As we inch ever closer to the holiday season, the onslaught of Samsung touch-screen phones continues. And as soon as we finished with the Samsung Highlight, Samsung dropped an even more exciting handset into our laps. Like its touch-screen Samsung relatives, the Samsung Jet (GTS800) offers the company's signature TouchWiz interface plus a host of multimedia features. Yet, the Jet raises the bar by offering a new version of TouchWiz, an upgraded Web browser, and an 800MHz processor.
Overall, the parts come together well. The Jet offers an attractive design, a brilliant display, and an appealing feature set that includes Microsoft Exchange server syncing. What's more, the user interface upgrades are welcome and the one-touch zoom in the browser makes for a better surfing experience. On the downside, we didn't see much benefit from the processor and we couldn't find a few important features. But when you factor in its decent call and media quality, the Jet is one of the better media phones we've seen this year. The Jet's 3G support isn't optimized for North American networks, so you won't see it with a U.S. or Canadian carrier in its current form. As such, the GSM phone is rather expensive as an unlocked model. Most online retailers sell it for about $525.
The Jet is quite attractive--we like the slim profile, glossy skin, and the spiffy design that catches the light on its back. At 4.28 inches tall by 2.11 inches wide by 0.48 inches thick and weighing 3.88 ounces, the Jet is a perfect size--it travels well and we enjoyed the solid, comfortable feel in the hand. The 3.1-inch WVGA display is just on the cusp of what we consider acceptable for a touch-screen phone, but it was suitably large for most features. It supports 16 million colors and has a resolution of 800x480 pixels, which results in bright, vibrant colors and eye-catching graphics and photos. Permanent icons on the bottom of the display give access to the keypad, the phonebook, the messaging menu, and the main menu. And of course, the display has an accelerometer that works across most features.
Though the Jet is one of the first handsets to offer an upgraded TouchWiz interface, the main sidebar with the shortcut widgets is unchanged. You can pick which widgets you'd like to see, but you're still limited to the preset widgets Samsung provides either on the phone or through a download. As usual, you can drag widgets to the main screen to maximize them.
As for changes, TouchWiz 2.0 offers motion-activated shortcuts, a unique interface for accessing media features, and a multipage menu design. We'll start with the last addition first. The home screen and the simple icon-based main menu now have three pages, much like Google Android devices. To move between the pages just swipe your finger horizontally across the display. You'll need to use a long motion, but that's a minor point. We're more concerned that on the menu pages you can't arrange the icons as you wish or add new icons (the home screen does allow for customization).
The Media Gate feature is a 3D cube that offers access to six media features: the photo album, the music player, the video player, the FM radio, the games and applications menu, and the Web browser. To access Media Gate, just press the corresponding button on the Jet's right side. You then can swipe the cube with your finger to access each side. It's a fun feature, even if it's not entirely necessary.
The last addition is the Motion Gate feature that lets you access media and performs commands by flipping, tilting, or tapping the handset. A handy tutorial shows you the ropes, which is a good thing considering some of the motions aren't terribly intuitive. But once we became acquainted with the motions, we were able to perform them without any problems. Though Motion Gate is innovative and more than nifty, we don't like that you have to access it through a separate menu to use it. We'd rather it be accessible without going through a few steps.
Samsung packed two additional unexpected features into the Jet. The Etiquette Pause mutes the phone when you face it down. That was nice, but the Speaker Call feature was more intriguing. When you're on a call, you can activate the speakerphone automatically by moving the phone away from your face during a call and placing it on a flat surface. If you're not a fan of these features, you can deactivate them.
The touch interface is responsive regardless of whether you're tapping icons or scrolling through long lists. Most gestures require a firm touch, but we didn't have any major issues. You change the display's calibration, the brightness and backlight time, and the intensity of the vibrating feedback. For more personalization, you can change the font type, the background image, the color theme, and the greeting message. You also can activate a transition effect when moving between menu pages. We found it to be distracting, however. On the other hand, we did like the Jet's one-touch zoom feature. We'll cover that in the Web browser section below.
The virtual dialpad is unchanged from other Samsung touch-screen phones. The interface features spacious controls with large numbers and letters. You'll also find shortcuts to your phonebook and messaging menu. Of course, you can type messages using the keypad, but we prefer to use the virtual QWERTY keyboard. To access it, just tip the phone to the left and the accelerometer will do the rest (if you tip the Jet to the right the keyboard will be upside down). The keyboard is easy to use; though you must shift to a separate keyboard to access numbers and letters, the buttons are big. A third messaging option is to enter text using the Jet's writing pad. It's mostly accurate, but we'd prefer that the Jet came with a stylus.
Like most touch-screen phones, the Jet has just a few physical buttons. The primary control is a large, hexagonal menu button that sits directly below the display. Besides activating the main menu, it also opens the phone's task manager. The Talk and End/power buttons sit on either side of the menu button. These calling controls are flush, but they're quite spacious. A tactile volume rocker sits on the right spine, while a handset-locking key sits on the left spine. You can unlock he screen by tapping the button again or by drawing a letter on the display.
On the bottom of the left spine, you'll find a combined button that opens the Media Gate feature and starts the camera. The camera lens and flash sit on the back of the phone, and the headset jack and charger/USB port rest on the top of the phone. We give Samsung props for using a 3.5-millimeter headset jack and a standard Micro-USB port, but we wish that the microSD card slot wasn't stashed behind the battery cover.
The Jet has a generous 2,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for six phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, two URLs, a birthday, an anniversary, a nickname, two street addresses, and notes (the SIM card holds an additional 250 names). You can save callers to groups and you can pair them with a photo and one of 20 polyphonic ringtones. You also can use videos and MP3 music files to identify callers.
Organizer options include a calendar, a calculator, a memo pad, a task list, an alarm clock, a world clock, a timer, a voice memo recorder a stopwatch, a currency and unit converter, and a speakerphone. On the higher end, you'll find USB mass storage, a Google Search app, PC syncing, an illustrator app called Dynamic Canvas, and a file/task manager. We're glad to see both Wi-Fi and full Bluetooth and we like that the attractive user interface for both apps shows your location in relation to the nearby hot spots and Bluetooth devices.
On the downside, the Jet doesn't support instant messaging and voice dialing and commands. Many basic phones offer these features so we can't understand why Samsung didn't throw them in the Jet. The voice dialing omission is particularly galling in an age of hands-free calling laws. Also, while the Jet has Assisted-GPS, related software is limited to Google Maps. At the very least, we were hoping for an integrated app for directions, even if we have to pay for the service.