Editor's note: this review comes courtesy of our colleagues at CNET Asia in Singapore where the Samsung Jet launched in June. Samsung Australia has no plans to launch the Jet in Australia at this time.
The Jet is compact, pocket-friendly and the buttons are well-defined with good travel. Disappointingly, it invites fingerprint smudges too easily. From the side, the front and back of the chassis taper to a point on the bottom edge. The side profile resembles a flattened speeding bullet, possibly a fitting appearance for the speedy 800MHz processor inside.
The real gem, however, lies in the details, starting with the hexagonal button below the screen, which resembles a 3D cube instead of the regular flat key. It has a clear plastic layer on top with a reflective mirror acting as the base — a very elegant design we must say.
Around the back is a hologram of red "railings", visible only when the phone is tilted at certain angles. It's gimmicky, but we like the little touches that Samsung has added on the Jet. The micro-USB port and 3.5mm audio jack sit along the top, while the key lock, Media Gate (more on that later) and camera shutter are on the right. On the opposite side is the volume button.
The Jet runs on TouchWiz 2.0, an updated version of the touchscreen user interface seen on earlier phones like the F480. There are three home screens, similar to the Android operating system, and you can drag widgets onto these "pages". Each page operates independently. This means it's possible to have the same app on all three screens, even though we reckon no one would do that. One thing to note is that it's not possible to scroll vertically on the home screens, so you're limited to the 3.1-inch, 800x480-pixel AMOLED display. Larger widgets take up more space and you may end up being able to fit only one app on a page.
There are two types of widgets on the Jet: the offline ones and those that require an internet connection. The latter group comprises news, weather and search apps. The Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Photobucket, Flicker, Picasa and Friendster widgets are merely web links, so these are considered offline apps. Admittedly, the variety of widgets is still limited at this moment (34 are preinstalled). And while the widget platform is interesting, other smartphone operating systems have been around for a long time and third-party programs are readily available on the web. The one thing we'd like to see is a software development kit (SDK) for the platform as this may dramatically increase the potential of the system if developers catch on it.
A few other novelties come with TouchWiz 2.0. These include the Media Gate 3D user interface and Motion Gate. The former is reminiscent of LG's 3D S-Class cube interface and HTC's TouchFlo 3D. There's a shortcut button on the side of the phone to access Media Gate, which is simply an on-screen cube suspended in mid-air. You can swipe and rotate it to get to six multimedia programs such as music player and the web browser. The irony is that Samsung also provides a row of on-screen shortcuts at the bottom of the display. We find the latter more useful (and faster) in getting to the apps. When you get to the browser on the cube, you flick up or down to cycle through your bookmarks. Likewise in Album where you can quickly scroll through photo snaps like a pack of cards.
The motion recognition engine Motion Gate is more interactive. We can shake the device to end applications and double-tap to play music and take pictures, but our experience with it fell short. This is because Motion Gate is accessible only via a separate menu by holding down the Media Gate button to get to the two assigned shortcuts. This means that if you use the standard music player from the phone's main menu, you can't snap/tilt to switch tracks. Or if you activate the camera by holding down the shutter key, the double-tap feature wouldn't work. We think these are innovative features, but it's more a showcase of what Samsung can do with the built-in accelerometer rather than being useful and intuitive apps. Still, it's a good attempt even if we find the implementation lacking.
We like the Etiquette pause and Speaker call accelerometer-based functions on the Jet. The former is common enough these days and lets you mute the phone when you face it down. The Speaker call function is a little more unique and smart. Moving the phone away from the face during a call and placing it on a flat surface automatically activates the speakerphone. This worked without a hitch during our review.
There's also a new tap-and-slide zooming feature which Samsung introduced on the phone. This isn't as intuitive as pinching and stretching on the iPhone, but it works (even though it takes a few moments to get used to it) and that's good. Smart Unlock, which we saw earlier on the Samsung Star, is also implemented here. This lets you unlock the phone by writing a predetermined letter on-screen.
