Samsung Jack (SGH-i637) Review

Ozzy is right. As smartphones go, the Jack is a handy, fully-equipped and inexpensive Windows 6.1 option.
Ozzy is right. As smartphones go, the Jack is a handy, fully-equipped and inexpensive Windows 6.1 option.
Ozzy is right. As smartphones go, the Jack is a handy, fully-equipped and inexpensive Windows 6.1 option.

Highs

  • Easy-to-navigate; Full array of email
  • text and IM options; excellent music and video playback options; WiFi; 3.2 MP camera

Lows

  • Dull style; not enough call volume; microSD card slot in battery compartment; variety of minor technical issues

Summary

We understand Ozzy Osbourne. In his wacky commercial about finding the perfect personal assistant, Ozzy clearly elucidates the benefits of the Samsung Jack – a 3G Windows Media 6.1 smartphone that’s actually smart (complete with that scheduling thingie), fully multimedia equipped and (almost) fun to use, and, at $99.99 after rebate and two-year contract with AT&T Wireless, really cheap. Considering a couple of annoying logistical quirks, is it a better value than a touchscreen Windows 6.1 phone though? Read on to find out.

Samsung JackFeatures and Design

For the price, the Jack is about as fully-packed as any non-touchscreen smartphone on the market: Specs include Windows 6.1; 3G on AT&T’s 3.6 Mbps HSDPA network; WiFi; full email and texting options; an HTML browser, music player and XM satellite radio; a 3.2 MP camera and camcorder; plus AT&T’s video and navigation as well as MobiTV, Mobile Office, and a host of other work and leisure apps.

Interestingly, the handset’s best attribute is how easy it is to find everything. Samsung has streamlined the Jack’s OS to minimize multi-level sub-menus on the most frequently-accessed apps and the multiple tabbed menu icon screens found on touchscreen smartphones. Consider it a welcome benefit.


Form Factor

Regardless, the rather dull Jack looks just like any another slab smartphone model, featuring a crisp and colorful 2.4-inch screen, nav/control array and full QWERTY keyboard. On the left side is found the volume toggle and power on/off switch, with Samsung’s proprietary connecting jack seated on the right. On the rear of the phone can be found a 3.2 MP camera with vanity mirror.

The Jack is further mostly black, which gives the phone a sleek look, but proves a drawback logistically. There’s no green or red backlighting on the Send and End keys, for instance, and there’s no pastel background color to make the numeric keys standout. The bright white key backlight makes keys easy to read indoor and out, however.

As for typing, the Jack’s curved keypad has slightly humped keys and is slightly larger than on the Samsung’s Magnet, but we still had a tough time thumb tapping. Most times, we resorted to using our thumbnails instead to insure accuracy.


Samsung JackPorts & Connectors

Manufacturer Samsung insists on maintaining its single proprietary jack instead of switching to the now standard microUSB jack and 3.5mm headphone jack. As such, the Jack’s box includes an adapter to use your own inline earphones, but it really needs to be more compatible with industry standards.

Another problem we encountered involves the placement of the microUSB slot (which can handle up to a 16GB memory card), which is located inside the battery compartment. In order to access it, you have to remove the battery, which means turning off the phone to insert or swap cards.

Can the phone serve as a workable PMP?

The Jack’s screen renders video from AT&T’s Cingular Video (CV) and MobiTV fairly well. Footage is mostly devoid from the usual jaggies and digital artifacts usually encountered on cellular handsets, making mobile video viewing a joy outside the usual need to squint in order to perceive fine details.

As for the built-in music player, it proves fairly satisfactory. The function is easily launched from the home screen without burrowing through menus and includes all perfunctory controls and playback options. However, there’s no option to view album art and, even though we loaded only plain old MP3s, the player refused to play some tracks and, on one occasion, actually crashed the phone.


Sound Quality

Call quality was consistent, clean and clear on both the receiving and issuing end. Nonetheless, more volume should’ve been provided to compensate for noisier ambient conditions.

Samsung JackSound Quality

Call quality was consistent, clean and clear on both the receiving and issuing end. Nonetheless, more volume should’ve been provided to compensate for noisier ambient conditions.


Syncing and Contacts

Syncing with Outlook to transfer email accounts, calendar and contacts requires installing software included on a CD that’s bundled in the box. When you add contacts, the Jack makes you unnecessarily choose between saving them to the SIM card or to Outlook, which is a largely pointless choice. Once simply saved to Outlook, you can then be given a choice to also add it to the SIM card or create a speed dial option.


Web

You can access the Web via AT&T’s MEdia Net Web app or via Internet Explorer. Using IE allows you to create your own homepage and avoid the MEdia Net front page.

It takes about 10-12 seconds to connect and load the initial page, then 5-6 seconds to access most mobile-optimized pages such as those for CNN, ESPN or The New York Times, slower than most EV-DO Rev. A phones, but on par with AT&T’s 3G service. Full HTML sites obviously take a bit longer, depending on graphic content; IMDb, for instance, takes around 15 seconds to load, around the same as it takes on the first-gen iPhone 3G.


Camera

Jack’s 3.2 MP camera takes beautiful, and large, pictures, albeit with one idiosyncrasy. While the center and right side of most photos taken in sunlit conditions are crisp, the left side is slightly out of focus.

Videos, offered at 320×240 resolution and 15 fps, also look beautiful, and aren’t as unwatchably digitized as one might expect when blown up to several times their size.


Battery Life

Samsung says the Jack gets seven hours of talk time, but in our tests, we got no more than four, which is about average for phones of this type.


Conclusion

Surprise – Ozzy is right. As smartphones go, the Jack is a handy, fully-equipped and inexpensive Windows 6.1 option for technically-inexperienced and fiscally responsible buyers. This being the case, it makes a good fit for beginners who prefer to spend equal amounts of time working and playing.


Pros:

  • Easy-to-navigate Windows 6.1 smartphone
  • Full array of email, text and IM options
  • Excellent music and video playback options
  • WiFi
  • 3.2 MP camera


Cons
:

  • Dull style, no color LEDs for Send/End
  • Not enough call volume
  • microSD card slot in battery compartment
  • Proprietary Samsung Jack/no 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Variety of minor technical issues
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