Samsung Blackjack: Q Who?

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Meet my new favorite phone. The Samsung Blackjack from Cingular is a veritable wunderkind amongst the sea of comparatively ordinary competitors. Not only will it turn heads every time you whip it out, but it’ll outperform any other smart phone in the building, block, neighborhood, etc.

The most striking aspect of the Blackjack is its size, measuring just 4.45 x 2.32 x 0.46-inches, it’s only slightly larger than a Razr (2.08 x 3.85 x 0.5-inches) and smaller than its closest competitor the Moto Q (4.6 x 2.5 x 0.5-inches). Unlike other smart phones that I’ve used, it fits in my pocket quite happily, which is really huge boon.

But don’t think it’s just a pretty face. The Blackjack packs a punch like no other. Beneath its exterior lies some muscle in the form of a 220Mhz TI OMAP dual-core processor and and 64MB RAM/128MB ROM. Which works out to more than enough to get the job done.

After using a Cingular 8125 for about a year I had come to loathe Windows Mobile 5. It’s slow and clunky and almost always a hassle to work with. I had come to old the opinion that WinMo5 was to blame for the 8125 sucking. Wrong I was.

The Blackjack uses the same OS to much better precision. Screen swap quickly with no perceivable lag and applications present hardly any wait time at all. Agile Messenger, for instance, starts in seconds.

Out of the box it supports essentially every email platform imaginable, including push and POP3/IMAP4. I guess that’s sort of bittersweet. It’s nice being able to stay connected, but being connected all the time can be a bit tiresome. Can’t blame the Blackjack for that though, it’s just doing it’s job.

By far the biggest drawback of the Blackjack is its battery life, a problem that Samsung seems to have realized with the inclusion of two batteries and a standalone charger. The phone literature says it can get up to 5.5-hours of talk time but I’m exceedingly skeptical of this claim. It also claims the phone can standby for 11 days which is nowhere near possible. It goes through half a battery sitting on my desk idly for a day. I’m not sure what conditions it would require to achieve these claims, but I’m guessing neither conditions would be real world.

The other slight of the Blackjack actually stems from its small size. The keys are tiny, especially for someone with mammoth hands like myself. It takes some getting used to, but it’s doable.

Another great cosmetic draw is the SXGA screen that can project a 1280 x 960 (OK so really it’s a QVGA screen that can display 320×240. It’s not SXGA, but it looks damn good anyway. Thanks Richard for catching the oversight). It might not be the best phone screen I’ve encountered, but it’s definitely near the top.

There are a bunch of Cingular specific features, particularly some music related one. Aside from the XM radio streaming, there is one other function of debatable use, a Music ID service. Basically, when you hear a song that you like but are unable to name it, get your Blackjack out and have Music ID place the song for you. I tried it about five songs. It’s pretty accurate as far as popular and mainstream songs go (the stuff you can name easily), but it utterly fails at the harder stuff; the stuff you really need it for.

Phone reception is excellent. No dropped or missed calls yet. The dialing system works fine and you’re able to access the contacts list quickly through a dedicated main screen button.

Another nice touch is the scroll wheel that allows for quick browsing through windows. If you have a huge and sprawling contacts list like I do, then this will be a welcome feature.

Oh there is one other little thing that I guess maybe might be of some interest to possibly a few of you: The Blackjack supports UMTS/HSDPA wireless. It’s fast, fast, fast. Having used EDGE on my 8125 for awhile, I had begun to think that “wireless broadband” was just a PR term. Something publicists threw around to make mobile products sound fancy. I didn’t really consider the implications of true wireless broadband, but I stand corrected.

I tried the Blackjack in NYC, Chicago and New Orleans. NYC had the worst 3G access of the three. Chicago and New Orleans have equally awesome coverage, with my little 3G icon always there.

Given the Blackjack’s svelte exterior, fancy features and general cool factor, I think Samsung and Cingular have a real winner here. As far as smart phones go, I really don’t think anything better is currently available. I’m giving the Blackjack best bytes and am going to go out on a limb and say it’s the best all-around phone I’ve ever used.

It’s available now from Cingular for $199.99 with a two year contract or for $449.99 if you don’t want to sign your soul away.

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