Samsung Jack (AT&T) review: Samsung Jack (AT&T)

With Windows Mobile 6.5 yet to make its debut, the Samsung Jack ships with Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard Edition. Samsung has said that it will offer a Windows Mobile 6.5 upgrade when available but for now, you won't see much of a change from the Samsung BlackJack II in terms of e-mail and productivity and organizational tools. The Microsoft Office Mobile Suite, Direct Push Technology for real-time Outlook synchronization, support for POP3 and IMAP e-mail, instant-messaging clients, a to-do list, RSS reader--it's all in there. Like the Samsung Propel Pro, however, AT&T does include a number of extra applications on the phone, such as MobiTV, My-Cast Weather, eBay, and Mobile Banking.

The biggest differences between the Samsung Jack and Samsung BlackJack II are in the processor speed, memory, and camera, all of which get an upgrade. While we'll dive into the processor and memory in the Performance section, we can say now that the Jack's 3.2-megapixel camera is an improvement over the BlackJack II's 2-megapixel lens. This seems like an obvious statement, but it's worth noting because we've seen some 3.2-megapixel camera phones struggle with indoor shots as far as color and the Samsung Jack did pretty well in all aspects of picture quality, including color. Unfortunately, video quality wasn't so great as recorded clips looked a bit blurry and dark.

We were impressed with the photo quality.

Beyond the camera, the Samsung Jack's features are similar to the Samsung Propel Pro. As a phone, it offers quad-band world roaming, speakerphone, speed dialing, three-way calling, conference calling, voice commands, and threaded text messages, and multimedia messaging. You can also make video calls with AT&T's Video Share service, but note that the recipient must also have a Video Share-compatible phone and the service costs $4.99 per month. Bluetooth 2.0 is also onboard with support for mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets, hands-free kits, object push profile, and personal area networking. The Internet Sharing app will also help you set up the smartphone as a modem for your laptop.

The Jack is a tri-band UMTS/HSDPA (850/1900/2100MHz) device, so in addition to making the Web browsing experience snappier, the 3.5G speeds also help with streaming media services, such as AT&T Music and AT&T Video. Given that 3G can sometimes be spotty and may not be available in all areas, the Samsung Jack also has integrated Wi-Fi to cover your bases. There is an AT&T Wi-Fi utility loaded on the phone, which will give you free access to 17,000 AT&T and Starbucks hot spots. Unfortunately, when we tried to use this service, we were met with a "Coming soon ..." note. That said, we had no problems connecting the Jack to our Wi-Fi access point.

Finally, the Samsung Jack features GPS/A-GPS with support for AT&T Navigator, both the domestic version and Global Edition. With this location-based service, you can get real-time tracking, data, voice-guided directions, and other navigation tools. Currently, AT&T Navigator is free for the first 30 days, but afterward, you will be charged $9.99 per month unless you cancel the feature. Meanwhile, AT&T Navigator Global Edition costs $19.98 per month.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; UMTS/HSDPA 850/1900/2100) Samsung Magnet in San Francisco using AT&T service and call quality was excellent. We enjoyed clear audio on our end with little to no background noise, leading to uninterrupted conversation and trouble-free use of an airline's voice-automated response system. On the other side, our callers also had high praises for sound quality, adding that they couldn't tell we were on a cell phone. Speakerphone quality was also admirable with good sound and ample volume. Finally, we successfully paired the Jack with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.

As we mentioned previously, the Samsung Jack gets an extra boost from a 528MHz processor and 256MB ROM and 256MB RAM with about 96MB user-accessible storage (compared to the BlackJack II's 260MHz processor and 128MB ROM/256MB RAM). The result is snappy device that handled most tasks without problem and minimal delay. The smartphone's GPS was also quick to find our location and with the aid of AT&T Navigator, provided accurate directions from the Marina District of San Francisco to CNET's downtown headquarters.

AT&T's 3G coverage was a bit temperamental, which led to some frustration as far as Web browsing and streaming media. One minute the Jack would indicate a 3G connection and allow us to watch an AT&T Video clip with synchronized picture and audio and then all of a sudden it would drop to EDGE, making the stream a blurry, choppy mess. In addition, the Internet Explorer Mobile browser is clunky to use compared with others.

The Samsung Jack features a 1,480mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 7 hours and up to 12 days of standby time. We are still conducting our battery drain tests but will update this section as soon as we have final results. According to FCC radiation tests, the Jack has a digital SAR rating of 1.04 watts per kilogram.

What you'll pay

    Visit manufacturer site for details.

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