A Closer Look – The Samsung Jack Reviewed

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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
  • GPS
  • 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.

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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.

MobileJaw-Review-SamsungJack-BJiiKeyboard

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.

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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.

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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.

MobileJaw-Review-SamsungJack-BackMicroSDCamera

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.

MobileJaw-Review-SamsungJack-BackBattery

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.

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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.

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MobileJaw-Review-SamsungJack-WinMo61-Games

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.

MobileJaw-Review-SamsungJack-WinMo61-Shortcut

MobileJaw-Review-SamsungJack-WinMo61-Ticker

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.

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MobileJaw-Review-SamsungJack-WinMo61-Organizer

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.

The Good:

  • 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

The Bad:

  • 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.

About Mike Temporale

Mike Temporale has written 614 posts on Mobile Jaw..

Mike Temporale grew up fascinated by computers since an early age. His first hands on with a computer came when he was 7 years old and a travelling lab of Commodore PET computers made a stop at his school. Hooked on the new world these devices offered, he took any chance possible to get in front of a computer. When Compaq launched the iPaq 3600, he was hooked again. This time on a whole new world of mobile computing. Today, Mike spends his day helping clients deploy and manage their mobile device around the world. From installing custom software, to locking and securing data, and everything in between. He is also the Editor in Chief at Mobile Jaw - a site focused on today's mobile world.

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  • Karel Jack

    I realize that since this phone is considered to be the followup to the BlackJackII, that is the phone you chose to compare it to. But for the keyboard comparison, you should have chosen the Motorola Q9H. Same with the speaker quality/volume.
    Interesting comments about the battery life. My Moto Q9H has an 1130mah battery. I can normally make it home and have to charge it right before bedtime (11:30pm), so I think the 1480mah battery may give you better performance than what you listed here.
    If someone was giving me this phone, I would gladly replace my Moto Q9h. But I am not willing to blow my upgrade on this form factor.

  • http://www.MobileJaw.com Mike Temporale

    @Karel – the amount of battery life from a device can vary greatly based on individual usage. I don’t know how much you are doing on a phone. So you’re day’s use will be different than mine. I used both the BlackJack II and Jack with the same number of email accounts and the same general usage patterns – my regular daily use. For me, that includes checking for email on 4 different IMAP accounts on an hourly interval, Bluetooth on 24/7, Twitter client running most of the day, general web browsing, and the odd call here and there. ;-) Overall, I noticed that this usage got me less time on the Jack than it did on the BlackJack II. If the Moto Q9H has a smaller battery still, then I imagine I would have a hard time making it a whole day one a single charge.

  • http://www.sublymerecords.com cucco

    I’ve just purchased the ‘head-to-head’ competitor in the AT&T lineup, the Nokia e71x. Prior to that, I had an iPhone 3G and prior to that, a Palm Treo 750WX (verizon).

    So far, after only having had the Nokia for 3 days, I’m VERY disappointed. The other phone I was and still am considering is the Samsung Jack. Having used the WinMo platform before (5.0) and liked it (moreso than the iPhone OS), I’m thinking this is a no brainer. However, everyone seems to LOVE the Nokia in comparison to the Jack. For the life of me, I can’t understand why. Does the Jack really suck in comparison to the Nokia?

    The Symbian OS is clunky and hard to navigate. I have to have 3 different e-mail clients just to check my 4 e-mail accounts. When an e-mail comes in, I get one vibrate for notification and that’s it – no other indication whatsoever (blinking light, homescreen reminder, nothing) that there’s an e-mail or text message waiting. I can’t switch to WiFi even though there’s a WAP right next to me…and that keyboard! I can’t type a dang thing on it without fat fingering 4 other keys at the same time – and I have VERY small fingers (a guy who wears a size 7 ring!)

    I’m glad to see you seem to put a positive light on the phone in most applications (battery notwithstanding…but I’m coming from an iPhone – I’m used to charging every night). In your opinion, would you say that the bloatware is kept to a minimum? Is the phone crippled with AT&T software limitations? Is the keyboard usable?

    I’d definitely appreciate your insight!

    I loved my Treo, but it was getting old and overused and the iPhone 3G had just come out so I switched. I’m almost wishing I could just slip the SIM from my iPhone back into my Palm!

    Thoughts???

    Thanks!
    J

  • http://www.MobileJaw.com Mike Temporale

    @cucco – I don’t find the bloatware too bad. It’s there, and they’ve loaded up a bunch of apps and games, but you can hack those away if they really get in your way.

    I use the keyboard to type on all the time, and I’ve really enjoyed using it. In fact, I’ve typed paragraphs for posts on it with very few typos. I was concerned that the keys would be too close together, but they are raised enough that it doesn’t seem to be a problem.

