It looks like I have found the perfect device for my needs as a data-centric mobile business user with a sense of aesthetics...

Three weeks ago, I attended a Microsoft-internal event over in Seattle, and my employer generously gave away some black shiny Samsung BlackJack II (SGH-i617) Windows Mobile 6 smartphones. And I was a lucky winner! I immediately fell in love with this (AT&T branded) device, and the love has deepened since then :-)

The BlackJack II is really a great mobile phone that does not only serve as a mobile data device (messaging, surfing, etc.), but also to really make phone calls easily - that my previous HTC TyTN II (now a replacement device in a drawer) didn't really manage to combine. Additionally, the Samsung really fits in a pocket, looks great, and simply works as expected. Since it is not available over here in Germany, almost everyone who sees it gets envious... ;-)

(I had to invest $19.99 for a SIM unlock, btw., to use the phone with my T-Mobile SIM card. Couldn't wait until I get the unlock code sent to me by my employer ;-)

OK, so what is so great about this device? It's got

  • 3G (UMTS) + EDGE + GPRS + GSM
  • Bluetooth
  • GPS (a SiRF III chip!) - it took me a while to make this work since AT&T expects its customers to get a TeleNav subscription, and didn't make sure it works with any GPS app. So I installed the TeleNav app and ran it once (just in case it comes with additional drivers or that make the GPS fully functional), used the Settings app from the WM 6 Standard SDK to configure a COM port, and the GPSTest app from ChartCross to test the GPS. Now it works with Windows Live Search for Windows Mobile, and hopefully also with my Mobile Navigator 6 from Navigon (I am waiting for the activation code, will report as soon as it works).
  • Great display - bright 320 x 240 LCD that's nicely readable even in sunlight
  • Great keyboard
  • Front scroll wheel - this is a great feature that makes scrolling through lists and pages easy with either hand.
  • Great battery - lasts a couple of days at least on my usage pattern
  • Camera (2 MP) and sound quality are OK.
  • Fast CPU
  • Enough memory :-)
  • Great overall finish - no open ports, connectors, screws, etc. that give most other devices a techie look ;-)
  • USB connection settings let you choose between "Modem", "ActiveSync", and "Mass Storage" - the latter is a great feature that lets you use the Storage Card in the phone as a mass storage device with your desktop computer, for easy file copying. On my TyTN II, I needed a separate app (WM5torage) to get this functionality.
  • Cool homescreen plugins that really display useful information:

Of course, there are also a few minor things which make the device only almost perfect. Among them:

  • No WiFi - not really a big deal for me since I'm on a 3G flat rate.
  • Proprietary connectors - arrgh, this is a nuisance! Why can't everybody stick to Mini USB? The BlackJack II uses a special connector that is even incompatible with most of the other Samsung connectors, so I can't get hold of any adapter etc. for this thing here in Germany. If I ever lose the USB cable and charger that came with it... :-(
  • No headphone jack - users have to use adapters, I just ordered one online with a U.S. shop somewhere, and have it shipped across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • No support for SDHC apparently. Works fine with my 2 GB microSD, but even with the SDHC driver for HTC phones that you can find somewhere, it does not want to work with my other 6 GB card. Well, no big deal, I've read it handles up to 4 GB.
  • No Internet Sharing application installed - a must for me since I'm using this feature a lot, my phone serves as a UMTS modem this way. Search the web for instructions on how to add this feature through a custom install :-)

So, to summarize, I'm happier with this phone than I have ever before with any other device (and I've had quite a few of them).