Samsung Jet Review

Posted Sep 22, 2009
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When it comes to innovative technology, Samsung is doing its best to push the bar higher for other manufacturers in almost every the company sets foot on. From brilliant LED HDTVs to innovative smartphones like Omnia and Omnia HD, Samsung has proved that they can beat the cream of the crop. In addition, their latest device is a bold move forward, thanks to its industry leading 800 MHz processor.

The phone would be released to target the upper end of the mainstream market; which is evident from its 40000 PKR price tag. In addition, that is probably why Samsung have said; it is “Better than the iPhone 3GS” and that its “Smarter than Smartphone”. However, does this new touchscreen device have enough juice to justify the claims? Jump on in for an in depth review.

Quick Specifications

To get things started, here is a quick specification sheet from the device’s official documentation:

Processor 800 MHz
Display 3.1″ AMOLED Resistive Touchscreen
Resolution 800 x 480 pixels (16M colors)
Dimensions 108.8 x 53.5 x 11.9 mm
Weight 110g
2G Networks Quad Band (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900)
3G Networks Dual Band (900 / 2100)
Data Networks GPRS/EDGE, HSDPA 3.6Mbps
Memory 2GB / 8GB /16GB
MicroSD Support MicroSDHC (up to 16GB)
Camera 5.0 MP AF / Dual LED Flash / Geo Tagging
Video Recording 720 x 480 @ 30fps / 320 x 240 @ 120fps
Video Playback MPEG4, H.263, H.264, WMV, DivX, XviD
Music 3.5mm Jack / FM Radio w/ Recording
Connectivity Bluetooth 2.1, USB 2.0, Wi-Fi b/g, A-GPS
Interface TouchWiz 2.0 with Multi-task support
Battery 1100 mAh

Anyone can tell from a quick glance that this phone has all, that it takes to be a good second tier touchscreen device. Yeah it does not fall in tier one with the likes of iPhone and the HTC Touch and Android series (HTC Hero and the likes), but it does stack up well against its neighbors like LG’s touch devices and Nokia’s recent ventures and even beat them in some departments.

However, do all these features make it the iPhone (and Smartphone) killer that Samsung claims? In terms of hardware, yes it seems like it is capable of doing just that. As for the software part, we will get to that shortly. First, let us see how the phone actually looks like.

Design

As far as the design is concerned, the phone is very attractive, thanks to its contoured back and corners. It is neither too big nor too small making it a perfect fit in the hands thanks to its 110g weight.

Samsung Jet vs Nokia 5630
Samsung Jet vs Nokia 5630

Comparing Jet with a newly released Nokia 5630 XpressMusic, you can get a decent idea of its size.

The screen occupies most of the front face. The earpiece is centered on top along with a front facing VGA camera, and ambient light sensor and a proximity sensor; which turns of the touchscreen when you hold the phone near your face during a call. This is to avoid accidental inputs but I think this feature should be active at all times instead of only while in call.

There are the Accept Call and Reject/Exit buttons below the screen along with a menu button, which appears to be 3D cube. What was confusing for me was that it did not launch the Media Gate 3D interface it signifies. There is a fine silver finishing to the buttons.

The back of the phone has a stylish prismatic effect though it is only red in color. I actually mistook it for a degraded color first though. There is the camera lens on the top with the dual LED flashlights just below it (when you hold it in a horizontal position). The bottom houses a speakerphone which is one of the best ones I’ve ever seen.

There are the three buttons on the right with the lock/hold button on the top and the Media Gate 3D/Motion UI launcher and Camera button tied down together at the bottom. The Camera button could have a little better tactile feedback but it still works.

The left side of the phone is clean with only the volume rocker, which doubles as a zoom/scroll control when in horizontal mode.

The top side has a very welcoming 3.5mm audio jack (I wish I could say the same for the bundled headsets though) and the MicroUSB port for PC connectivity and charging. The bottom has nothing to feature.

The insides of the Jet are rather unusual as you can swap the SIM card without taking out the battery (though you still have to reboot the phone to register the changes) pretty much like the MicroSD card.

Interface

The device runs Samsung’s own TouchWiz 2.0 UI with slight improvements like Motion Gate 3D and Motion UI. The interface looks like it is inspired by the iPhone UI, which is evident from its flat multi-page menu as opposed to a Series 60 nested menu.

The AMOLED touchscreen is just brilliant; in fact, it is easily the best resistive touchscreen I have ever seen. The color gamut and representation is awesome with excellent brightness and sharp image quality.

However, since it is a resistive touchscreen, there are occasions when you are swiping and accidentally click on something and that problem is due to the hardware. More often though, this problem can be attributed to the software instead, which can be very annoying at times.

Most of the interface elements from the previous iterations of TouchWiz 2.0 carry over to Jet so I would only be highlighting on some of the major features. The interface is fast and has some very attractive transition effects, which is due to the most powerful mobile processor in the market is powering this device.

