Media playback is as always another Windows Mobile weakness; aside from some cosmetic upgrades, it's still the same years-old interface and just isn't made for those with more than a handful of items to play.
E-mail on the Samsung Jack is thankfully much better than the Internet integration. We linked up a Gmail account to the Jack and it synced e-mail instantly. Unfortunately, the e-mail app has an Outlook-like mindset and doesn't necessarily operate on a "push" level; short of a full Exchange server, mail at best arrives on a fixed schedule. This quirk of making the application feel like its desktop-based big brother, in spite of what's actually needed, seems to carry over into other parts of the OS; Windows Mobile at times truly does feel like a microscopic version of Windows XP, let alone Vista or 7. Everything from the file browsing applications to the confirmation prompts feels like Windows, which is not a plus in this environment. All other modern smartphones give users a unique interface that feels at least partly optimized for the platform instead of shoehorned into a space it doesn't belong.
battery life, camera, sync and call quality
When testing phones, we alternate between frequent use as well as leaving them on for days at a time while occasionally making calls, running apps and using data. Nearly every smartphone we've used will need a full recharge in a day, but we were somewhat disappointed with the Jack's light-duty longevity. Typically we can leave a phone alone for a few days and use it in an on-and-off manner as we just described, even with Wi-Fi enabled. Samsung's phone didn’t seem to last as long as other phones we’ve tested and still needed fairly frequent recharges. Chalk this up to a relative lack of battery optimization.
The camera on the phone boasts a 3.2 megapixel resolution, which as of the end of 2009 is virtually the standard. Our test shots produced a mixed bag. With all of the settings on auto, we had some shots that were washed out, lacking color or prone to noise, and others that were acceptable. Clarity on all of the shots was good, but it seems that the phone needs lots of light to get proper exposure and white balance readings.
Unfortunately, all Microsoft-based phones rely on ActiveSync for all computer interaction. Files located on the phone can't be opened from a file browser, as they can on Android devices; they first have to be copied to the host PC (supposedly being converted along the way). The approach seems like an unnecessary gatekeeper between users and the content on their phone when other smartphones, and even many ‘dumbphones,’ allow users direct access to their content. iPhones do share a similar limitation, but at least Apple is known for a fairly elegant process that doesn't alter the files themselves.
As far as actual phone calls, the Samsung Jack gets a passing if unexceptional grade. Audio quality on both ends of the call is good, as is the phone's speakerphone performance.
The Samsung Jack is in many regards emblematic of the typical keyboard-equipped Windows Mobile device. Most of the positives are attached to Samsung's hardware design: it's comfortable, straightforward and simple. But as has been the case for years, the negatives almost always relate to the Microsoft OS. If Microsoft could give users better browsing and media experiences, less of a Windows-obsessed philosophy and a more straightforward sync, the Jack could be an excellent handset in every area.
As such, our answer on the Jack is the same as it often is for most Windows Mobile phones: if you’re a professional looking for tight Office integration (with sleek hardware as a perk), the Samsung Jack is worth a look. If you’re more of a multimedia and Internet user, though, pass on. The poor browsing environment, rudimentary jukebox software and need for a headphone jack adapter will likely disappoint you -- especially since for just a $20 higher outlay to AT&T you can have an iPhone 3G that's much more well-rounded.
- Light, comfortable.
- Great keyboard.
- Simple home screen, Office support.
- Very poor browser; so-so e-mail.
- ActiveSync an obstacle.
- Display not as detailed as its rivals.
- Some camera shots washed out or noisy.
- 3.5mm earphones need an adapter.