Sunday, December 09, 2007

Dalai's Latest Phone

One of my older posts bashed Palm mercilessly, and you will still find this on my blog as Palm is probably used to this and isn't interesting in nagging me about it. I haven't had a Palm product since my old Tre0 600, and I haven't regretted the jump to Windows Mobile for a second.

I've been a little down lately, as you all know well, but nothing combats the blahs like buying a new toy. Since my old Blackjack was just over a year old, AT&T felt the need to tempt me with its new successor, the Blackjack II, and I succumbed. I'm really glad I did.

The Blackjack II, officially the Samsung SGH-i617, outdoes the older SGH-i607 in a few critical areas. First, the screen is marginally larger (about a millimeter or two in each dimension), but it is a bit brighter and sharper. The difference is quite noticeable. The Blackjack II has a great deal more on-board memory, 155MB as compared to only 55MB for the older version. That makes a huge difference in how one allocates memory space. My 2GB microSD card was easily transferred to the BJII, which is now capable of handling 4GB cards. No doubt I'll get one of those eventually. A larger standard battery means longer talk-time, and a faster processor means, well, faster processing and a bit peppier response overall.

One unfortunate change was made in the universal connector, which is how one charges the phone, connects to a computer, or plugs in headphones. It is unfortunate because I had spend a small fortune in extra chargers and headphone adapters (it works very well with Bose sound-cancelling headphones), and now I have to replace all of that. I take some consolation in the fact that the new connector (which is the same as found on Samsung's Helio phones, for some strange reason) is a little stubbier and sturdier, and has its top or front more clearly marked. I really wish Samsung had gone with a more universal mini-USB connector, which would have made my life easier. The stupid little plastic plug over the port is now chrome-plated, but still will likely break off before the rest of the phone wears out. The casing is now shiny black with chrome trim. It looks better than before, but attracts fingerprints like a magnet.

The BJII has Windows Mobile 6, with a few incremental improvements over WM5, most notably the addition of Office Mobile with limited versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. There is now a GPS receiver using the SRiF Star III assisted GPS chipset. AT&T packages a trial of the TeleNav Software, which can cost $100/year to use. Fortunately, with this little tweak, you can get the GPS to work with Google Maps, which is free. Speaking of tweaks, changing the function of the right soft key in the home screen requires the use of a program such as Right-Tweaker, something that could be done with onboard software before. But, you can more easily assign shortcuts to letter keys than before. Keep in mind, this is still a Smartphone, not a Pocket PC, and it has no touch-screen. Coming from the older Blackjack, and an Audiovox PPC 6600 before that, and a Treo 600 before that, I find I really don't miss the touch screen at all.

The strangest conversion is that of the scrolling function. Previously, there was a Blackberry-like scroll-wheel on the right side of the unit. This has been removed. Instead, the D-pad controller on the front now rotates and can be used rather like the click-wheel on an iPod. I didn't believe at first that the wheel actually physically spins, but my son proved it to me by rotating it carefully with one finger whilst holding another finger steady on the wheel. It takes some getting used to, but in the end, I think it works as well as the side-mounted version. There seems to be no way to adjust the scrolling speed, however.

The bottom line: the BJ-II is a worthy successor to the BJ. There aren't any huge changes, but the improvement was adequate for me to justify the upgrade. But then, that usually isn't too difficult. Next stop, the iPhone II, due out next year...

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