    If you can, try stopping by AT&T and ask them for a working device so you can test the feel of the keyboard.

    Let me know if there’s any thing else I can help you out with.

  • http://www.sublymerecords.com cucco

    Mike and others-
    Just a quick follow up.

    I did switch to the Jack from the Nokia and boy am I thrilled! I spent 3 and a half days configuring the Nokia finally getting it to where I wanted it (sort of) but only after using demo versions of software I’d have to pay for after 30 days! What I was trying to do:

    E-mail – set up the following accounts:
    Personal (POP)
    Gmail (IMAP)
    University (IMAP)
    Army (IMAP through AKO)
    Corporate (Exchange – have to use desktop redirector though)

    Web-browsing –
    Mostly Google searches and following important links in e-mails

    Google Maps –
    Living in the DC area, using google maps with the traffic overlay is a life saver!

    Text messaging
    Good cell phone (I dropped calls like MAD on my iPhone)

    Wireless modem

    If I had to rank everything in order of importance, it would go:
    E-mail
    Phone
    Google
    Texting
    Modem
    Everything else

    The Nokia was/is indeed a great phone. However, its keyboard is horrible compared to the Jack. Additionally, navigating the device proved to be a pain in the butt. Configuring and tweaking the device was even worse! Some mail programs don’t let you change IMAP and SMTP ports. The programs that do, don’t allow viewing of HTML based e-mail (how in the heck can you make it in today’s environment without HTML email??) Only a 3rd party, non-free app (Profimail) offered everything I needed. However, on top of that, there was no way to customize the mail key to make it take me to Profimail!

    Of course, what good is the mail program if I mistype nearly every word?!?!

    Anyway – I got the WinMo Jack and within 2 hours, I was fully configured. I even had time to make a few tweaks/hacks to the registry to get the phone to tether without charge (until AT&T figures out…) and to reconfigure the softkeys so that the AT&T key takes me to SkyFire and the messaging key takes me directly to my primary inbox.

    The speed on the Jack blows my old Treo out of the water and frankly, I’ve had NO problems with the OS at all! I’ve had the device for 3 days now (not a long time by my own admission) but within the first 3 days of owning the iPhone, I had to do a hard power at least 2 times! On this phone, I just pull up task manager occassionally and clean out stuff that I don’t need.

    Oh…and the battery lasts at least as long as the iPhone! On my very first day with the device, I had it on nearly 100% of the time and even with only 1/2 a charge (out of the box), I still lasted for over 6 hours before I went to bed and voluntarily put it on the charger. Otherwise, I use the phone all day, every day and have yet to drain the battery fully. Yes, I need to charge it every day; but I had to do so with the iPhone as well. This isn’t a problem for me.

    As for cell signal – in areas where I consistently dropped calls with the iPhone, I rarely drop them if ever with the Jack. Granted, the Nokia was a little more powerful still than the Jack, but the Samsung certainly bests the iPhone in signal!

    Add to that the fact that I can store, retrieve and send files of any type; have access to the file system and registry, and have a hardware keyboard that I can use more safely while driving (hey, let’s face it – we SHOULDN’T, but we do), I’d say the Jack is an all out winner!

    Now, if only they made the Jack feel as awesome in the hand as the Nokia but kept their far superior keyboard, I’d be in hog heaven. Until then, I’ll just hold on to the Jack and hope they’ll let me upgrade to WinMo 7 when it hits the streets in 6 months or so!

    Cheers and thanks again Mike!

    J.

  • http://www.MobileJaw.com Mike Temporale

    @cucco – That’s an excellent write-up. Thanks for sharing! It’s great to hear that you’re enjoying the Jack this much, and I’m happy to have helped.

    I’m becoming a bigger fan of Samsung’s devices each day. :)

  • Tahirah

    Is there a Twitter app for Samsung Jack? (i guess for Windows Mobile in gnrl) there should be right?

  • http://www.MobileJaw.com Mike Temporale

    @Tahirah – Yup, there are 2 main twitter apps for you to pick from: PockeTwit and Twikini. I’ve reviewed both of them. You can read them here:

    http://www.mobilejaw.com/tag/twitter/

    :D

  • Tahirah

    @Mike Temporale I guess I need to find out about the best free Twitter app for Windows Mobile for my bud’s Samsung Jack. Would that be ceTwit? I googled about Windows Mobile apps after posting question(which I should have done in the first place) and someone spoke highly of ceTwit as #1.

    Thanks!

  • http://www.MobileJaw.com Mike Temporale

    @Tahirah – PockeTwit is free as well. I haven’t used ceTwit so I can’t say how it compares.