AT&T Samsung BlackJack II with Windows Mobile 6 Standard

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INTRODUCTION

    For me, the original BlackJack was as close to the "ideal" of what I want in a Windows Mobile phone than I’ve ever come. Sure it didn’t have GPS, WiFi, or decent battery life (with the standard battery), but it was attractive, thin, snappy in terms of performance, and easy to use from a form factor perspective. I was elated when I heard tell that AT&T would be issuing a successor to the BlackJack, dubbed (fittingly) the BlackJack II. I have high hopes for this device, and what is to follow is a thorough evaluation of the successor to my favorite device yet. Read on to see if it’s a worthy successor!

WHAT’S HOT

      Let’s talk specs. For comparative purposes, I’ll show the specs of the original BlackJack (in parentheses) following each spec for the BlackJack II. The device packs a 260Mhz (220MHz) processor, with 256MB (128MB) ROM, and 128MB (64 MB) RAM. It has a 2.4" (2.3") landscape QVGA screen, with a front rotary scroll wheel (side scroll wheel) and a slot for a microSD card (ditto). It also has Bluetooth 2.0 (ditto) and has a SiRF Star III GPS receiver built in (no GPS). The battery is rated at 1700mAH (the original came with a standard at 1000mAh and an extended at 1800mAh). On the back, there is a 1.9MP (1.2MP) camera. The operating system is Windows Mobile 6 Standard (Windows Mobile 5.0 for Smartphone).

Device
Size (inches)
Weight (grams | ounces)
4.44" x 2.47" x 0.52"

132 | 4.65
4.44" x 2.27" x 0.63"

156 | 5.61
4.74" x 2.63" x 0.43"

157 | 5.53
4.33" x 2.09" x 0.59"

117 | 4.12
4.66" x 2.48" x 0.47"

130 | 4.58
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.64" x 2.36" x 0.48"

129 | 4.55
3.96" x 2.34" x 0.67"

133 | 4.76
4.68" x 2.44" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.58" x 2.42" x 0.47"

120 | 4.20
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.65"

178 | 6.28
3.92" x 2.41" x 0.60"

137 | 4.83
4.24" x 2.09" x 0.53"

117 | 4.12
4.17" x 2.00" x 0.85"

151 | 5.34
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.57" x 1.70" x 0.64"

140 | 4.94
4.88" x 2.44" x 0.53"

130 | 4.56
4.21" x 2.20" x 0.55"

120 | 4.20
4.53" x 2.47" x 0.47"

146 | 5.15
4.63" x 2.19" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.35" x 2.07" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.56" x 2.41" x 0.51"

125 | 4.41
4.44" x 2.36" x 0.55"

133 | 4.69
4.01" x 1.98" x 0.55"

124 | 4.37
8.28" x 4.67" x 1.08"

640 | 22.5
4.48" x 2.52" x 0.59"

154 | 5.43
4.17" x 2.38" x 0.68"

147 | 5.18
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.71"

165 | 5.82
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.41" x 2.28" x 0.73"

140 | 4.94
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.45"

110 | 3.88
4.56" x 2.36" x 0.70"
200 | 7.05
4.30" x 2.40" x 0.60"
120 | 4.23
4.20" x 2.30" x 0.60"
136 | 4.79
3.70" x 2.30" x 0.60"
126 | 4.44
4.48" x 2.39" x 0.51"
116 | 4.09
4.60" x 2.60" x 0.50"

134 | 4.70

4.10" x 2.10" x 0.60"
150 | 5.30
4.40" x 2.32" x 0.75"
190 | 6.70


WHAT’S IN
THE BOX

     

(all images link to higher resolution)

Here’s what the box looks like.

 

Inside the box we have the usual getting started material and software, a USB cable, the device (with battery), and the wall charger.

PRODUCT FEATURES

 

    In hand, the device feels high quality, and a bit slippery too (there is no rubbery coating on the rear as found on most newer phones). It’s almost identical in size to the original BlackJack – just a tad wider and a smidgen shorter. Also notice the light at the top of the device that blinks in several different colors depending on various system notifications. I couldn’t find how to turn this off, though.

    Seen from the side, we can see that there is a chrome strip that runs around all edges. This makes for an elegant look, but considering that the rest of the device is gloss black, it picks up fingerprints and dust way too easily.

 

    The keyboard is an improvement over the original BlackJack. The keys are slightly wider, and the number buttons are clustered together rather than spread apart. Also, some shortcut buttons have been added on the bottom row of the keyboard. There is a camera and punctuation button on the right, and a Cellular Video and AT&T portal shortcut button (they launch PIE).

 

    Moving up we have the six hardware buttons found on the original BlackJack: home, call start/speakerphone, left soft key, right soft key, back, and call end/device lock. In the center is the larger D-Pad (if you remember, the D-Pad on the original BlackJack was too small and difficult to press) which doubles as a rotary scroll wheel. This replaces the side scroll wheel on the original BlackJack, which, likes its successor, has an intolerably slow scroll speed.

Moving onto the back, we have a deep cavity for the huge 1700mAh battery. This is essentially the same size as the extended battery for the original BlackJack.

Also found on the back is the stereo speakers that power the excellent speakerphone.

    A proprietary jack! This time, it’s different from the wafer-thin connector found on many older Samsung phones including the BlackJack. This port is also used for connecting with USB, and listening to audio. No headphones are included, so you have to buy proprietary headphones or a converter to 3.5mm (I’m still looking for one).