Multitasking is great too. I was able to run 15 apps at the same time including the browser. The task manager comes up when you hold the 3D cube button for a while. It is pretty much cover flow inspired and has a very satisfying feel to it. You can close selective apps or all open apps at once. A very helpful feature when you are in a hurry to free up some memory.

Home Screen

The three page home screen is pretty much like the one you saw in Star though thanks to a higher resolution, things are very much sharp. We can set different wallpapers for each page and customize each screen for different use like at the office, home and in car for example.

You have four launch buttons at the bottom dedicated for the Keypad, Contacts, Messages, and Menu/Back functions. It would have been nice if we could customize these.

The widget-ized home screen looked impressive at first but started to feel like a real pain after using it for a while. Most widgets have no real value or function (like bookmarks for Facebook, YouTube and Flickr etc.) and some are pretty much oversized. In addition, because they are free to flow anywhere like Windows 7, you would be hard-pressed trying to align them to a grid.

I ended up throwing all the widgets back into the bin (which can be opened anytime by taping on a blank portion of the screen). I hope things get better in this department after the Widget marketplace opens up next month.

Menus

The designers completely lost me on this one. Why have scrollable-paged menus instead of nested menus on a resistive touchscreen? Quite too often, I found myself launching apps accidentally while trying to scroll through the three page menus.

Moreover, since they were all cluttered with icons, it was very hard to judge that if I had successfully jumped to the next page or not. There is a small horizontal page indicator at the top, which rather helps in this situation though.

In addition, why the menu had to be three pages long? It is because Samsung decided to throw every application on the menus like SpringBoard does on the iPhone. This even included those, which did not belong here like the stopwatch or the converter.

As much as I hate the main menu, I was still very impressed with the vertical menus thanks to an excellent implementation of flick/kinetic scrolling. In addition, surprisingly, there were hardly any misinterpreted clicks while scrolling vertically.

Contacts, Messages and Calendar

The basic essentials like the Contacts, Messages, and Calendar completely satisfy in the Jet.

While you can search for a contact easily, scrolling through a large list to find one is nothing short of a nightmare if you try to use the while slider that jumps alphabetically. What was surprising is that even though you can pin photos to a contact, you still had to browse in text mode. However, addition of handy shortcuts to call and text are a nice feature. There is also a basic Photo Contacts application that lets you tag faces with your phonebook contacts.

You also get standard features with the Messages and Calendar applications with the exception of email, which I seriously dumped the idea of using in favor of Gmail. The reason was that after a very long setup procedure, all the downloaded emails appeared unread (including the old ones), and there was no mark all read option. Moreover, for text messages, you cannot add more than 10 recipients for each message, not even through groups. But, chance stands, that this might not irk most of the users out there.

Jet comes with Microsoft Exchange Sync though, so corporate users will not ever have to count on the built-in email client.

Input Options

The text input options in this device left me wondering if its price was justified at all. There are three basic input modes: A vertical keypad (with T9), a landscape QWERTY and handwriting recognition.

Leave out the last one for texting aficionados because that is just too slow. The T9 Keypad was horrible because the suggestions were usually quite different from what I wanted to type and adding a word meant scrolling through the entire suggestion list and then hitting the button at the bottom.

The QWERTY keyboard is poorly designed thanks to an unnatural grid-aligned layout backed by a relatively small 3.1, screen making it difficult to use for people with big thumbs like mine. There were not any auto correct features either so you would have to keep on hitting backspace until you get the word right. In addition, what was more discomforting was that the backspace key is placed right next to the return key and you can only imagine how this would turn out to be.

Media Gate 3D and Motion UI

Samsung decided to show off all the power of their 800MHz processor with these new additions to the UI. The new media interfaces use a 3D cube to launch different multimedia applications.

The Media Gate can be launched by pressing and releasing the Media Gate key on the right side of the phone. It is a 3D cube you can be manipulated with your fingers to launch six different apps on each side of the cube. These include FM Radio, Browser, Music Player, Video Player, Photo Browser, and Java Apps. All these apps have a different interface from their normal versions, which is one of the best examples of UI inconsistencies I have ever seen.

Motion UI can be launched by pressing and holding the Media Gate button. It is also used to launch apps but the difference is that it uses the accelerometer to launch two pinned applications (you can customize these thankfully). All you have to do is to snap the phone left or right to launch the application, which again would have a different interface from those mentioned previously.

Why so many different interfaces instead of a uniform one have is beyond me. In my opinion, the accelerometer features should have been incorporated in the normal multimedia applications along with a Motion Gate 3D like interface.

Connectivity

Being a Samsung device, Jet has excellent Bluetooth features built into it. It supports all the usual profiles plus a built in device browser to access the contents of paired devices.

