Cingular appears to be grabbing the lion's share of smart phones. In the last few months, the carrier has stocked its lineup with the Nokia E62, the HP iPaq hw6925, and the 3G-enabled Cingular 8525. And today they've scored another win with the Samsung BlackJack (or Samsung SGH-i607).
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.
Sorry, Moto Q, the BlackJack beats you to the thin punch.
Of course, there are some trade-offs with a compact body. The phone's screen is not a touch screen, and is smaller at 2.25 inches on the diagonal when compared with the Q's 2.50-inch display and the Dash's 2.4-inch display. Yet it's still bright, with a 65,000-color output and 320x320 pixel resolution; images and video look great, colors are bright, and text is extra sharp. The other trade-off is with navigation. The BlackJack's controls consist of two soft keys, a shortcut to the Today screen, a back button, Talk and End keys, and a four-way directional toggle. All the buttons are rather slippery, and we really struggled with the toggle switch. Set amid the rest of the controls, the toggle switch is flush with other buttons--so when we'd try to scroll right, we'd often hit the End key instead. With the Moto Q, for example, the toggle switch is a raised button, so this problem is avoided. A MicroSD expansion slot is located on the upper-right spine and is protected by an attached cover; the cover, however, makes it difficult to insert a card smoothly.
A thumbwheel and a Back button sit on the device's right side for one-handed navigation. Also: a Micro SD expansion slot.
Fortunately, there are other ways to navigate the BlackJack. A thumbwheel sits on the right spine, which can be pressed to select items; a Back button in the same location helps to escape current menus and applications. These controls make it easy to use the device with one hand. However, the buttons sit underneath a ridge that's part of the device's body, making it challenging to hit the wheel on the first try. We discovered that you have to press the thumbwheel very firmly to register the Select command. But here's a tip. If you hold down the wheel for a few seconds, it brings up a quick launcher. Here you can to open applications, such as your calendar or task manager. Holding down the Back button will activate the camera, located on the back of the unit along with a self-portrait mirror.
Navigation controls are cramped. Yet the keyboard is good, and number keys are highlighted in gray.
The full QWERTY keyboard is fairly easy to use. The oval buttons--very similar to the keys on the Moto Q--are tactile and adequately backlit for typing in dim light. While we give an edge to the BlackJack over the T-Mobile Dash, which has a keyboard with smaller keys, we do think the Q's keyboard is easiest to use because of its well-spaced keys. There are no dedicated number buttons, but numbers are highlighted in gray to make them easier to identify in a sea of black keys. Also, numbers aren't grouped in a cluster but instead the three columns of numbers are separated by a column of letters and symbols in between (see above).
The BlackJack sports a 1.3-megapixel camera with video, and a self-portrait mirror.
A volume rocker and headset/power adapter jack sits on the left side. The BlackJack uses a proprietary port, preventing you from using any mini-USB adapter to charge the device, or or any 2.5mm headset--a bad design decision. The Samsung BlackJack comes packaged with a travel charger, a proprietary USB cable, and reference material.
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.