You probably have an image in your head of what a feature phone looks like – a small non-touch display and a keypad below it. And that is exactly what they are for the most part, but there are a few rare devices that shatter such expectations.
The Samsung S8000 Jet from 2009 is one of the prime examples. Its 3.1” AMOLED display covered most of the front and the multitasking OS with TouchWiz styling had you questioning where the line is between smart and feature phones.
This wasn’t a Super AMOLED display, by the way, those first appeared the following year. What’s so super about them, anyway? “Super AMOLED” is just Samsung’s marketing term for an AMOLED panel with an integrated digitizer, the layer that makes capacitive touch possible.
The Jet used a resistive touch layer instead. However, it was very sensitive and rivaled capacitive touch displays of the time, a far cry from the PDA days when a stylus with a sharp tip was needed to provide enough pressure.
Also, the 3.1” display had 480 x 800 px resolution, which means the pixel density (301 ppi) is close to Retina display territory. That’s another marketing, coined by Apple this time with the release of 2010’s iPhone 4 (which had a 330 ppi display).
Better still, the Jet’s display was capable of displaying 16 million colors. To put it in context, Android 1.6 (released in September of 2009) was capped at 65 thousand colors. Naturally, the higher contrast and saturation of OLED made the little display pop.
The Samsung Jet had an excellent 5MP camera, which took pleasing photos and was helped by a dual LED flash. The camera could record 480p video at 30 fps and had a 120 fps slow-motion option at 240p resolution.
There was a forward-facing video call camera, but that was before the term “selfie” entered the dictionary of phone makers. It was used for video calls over 3G and that was about it.
The Jet ran an early version of TouchWiz – a touch-oriented user interface developed in-house by Samsung. Later it would be used as the basis of the company’s Android modifications. But this wasn’t Android… actually, we’ll talk about Android in a bit.
The phone was powered a Qualcomm chipset featuring a surprisingly fast 800MHz processor. For comparison, Samsung’s first Android phone, the I7500 Galaxy (which was released the same month as the Jet) used a 528MHz processor. This one ran plain Android and had a 320 x 480 px display.
The Jet really deserved its name, it was properly fast. And it could multi-task, complete with a card-based app switcher. Throw in widgets and themes and you might start to wonder if this isn’t really a smartphone, just one with a weird OS no one has heard about.
We think the line separating smart from feature phones is the app store. J2ME apps were never particularly good – they were often designed for the lowest common denominator, which was the non-touch screen and keypad phone you were imagining five minutes ago.
That is not to say that the Jet didn’t feature some spectacular native apps. The Dolfin browser in particular was amazing. It used one-finger zooming – which was a cleaver replacement for pinch zoom since resistive screens don’t normally support multitouch. To be fair, Android lacked multi-touch support prior to v2.0. Anyway, zooming worked well enough.
The browser had a built-in ad blocker, something that is still supported by Samsung’s browser today. Also, Flash was fully supported thanks to the powerful chipset. And the phone had enough RAM to keep 5 tabs open simultaneously while also running several downloads in the background.
The chipset had one of the early 3G HSDPA modem, which enabled impressive download speeds up to 3.6 Mbps (theoretical speeds, that is). It also featured a built-in GPS receiver, however there was no navigation app out of the box.
You could Buy Samsung Navigator (a rebranded Route66) for €70 and that was only a 1-year license. Navigation used to be expensive until Nokia made it free (and Google followed suit soon after).
The chipset’s power was used for 3D animations in the interface as well as for 3D gaming. An accelerometer allowed for early motion-controlled games, but we circle back to the topic of the app store – a strong app store attracts developers which make games that attract people.
Which leads us to attempted Android ports for the Samsung Jet. The JetDroid Forums (still online today, but no longer active) was dedicated to getting Android to run on the Jet as well as some other phones (e.g. the Monte).
The phone certainly had enough processing power to pull it off and the developers even got the Play Store running. However, this never got as popular as the HTC HD2 ports. Still, if you watch the video above you’ll see several versions of Android (up to CyanogenMod 9 based 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich) running on the phone with various degrees of success.
The Samsung S8000 Jet was one of the best feature phones ever built, certainly one of the most powerful. It was, unfortunately, part of a dying breed as iPhones and Androids swallowed the mobile world. Not immediately, of course, Samsung toyed around with Bada for a couple of years and still keeps its sequel, Tizen, in its back pocket.
However, the truth is that Android is the easy way to make a phone – it saves a ton of work on the software side. But even with extensive customizations to the UI, modern phones have a feeling sameness that phones of the past easily avoided.