Cingular Blackjack Review

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I might as well just give up. As I’ve made clear before, I don’t like Windows Mobile. It’s an aesthetic choice as much as technical one, but what the hell do I know. I’m just a blogger. So with that in mind, I present the inestimable Cingular Blackjack, a feature-rich super-slim Windows Mobile 5.0 smartphone for the masses.

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The Blackjack— like the T-Mobile Dash, Trace, and Fluffernutter, is Cingular’s latest attempt at getting in on the one-name thing. It’s a slim, black smartphone with a 1.3-megapixel camera. It runs on Cingular’s UMTS/HSDPA 3G network, but what does this mean? It means that web browsing and email downloads are lightning fast, in the areas that currently support that technology.

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I broke my cellular fast and tried the phone in Manhattan where response time was excellent, about 700kbps. In Brooklyn, where we’ve only got EDGE, I hit about 2kbps on a good day, which is a considerable drop. This goes to show the value of a good 3G network and the paucity of EDGE and GPRS data streams. If you’re in an area with UMTS and depend on your smartphone for data, mail, and web downloads, the Blackjack performs quite admirably.

img_3862.JPGThe keyboard was designed using some of the Blackberry patents, which means Samsung was able to use RIM’s slanted key design. Most of the pertinent keys are in all the right places—a home key and back key at both ends of the keyboard along with a center track wheel. There is also a back button under the right scrollwheel which also acts as a clicker. There are volume controls on the left side and a power button on the top.

At about 3.5 ounces, the phone is surprisingly light, and the back panel is clad in a rubber material for a better grip. The screen is quite bright and readable and the default icon format, with four big applications along the top of the screen and a bit of message and call data underneath, is very readable. Battery life was impressive with about three days on standby and about 20 hours of regular usage including calls and extensive web browsing/email reading.

The Blackjack is aimed at the business professional, that much is clear. It includes links to Cingular’s XPress secure email and calendar syncing service along with Good Mobile Messaging. It also includes Cingular Video and Cingular Music, the company’s two media services, but neither were really working correctly during our tests except for streaming XM radio. Because most of the URLs it connected to involved “blackjack” in the name, I suspect Cingular is holding those until the official launch.

The phone includes 128MB of flash memory and a microSD slot for expansion. It supports POP/IMAP mailboxes along with Outlook Mobile push email. It will eventually have PTT capabilities, once these are rolled out on Cingular’s network. It also includes a basic IM application that supports AIM, Yahoo! Messenger and MSN.

On the whole, I can recommend the Blackjack over a similarly outfitted Moto Q or Nokia E62 without 3G speed. It is easy to use, ergonomic and light. The 2004-2005 fiscal year was a tough for Samsung, with a focus on low-end models that really didn’t win any prizes for looks or functionality. Phones and devices like the Blackjack, thankfully, signal a considerably different era for Samsung. Windows Mobile won out as the main mobile OS, so I can hardly fault the phone on that account.

If you’re looking for a way to breeze through web pages, email, and some basic office applications, take a closer look at the Blackjack. It’s available from Cingular for $199 with a two year contract.

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