The BlackJack is the second UMTS/HSPDA-capable smart phone for Cingular (the first being the 8525). It's geared for people seeking more productivity on the road, while the Cingular 8525 is better suited for the power user. While the BlackJack certainly rivals the Motorola Q and T-Mobile Dash with its sleek design, will it show a winning hand? (A black jack reference, yes. How could we not?) It's hard to say. Since our review unit was a pre-production model, we're holding off on a final call until we get the real thing. That said, our initial impressions are more positive than negative. There are design issues, but the BlackJack definitely delivers on its 3G capabilities. Available Nov. 16, the BlackJack should retail for a fair price of $199.99, with a two-year contract.
Sorry, Motorola. Your much-hyped Q can no longer claim to be the "thinnest QWERTY device in the world," as the BlackJack trumps (yet probably not for long, either). At 4.4x2.3x0.6 inches and 3.5 ounces, it's lighter and smaller than the Q (4.5x2.5x0.4 inches; 4 ounces) and the T-Mobile Dash (4.4x2.5x0.5 inches; 4.2 ounces). The all-black casing is undeniably sexy. The smart phone also features a similar soft-touch finish found on the Dash, and is thus easy to grip. The BlackJack also is comfortable to hold, and thanks to its slimmer body, feels more like a cell phone.
The Samsung BlackJack is Cingular's second UMTS/HSPDA smart phone, right behind the Cingular 8525. UMTS and HSPDA are both 3G technologies that allow for broadband-like connection speeds on mobile devices; basically the GSM answer to CDMA's EV-DO. HSPDA has the potential to transmit data at up to 14.4mbps, but you'll most likely average speeds of around 400kbps to 700kbps. For a more in-depth explanation of this technology, check out our Quick Guide to 3G. In short, 3G support means the BlackJack offers a better experience for browsing the Web, listening to streaming media, or downloading games. This technology, however, is not available everywhere, especially in more rural areas. Currently, Cingular's UMTS/HSDPA network, called Broadband Connect, is available in up to 136 markets in more than 50 metro areas. You can check for your city here.
To get the most out of 3G, the BlackJack supports the Cingular Video and Cingular Music services. Using Cingular Video, we watched clips of The Daily Show, Access Hollywood, ESPN sports highlights, and a few other videos. Downloads were speedy with barely any delay for video buffering. The recently launched Cingular Music is a full-featured service that not only allows you to purchase songs from independent music services, such as Napster to Go and Yahoo Music, but also includes streaming XM satellite radio, music videos, MusicID for identifying song titles and artists, and a music news site called TheBuzz. Unfortunately, not all features of the service were enabled on our review unit (and on-the-go music downloading is still impossible), but we were able to listen to XM satellite radio and enjoyed smooth streaming audio. Of course, you can import your personal library of MP3, AAC, WAV, WMA, MPEG-4, and WMV files via MicroSD card, thanks to Windows Media Player 10 Mobile. Onboard memory caps out at 64MB of RAM and 128MB of ROM.
One of the main differences between the BlackJack and the Cingular 8525 is the phone operating system. While both phones run Windows Mobile, the BlackJack uses the Smartphone Edition, while the 8525 uses the Pocket PC Phone Edition. As such, you won't get the Microsoft Office Mobile Suite or document editing capabilities on the BlackJack. Instead, you get an application called Picsel Viewer Suite, which allows you to only open and view Word and Excel documents, PowerPoint presentations, and PDFs. We were able to transfer and open such files successfully with the BlackJack. Other tools include: a calendar; contacts lists; task lists; other notes; a voice recorder; a calculator; a stopwatch; a world clock; and a unit converter.
The BlackJack can handle everything from corporate to personal e-mail; you can access Outlook messages as well as POP3, IMAP, and SMTP accounts. In addition, push technology for real-time e-mail delivery is available through several services, including Microsoft Direct Push, Good Mobile Messaging, and Cingular XpressMail. The BlackJack also supports instant messaging (AOL, MSN, and Yahoo) as well as text and multimedia messages.
In case you want to actually talk to someone, the BlackJack is also a quad-band world phone that can be used in more than 180 countries. It also includes a speakerphone, three-way calling, and conference calling. The address book is limited only by available memory (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts), and each entry can accommodate up to 12 numbers, several e-mail addresses, IM handles, job titles, and additional details. For caller ID, you can assign a contact a group ID, one of 20 ring tones, or a picture. The phone also supports MP3 ring tones, and you can always download more through the Web. If you want to use a wireless headset, that's also possible; the BlackJack has integrated Bluetooth 2.0. There is no integrated Wi-Fi, which is disappointing as this would have been a nice addition for customers outside of Cingular's 3G network.
We tested the Samsung BlackJack (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE; UMTS; HSDPA) in San Francisco using Cingular's service, and call quality was excellent. Conversations sounded loud and clear, and though the other end noticed a slight echo, audio quality was generally great. Activating the speakerphone didn't diminish the sound quality at all, and we had no problems pairing the device to the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.
As noted earlier, we tested a preproduction unit of the Samsung BlackJack, which we're hoping is the reason for some of the sluggish performance we experienced (stay tuned; we'll update results with the final product). There was a noticeable lag when we tried to launch the camera or open various documents. On the bright side, the Web browsing and multimedia experience on the BlackJack was awesome. Web sites loaded quickly as did streaming media. Music playback through the phone's speakers was good, although audio sounded blown out when we turned the volume to its highest setting. Video looked spectacular on the BlackJack's gorgeous screen, even though there was the expected pixilation.
The Samsung BlackJack is rated for 5.5 hours of talk time and up to 11 days of standby time. In our tests, the phone just met the rated talk time.