Unfortunately, Wi-Fi was opposite. For some reason, the automatically detected networks never work and I had to add the access points manually. In addition, I had to configure access points for every application separately. Moreover, the radio was not powerful either. My Nokia 5630 XpressMusic could pick up signals at nearly twice the distance compared to Jet.

GPS was rock solid though thanks to the built in A-GPS functionality. However, lack of Navigation software rendered it useless. I did manage to enable the built in Navigation application but it does not work in Pakistan. You are probably better of running Garmin Mobile XT on a Series 60. While the pre-installed Google Maps Java App could take advantage of the GPS, it still did not work with the digital compass.

Web Browser

Honestly, I was very impressed with the work done on the Samsung Mobile Browser based on WebKit. It renders mobile sites quite well and looks good too. Nevertheless, hitting small links is a different story, even with a stylus. I still cannot figure out how many clicks does it actually take to open a link as it was very random. Moreover, scrolling is a pain too. I do not understand why Samsung did not support kinetic scrolling in the browser too. I often ended up zooming the page when trying to scroll which was very irritating.

On the plus side, the browser supported multiple windows and landscape mode, which were a nice touch. Add full “desktop quality” Adobe Flash Player 10 support to the mix and you got yourself a pretty darn good browser.

Camera

There is certainly one department where the phone out performs the iPhone 3GS. That is its Camera and Media centric features. The built in 5.0 MP CMOS sensor is very good for a phone if not one of the best. With features like Auto Focus and Face/Smile Detection, the camera is a treat to use. Moreover, you get six shooting modes including automated panoramic and mosaic mode. Moreover, as for scenes, it has 14 presets for almost every situation. It can even capture Wide Dynamic Range photos for near life-like imaging. This device is more of a digital camera than a phone.

In addition, what about Video? Well everything I said about the still camera doubles for the video recording features. The lens captures videos at a resolution of 720 x 480 at 30 frames per second and the quality is pretty much close to a DVD video. You also get 120 frames per second option for recording slow motion video though the resolution is dropped to QVGA (320 x 240). In my opinion, the biggest reason to buy the Jet would be its imaging and video features.

Media Applications

The Samsung Jet could arguably be declared as a media centric device. It supports a ton of media formats including rare ones like DivX and XviD. The phone has excellent speakers with support for 5.1 Surround Audio, SRS WoW HD and Digital Natural Sound Engine. The in-ear headset that came bundled seemed like a cheap 250 PKR one you can pick off the streets, but not a deal breaker at all.

The Photo Browser supports accelerometer-based navigation meaning you just have to tilt the phone to scroll throw the albums. In addition, you get a built in Video editor which can easily put iPhone 3GS to shame.

One of the best features of the phone is its radio with a built in music finder service. Just record an audio clip from any station and it would identify what song it is. It even worked for most Pakistani radio stations, which was nothing short of excellent.

The Dynamic Canvas was a very fun paint-like application to use. It can even save images as SWF files and that means you can do loads of fun stuff with it. I actually ended up playing with this app for over an hour.

Battery Life

Thanks to the AMOLED display, the Samsung Jet has a good battery life. I was able to manage about 12 hours out of it, with constant use of Wi-Fi at full display brightness. Moreover, the fact that the phone can charge of a standard Micro USB port, you do not have to worry about carrying a dedicated charger along with you.

Downloadable Applications

You know what makes or breaks a great Smartphone: Native application support! So if something is being called “Smarter than Smartphone, you would probably think it could also Bar. B. Q. your chicken and do the laundry at the same time right? Well, you would be disappointed here because Jet does not support any type of applications at all (well real applications anyways, Java apps are just toys).

In addition, for this single reason, I would not recommend this phone to any power user. Moreover, I would also like to ask Samsung that why put an 800MHz processor on a device and not run Symbian or Windows Mobile on it?

Bottom Line

Before reaching a conclusion, let us take a quick look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of this phone.

Pros
  • Attractive design and looks
  • Very responsive for a resistive touchscreen
  • An excellent high resolution AMOLED display
  • Strong Media features
  • Good still image camera
  • Excellent Video camera
  • Wide range of connectivity options
  • Nice transition effects in the UI
Cons
  • No native application support
  • Some inconsistency in UI
  • Most pre-installed widgets are useless

Conclusion

Samsung Jet S8003 has all the right hardware components to make it an excellent Smartphone. Unfortunately, Samsung’s decision of not including a Smartphone OS like Windows Mobile or Symbian is very disappointing. The price range this device would land in is already dominated by devices aimed at power users, so Jet would most probably feel underpowered even though it has an 800MHz processor.

It would have been a completely different story had Samsung thrown on the Android OS on this hardware. It would have easily become what Samsung hoped it would be “A true competitor to the iPhone”. The only reason I would want to buy this phone would be its multimedia capabilities. Which are truly exceptional.

At the end, I would say that I am looking forward to smarter devices from Samsung in the future, like something brilliant in the lines of Omnia HD or Pixon.

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