Like the home screen, the main menu is now spread over three pages as well. This is similar to the iPhone interface except that you don't have an option to rearrange the icons. The good thing about this layout is you no longer need to have sub-menus. For example, you may need to go into Organizer to get to certain apps in that folder on some devices. With this interface, you can get to the programs directly. The Jet doesn't have a physical keypad, so text input is via the on-screen alphanumeric pad, or a QWERTY keyboard when you rotate the device sideways.
At this point, we'd like to clarify that we tested two Jets on three MobileOne (M1) SIM cards and we encountered several teething problems. We couldn't get the handsets to synchronise with our office Microsoft Exchange Server 2003. Assisted-GPS didn't work and web page rendering on Samsung's proprietary Dolfin browser was wonky. Initially, we thought this could be an issue with the hardware and we asked the company what could have gone wrong. It turned out that the data settings sent over-the-air from M1 doesn't work for our sets. Samsung's product manager clarified that the handsets bought directly from the telco wouldn't face these issues since they would have been pre-configured with the right settings. Fair enough.
That said, we still couldn't get the Jet to sync with our Exchange Server with the SingTel SIM card. The explanation from Samsung was that the Exchange ActiveSync implementation on the Jet is meant only for basic Exchange use, typically SMB or SOHO set-ups which have their email systems provided by a hosting company. Although we weren't able to test this out, Samsung's press release said that ActiveSync will synchronise emails, calendar and contacts entries.
After finally getting the settings tweaked, web pages rendered perfectly and we were able to browse the CNET Asia home page comfortably. The Dolfin browser is a Webkit version, letting you have up to five tabs opened simultaneously. That's helpful if you need to zip between different websites.
According to Samsung, Jet units sold in Singapore are not bundled with a microSD memory card, although the handset has an internal memory of 2GB. This is required to run the mapping software that supposedly incorporates 3D Map Navigation. You can activate the program icon in the phone settings, but you'd get a message prompt that says you should insert the memory card. It can be a little misleading and we feel this option should have been disabled if the accompanying software isn't provided in the box. That said, Google Maps is pre-installed, so you still have basic mapping software on the Jet.
The Jet packs an 800MHz processor, a clock speed that's considered fast even when compared with smartphones. The HD Icon and Omnia i900 had processors with clock speeds of 600MHz and 624MHz, respectively. Navigating the phone's menus and opening applications was snappy. At the same time, we were impressed with the 5-megapixel camera, which had a shutter lag of only 0.2 second. There was hardly any purple fringing in our snaps and the shooter was able to handle white balance pretty well in our test shots. The dual-LED flash, however, gave us uneven lighting as the intensity was generally focused on the centre of our test shots and dropped off rapidly toward the edges.
We had no issues with call quality and video calls were respectable. The image quality from the front camera was admirable and there was minimal display of sluggishness and lag. The on-board speakers were also loud enough for video calls and music playback. Video capture is at 720x480 pixels (30fps) in MP4 format and a one-minute clip generates an approximate 14.6MB file size. We were able to play our DivX test video smoothly on the handset without having to do any conversion on the Jet. In short, it's a pretty capable multimedia device.
The 800x480-pixel AMOLED touchscreen, which shares the same resolution as the HTC Touch HD and Sony Ericsson Xperia X1, was sharp, bright and held up well under the sun. We didn't have to squint while typing text messages or when looking at web content.
The 1100mAh battery has a rated talk time of 8.2 hours and approximately 17.5 days on standby. On average, we managed to get two days of usage before having to reach for the charger.
We didn't think the enhanced TouchWiz 2.0 was a remarkable improvement over the earlier version. Instead, it is more of a showcase of what Samsung can do. What could have made the UI better would be Samsung releasing an SDK for the platform and having developers build apps for it. We encountered some hiccups with the SIM card issue during our review, but safe to say, that's something the end-user wouldn't encounter if they purchase the handset directly from a telco operator.
Did the Jet fulfil its promise as being smarter than a smartphone? Overall, we feel the Jet is an excellent device with the right set of features. These definitely work in Samsung's favour and the Jet's strengths noticeably outweigh its weakness of limited apps. As far as regular touchscreen handsets go, the Jet will be your best bet.