On the other side is a flap to hold the microSD card.

COMPARISONS

Here’s a shot of the original BlackJack on the left, and the second version on the right.

Both devices have the charging port and volume up/down button in the same spot.

Both have the microSD slot on the right side, but there is no scroll wheel on the side of the BlackJack II because it has the center D-Pad rotary scroll wheel.

From the left we have the Pantech Duo C810, Apple iPhone, AT&T Tilt, Samsung BlackJack and BlackJack II, Motorola Q9 Global, Treo 700wx, and Qtek 8500.

     From top to bottom, we have we have the Pantech Duo C810, Apple iPhone, AT&T Tilt, Samsung BlackJack and BlackJack II, Motorola Q9 Global, Treo 700wx, and Qtek 8500. Stacked, we can see that the new BlackJack is a bit thinner than the original (with extended battery). It’s also about the same thickness as the Motorola Q9 Global from AT&T.

And here’s a top view in the same order as the above.

SOFTWARE
 

This is the standard Home screen that comes on the BlackJack II.

When in icon view, this is how the Start menu looks.

Inside the application menu, we have the usual: a PDF viewer, camera app, link to download TeleNav (for GPS navigation), an RSS reader…

…a trial of MobiTV, Office Mobile for viewing Excel, PowerPoint, and Word files, and a Task Manager…

…which looks like this. Lots of free program memory here!

From the control panel you can bring up this screen that shows you visually how you stand on memory.

     While we’re talking about settings, you can switch on and off Video Share, which lets you stream live video to someone who has a phone that supports it. We haven’t tested this feature; we’d prefer 2-way teleconferencing.

For messaging we have OZ messenger. A favorite of Windows Mobile users.

New in the settings menu is an item called Quick Tips, which launched PIE and goes to an AT&T website that hasn’t been created yet.

     Since the BlackJack II has GPS, you can download TeleNav and use it for $5-$10 per month, depending on how many routes you want to run. This lets you get turn by turn voice-guided GPS navigation, plus real time traffic updates. I really like using the program, though it may be more economical to just buy a standalone GPS programs. In testing, the GPS also integrated well with Google Maps Mobile and Windows Live Search.

The GPS on the BlackJack II is accurate, but cold start times were very long at sometimes over two minutes.

Here’s what the 2D view looks like in TeleNav. You can also do a 3D view.


BATTERY LIFE

    The BlackJack II has a generous 1700mAh battery, and it needs it. Original BlackJack owners know that the standard battery just didn’t cut it, and most of us has to resort to the much-bulkier extended battery. The real battery test for me is always whether I can make it through the while having the screen brightness set to max, while using lots of GPS and 3G. And the BlackJack II does indeed make it through the day under these strenuous conditions, but only with about 10% battery remaining.

BUGS AND WISHES

     Samsung should have consulted current BlackJack owners to see what they would want on a successor device. For example, I would

not

have requested that the device be covered in glossy black with chrome edges. I’m afraid to drop this thing. My original BlackJack has been through a huge amount of abuse, but because it’s not covered in easy-scratched glossy paint, it still looks new.

     A scroll wheel, from an ease of use perspective, is very important on a mobile device. The original BlackJack had a scroll wheel on the right which worked well most of the time, until you had to scroll many lines, which took forever because of its slow scroll speed. The front rotary scroll wheel on the BlackJack II, while placed in a perfect location (right under your thumb), is also very slow in moving through long webpages or email messages. Why couldn’t Samsung allow the user to set the sensitivity? Surely this must be an easy thing to change.

     Despite having a faster processor by 40MHz, the BlackJack II doesn’t feel faster than its predecessor. In fact, it often feels slower, especially when typing. When I type quickly, there is a noticeable lag from when I finish typing a word and when it shows up on the screen. This is not acceptable!

     If you are a Windows Mobile Standard/Smartphone user, you probably use the numeric keyboard shortcuts that show up on all menus. By default, for some reason, the BlackJack II has this feature disabled. Preposterous! Luckily, we have a fix for this.

PURCHASING

    Right now, an AT&T BlackJack II can be had for $399.99 outright, or $149.99 with a two year contract via the AT&T online store or your local AT&T shop.


PROS


  • Elegant design


  • Fantastic speakerphone


  • GPS


  • Ample program memory


  • Good battery life

CONS

  • Highly fingerprint prone
  • No WiFi
  • Keyboard lag
  • Proprietary connection
  • Scroll wheel isn’t sensitive enough
  • Number shortcuts aren’t enabled by default
  • Not noticeable faster than original BlackJack
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What do these ratings mean?


OVERALL IMPRESSION

    To be frank, I’m disappointed. This is hardly an upgrade. Sure I appreciate the GPS, and the redesigned casing looks flashy, but in terms of Ease of Use, the BlackJack II fails miserably. I find it cumbersome navigating the device. If you’ve never used the original BlackJack and are looking at the BlackJack II, your experience won’t be as frustrating as mine. But if you’re coming from the original, hoping to see improvements, you’ll be let down.

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About The Author
Brandon Miniman
Brandon is a graduate from the Villanova School of Business, located near Philadelphia, PA. He's been a technology writer since 2002, and, in 2005, became Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow, a then Windows Mobile-focused website. He has since helped to transition Pocketnow into a top-tier smartphone and tablet publication. He's so obsessed with technology that he once entered a candle store and asked if they had a "new electronics" scent. They didn't.