Samsung touts the Jet as a mobile phone that's faster than a speeding bullet, but it left us with the feeling we were creeping along on a lawnmower. Bright and vivid it may be, but the resistive touchscreen requires a firm touch, and the user interface is confusing in places. The Jet has a huge amount going for it, but, without a fun-to-use interface, it ends up providing a frustrating experience.
You can grab the Jet from free on a £20-per-month contract, or for around £320 unlocked and SIM-free.
Speedy does it
Speed and responsiveness are the two most important features for a touchscreen, so we had high hopes for the Jet, which Samsung claims to be the fastest full-touch handset in the world. But we weren't blown away by the Jet's speed.
For example, when we swiped a finger to switch between home screens, the transition wasn't any faster or smoother than we've seen on other touchscreen phones, and was far less smooth than a top-of-the-range touchscreen device like the iPhone 3GS. There's a split-second delay between the swipe and the change, the widgets each take a moment to appear on the screen, and the speed of the transition doesn't match the speed at which you swipe your finger.
Applications like the Web browser load up very quickly -- as they do on most phones at this level -- but we didn't find rendering particularly fast. Our favourite site, CNET UK, took 15 seconds to load on the Jet over Wi-Fi, compared to 4 seconds on the 3GS. The Jet invites the comparison by calling itself the world's fastest touchscreen phone, but we cut it some slack -- it is much less expensive than the iPhone -- and also compared it to a Nokia 5800 XpressMusic. The 5800 took 10 seconds to load the site -- 5 less than the Jet.
Even subtracting the 2 seconds that it took both the Jet and the 5800 to load the Flash elements on the page -- the fancy-pants iPhone doesn't support Flash -- the Jet we tested proved far from the fastest phone for browsing the Web.
Everyday tasks like starting a new text message, opening the Web browser and viewing contacts don't feel any faster on the Jet than on the 5800. The Jet's 800MHz processor may make a difference when you're running several applications at once and making big demands on the processor, but we weren't able to prove it in our tests. A speedy processor means little if the operating system doesn't take advantage of it, and the Jet just didn't impress us in the real world.
Resistive is futile
The Jet also suffers from a resistive touchscreen, which feels rather squishy and requires pressure to make it respond. As a result, it seems less responsive than a capacitive touchscreen. We prefer the touchscreen on Samsung's budget phone, the Tocco Lite. We usually needed to use a fingernail, rather than a fingertip, to get the Jet to respond. The Tocco Lite shows that a resistive touchscreen can be decent, even on the cheap, so we're disappointed that Samsung hasn't managed to achieve the same with the pricier Jet.
The Jet's AMOLED screen is gorgeously bright and vivid, though. Web sites look great, although scrolling and zooming tends to be jittery. Zooming works by holding down a finger and sliding it up and down. That's an innovative idea, and it does away with screen-hogging zoom controls, but it means you can only zoom in on the centre of a page.
Samsung's version of the Symbian operating system is much better-looking than the version Nokia uses on the 5800, but it's confusing and too convoluted at times. For example, when we couldn't connect to a Web page, the error message was: 'Failed to connect to DPS. No response from AP.' That's not much help, even for mobile-phone experts.
The Jet's on-screen keyboard switches from an alphanumeric version when you hold the phone in portrait mode to a Qwerty keyboard in landscape mode. The keyboards are both fast and responsive, but we hate the layout. For example, the key to switch languages is given as much space as the other keys, although, unless you're an MEP, you'll probably rarely use it.
On the other hand, we like the fact that you can run several applications at once -- a long press of the jewel-like centre key brings up everything that's running. We also like the widgets on the home screen. They're basic, but there are some good ones, like the one that controls the music player. Unfortunately, there's no way to lock them in place, and we often accidentally moved them when we were trying to slide around the home screens.
The Jet also offers some innovative user-interface ideas, such as Media Gate 3D, which is essentially a spinning cube of shortcuts that gets its own launch button next to the camera shutter button. You can tap it or control it by shaking the phone, but it's pretty pointless in our opinion.
Another new idea is gesture-based unlocking. When the phone is locked, you can draw a letter on the screen to unlock it. You can also set the letter that unlocks the phone to act as a speed-dial number so that, once you enter the letter, the phone rings one of your contacts. That's handy for phoning home, but we wish it worked with simple cursive, rather than capital, letters, which often require several strokes.
We were impressed with Jet's 5-megapixel camera, despite its 3-second shutter lag. Our snaps were clear and showed good colour reproduction, and photos and videos looked striking on the Jet's 79mm WVGA-resolution screen.
The Jet supports MPEG-4, H.263 and DivX video formats, but we struggled to get videos on the phone using Samsung's syncing software. Videos didn't get automatically converted to a format the phone could read, so we ended up wasting time transferring files that we couldn't play. We'd suggest downloading videos over the phone's built-in Wi-Fi or 3.2Mbps HSDPA instead. There's plenty of room for downloads, thanks to a microSD memory card slot that supports up to 16GB of storage.
There's also support for heaps of music formats, and a built-in FM radio. You can listen to your tunes at their best, thanks to a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, the inclusion of which always gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
The Jet reminds us a great deal of the 5800, from its resistive touchscreen to the Symbian OS. But the Jet far exceeds the 5800 in terms of looks, working a bigger screen into a slimmer, more solid-feeling body. The rounded back features interesting shiny red stripes, which remind us of the red-hot bars in an electric fire. But a big drawback of the case is that the bezel around the lens and the raised speaker keep the Jet from lying flat, which is a pain when you want to tap with both hands when playing games.
The Samsung Jet's speedy processor doesn't deliver much oomph in the real world, but we can forgive its average speed. What we can't forgive is its unresponsive resistive touchscreen and occasionally confusing interface. Despite a stunning AMOLED screen, customisable home screens and a good selection of features, the whole package feels unpolished and full of irritating quirks. Little jewels like the standard headphone jack are tarnished by mistakes such as the poor Qwerty keyboard layout, leaving us disappointed overall.
Edited by Charles Kloet