of course, the card would be encrypted too, further reducing the risk of documents falling into the wrong hands.
The 3.2 megapixel camera snaps some decent pictures. They aren’t as good as I would have liked to see, but most people with this phone are using it for messaging and browsing. It’s not designed to be a point and shoot camera replacement. However, it would be nice if the quality was a little better overall. The best results I had were on outdoor images where the camera was held very still.
The screen on the Jack is different than other devices. It’s not something that everyone would notice or be bothered by, but there is a significant difference between the screen on the Jack and other Windows Mobile Standard devices. It’s most noticeable to people who are switching from another Windows Mobile Standard phone like the BlackJack or HTC Rose. The screen on the Jack is more washed out than other screens. At first, I thought it was just a miss-configured backlight, but that was quickly proven to be wrong. It appears to be an inferior screen than other devices. Samsung may have swapped to a less expensive screen and the result of that is a noticeable wash-out or overly white look to the screen. It’s not bad enough that you can’t use it or anything like that, and you will become accustom to it in very short order. However, it is something that I wish was not the case.
One of the things that I really like about the Jack is the external speaker. It has to be one of the loudest Windows Mobile Standard devices I have used. From Ringtones to Speaker phone, any time the phone played a sound through the external speaker, it was loud and clear. I think that part of this is how Samsung exposed the speaker on the phone – as most devices do, the speaker is on the back of the unit. But Samsung also made a small top facing speaker cut-out on the device. This seems to make all the difference in the world when the device is sitting on a table or in a belt-clip. That top facing speaker cut-out makes it much easier to hear the phone.
Inside the phone you’ll find Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard with all the typical Samsung tweaks, plus a couple new ones. If you’ve ever had a Samsung Windows Mobile Standard device, then you’ll understand what I mean by typical applications. The Organizer and Applications folder are filled with the regulars like Alarms, Calculator, StopWatch, Smart Converter, Adobe Reader, Java, MobiTV, My-Cast Weather, RSS Reader and so much more. Samsung has also included 6 trial games – Asphalt 4, Block Breaker Deluxe 2, Brain Challenge 2, Jewel Quest II, Scrabble, and Tetris.
Back on the original BlackJack, Samsung included a really cool quick launch application that was integrated with the scroll wheel. By pressing and holding the scroll wheel for a couple seconds, a quick launch list would appear. You could then scroll up / down the list to the application you wanted to run. Once you highlight the application, you would click the scroll wheel and it would launch that application and close the quick launch list. The BlackJack II removed the Quick Launch application and replaced it with a Shortcut application. You can define what applications open when you press the function key – Fn – and some other key on the keyboard. The concept here is pretty nice – Fn + B will turn on / off Bluetooth. Pressing Fn + T can be mapped to your favorite Twitter application allowing you to launch it quickly and easily. The problem here is that it’s a two-handed process and you have to remember what application you assigned to which letter. The Jack continues to use the Shortcut tool which is very disappointing. I would like to see Samsung return to the original Quick Launch application. I realize that they no longer have the scroll wheel, but there’s no reason it can’t be mapped to a press and hold on the camera button or even the function key would work. Ultimately, this is a better tool for allowing people to quickly access their applications.
New on the Jack is Samsung’s Message Ticker application for notification on new emails. There are 6 different styles to pick from. Then when you receive a new email, you’ll see a message notification appear on the home screen using the style that you selected. It’s a pretty neat application, however if you get a fair amount of email, you’ll find this tool to be a little annoying. It’s worth taking a look at, but if you find it to be too overwhelming don’t be afraid to turn it off.
I was able to install Live Search (now called Bing Mobile) and get a GPS fix without having to do any hacking. I found the GPS was very accurate and I didn’t have to wait any longer than any other GPS to get a fix on my location (at least nothing noticeable). I have heard that some people are having issues with some of the more feature rich navigation software not being able to run on it. I haven’t tested any application like that. Bing Mobile does what I need for a mobile phone.
- Fast 528MHz processor
- Excellent keyboard
- Quad-Band radio with support for Bluetooth and WiFi
- Loud external speaker
- Feels great in your hand and light weight
- Washed out screen
- Reduced battery life from previous model
- Proprietary Samsung connector
The Samsung Jack is a great phone for anyone that’s looking for a powerful messaging device. It’s light weight with a powerful processor and great options for connectivity. If you’re a really heavy email user, you might want to consider getting a second battery or a second charger so that you can keep the battery topped up throughout the day. Otherwise, you should have no problem making it through a day on a full charge.