I bought the Samsung BlackJack that I mentioned the other day. I’ve been using it on and off throughout the weekend, and so here are my initial thoughts:
- The form factor is incredible. The device is about the same height and width as the Treo, but it is considerably thinner and much lighter. Actually, the form factor is probably closer to that of the Motorola Q (which is not available for Cingular customers), but unlike that device, the BlackJack feels solid and rugged. It’s also remarkably comfortable to hold next to your ear.
- The back (which includes half of the depth) of the device is rubber coated. This makes it very comfortable to hold, it just grips and feels right in your hand.
- The scroll wheel (for which the BlackBerry is famed) is well placed, intuitive to use, and just plain works. This is a big plus, and scroll wheels should be the standard on all devices like this.
- The screen is very sharp and clear. It’s small, smaller than the Treo and much smaller than the absolutely perfect Nokia E62 screen, but it is still easy to read and very bright.
- The device is very responsive, easily as fast as the Treo (650), faster than the other Windows devices I’ve used (including the Cingular 8125 and the Treo 700), and orders of magnitude faster than the Symbian devices I have tried of late (including that horribly sluggish E62).
- Audio quality is great, both on my end and on the other end of the connection.
- Cell coverage is really good, this phone works in places where my Treo (and former Sony Ericsson devices) could get no coverage at all. (Incidentally, the Nokia was just as good in this respect).
- Bluetooth support is decent, although not great. I’m listing Bluetooth as a pro because at the end of the day it does work with every device (including my car). But at the same time, it does not publish extended data (cell and battery strength), it does not always easily switch from headset (the one in my ear) to headset (my car). Although, to be fair, the week I spent with the Nokia E62 significantly raised the bar for what Bluetooth support should be, and frankly, I have yet to see any other vendor implement Bluetooth as perfectly as Nokia did in that device, and I doubt I’ll be satisfied with any other Bluetooth implementations now.
- The phone comes with 2 batteries, that’s the good news. The bad news is that the second battery is needed, see below.
- The 3G support is really good, and very fast. When it works, that is. More on that below, too.
- The basic apps are great, although that is more a Windows Mobile function than the device itself.
- The screen is small. I know I listed this already under pros, because it is, it helps with the device form factor that I love. But at the same time, it is a bit too small for web browsing or for reading large documents or e-mails.
- The keyboard is a bit cramped. And yes, I know I said that I like the small form factor. But the keys are a bit narrow, they are longer than the keys on the Treo, but the narrow shape makes it harder for big fingers to press just the one you want. The multi-directional toggle button is also really badly designed – it is flush with the other keys, including the red end-call key. I may get used to it, but for now I hit that end-call key way too often.
- The text messaging app is not very good, nowhere near as good as the Treo’s one. No as-you-type lookup, and no chat mode, are the biggest flaws. But at least it isn’t the horrid integrated inbox text messaging app that other Windows devices have (like the 8125).
- I already said that the 3G support is good, and it is, it is really fast. When it works. Every once in a while the device can’t connect to anything! I don’t know if it is the device, local coverage, or what – I’ll test it some more while on the road this week, but requests that neither respond nor time out are downright annoying!
- Battery life is poor, definitely worse than any device I have used previously. Good thing there are two batteries!
- The back cover is absolute pain to get on and off, and, taking into account the previous item ,this is a real problem.
- No voice dial.
- Speed dial keys are basically useless. One of the things I really like about the Treo is that you can instantly access what you need, there are the dedicated calendar and messaging keys, you can assign speed dials easily to any letter, and there are also one touch soft buttons on the home screen. The BlackJack has two context sensitive softkeys, and a dedicated messaging key, but only one real programmable key (on the right, and only the long press is programmable). And it appears that you can only assign speed dials to number keys, and not letters. This coupled with no voice dial (as previously mentioned) means that you’ll be digging through lists and menus far too often.
- There seems to be a problem using ActiveSync when I am on a VPN connection. I know that this is not a Samsung issue, it’s a Microsoft ActiveSync one, but still, having to disconnect from VPN to synch the device is frustrating.
My initial reaction to the Samsung BlackJack is a very positive one, primarily because of the form factor, the feel, and the performance. So far the pros outweigh the cons (I think). More to follow.
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