What's hot: Large AMOLED touch screen with vivid colors, lots of storage.
What's not: Sluggish, Windows Mobile may be too eradicated for some tastes.
Reviewed December 2, 2009 by Lisa Gade, Editor
The Samsung Omnia II is a Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional phone with Samsung's TouchWiz 2.0 UI. In fact, it's hard to find Windows Mobile underneath because Samsung has so heavily customized the phone with their own applications, skins for standard Windows Mobile applications and the TouchWiz 2.0 home screen with widgets. The Omnia II, much more so than the first Omnia on Verizon, feels a bit like "smartphone for dummies" at times, and at first glance you'd be hard pressed to guess this isn't a high end Samsung TouchWiz feature phone. But it is indeed full Windows Mobile 6.5 inside, and that means excellent MS Exchange support, the Office Mobile suite and top notch PIM applications that sync to Outlook, Exchange and even Google.
If you're a veteran Windows Mobile user and actually prefer Microsoft's user interface, this isn't the phone for you. You can disable the replacement program launcher and the TouchWiz home screen, but you're still left with Samsung's customized menus, skins over Windows Mobile applications and a host of Samsung applications meant to substitute for WinMo apps (or add to them). In fact, there are a huge number of Samsung applications pre-installed, including their own memo program (MS Word and Notes are still there too), a streaming media player, a unit converter, business card reader, an RSS reader and more. Verizon's V Cast suite is on board as well with V Cast Video, V Cast Music with Rhapsody, Song ID, VZ Tones, VZ Mobile Email and Mobile IM. The UI feels at times like too much icing on the cake, and it gets in the way of productivity. The wealth of sometimes redundant icons and applications may confuse novices just as much as it gets in the way if you're a Windows Mobile veteran. But we do get the idea: Samsung is saying "who needs a darned app store when you've got all this stuff pre-installed".
The 3.7" 480 x 800 pixel AMOLED touch screen is likely the Omnia II's most exciting feature. It's huge, it's incredibly color saturated and its resolution matches the Windows Mobile HTC Imagio and Touch Pro2 on Verizon. This is a resistive touch screen, which means you can use your fingernail or the included silo-loaded stylus for smaller UI elements. The Omnia II has an accelerometer and a proximity sensor that turns off the display when in a call to prevent cheek dialing.
The Omnia II has a GPS and VZ Navigator, WiFi 802.11b/g, Bluetooth with A2DP stereo and a microSD card slot. The smartphone has an oddball 208 megs of RAM and 8 gigs of flash storage. We suspect the relatively low RAM is in part responsible for the Omnia II's sluggishness. TouchWiz 2.0, Samsung Menu and the Cube launcher are heavy background apps for a RAM-constrained smartphone. Other features include a very good 5 megapixel camera with autofocus lens and an LED flash, DivX support and TV out.
The phone's design is simple with call send, call end and a menu button on the front. The sides have plenty of little buttons for screen lock, camera launch, volume, OK/back and volume controls. As with most Samsung phones, it's unmistakably plastic but it's pleasant looking and feels good in the hand. The tail lens back is here yet again (first seen on the Samsung Jet) and we think it looks cool, though business users might find it too flashy. In subdued lighting the red is subtle but flash it under some light and it looks like a car's brake light illuminating. Unfortunately that snazzy back picks up fingerprints like mad, so be prepared to wipe it down frequently.
Samsung Omnia II
The microSD card slot is under the back door, but you need not remove the battery to swap a card. The phone's ample stereo speakers live under the back, one near the top and one at the bottom. Happily, the Omnia II has a 3.5mm stereo jack rather than a proprietary Samsung blade connector. The sync connector is a standard micro USB jack that also handles charging. The Omnia II isn't a small phone, and it looks a bit ample in today's world of super-slimmed models. It's taller than the iPhone 3GS but it does pack a larger 3.7" display.
The Omnia II has a 3.5mm stereo headset jack, micro USB connector
and a microSD card slot that's under the back cover.
Here's our 12 minute video review that covers the physical design, TouchWiz user interface and Cube launcher, on-screen keyboard, Opera web browser and more.
TouchWiz 2.0 and Performance
Samsung's latest version of TouchWiz on Windows Mobile retains the left icon strip that houses widgets. New is the ability to download more widgets from Samsung, though we wouldn't say these add a great breadth of functionality since the bulk of them are calendar and clock widgets (how many of these do you really need?) and widgets that are shortcuts to web pages. Web widgets aren't actually applications; for example the YouTube widget isn't a dedicated YouTube player but rather a shortcut to the YouTube mobile site. Most widgets must be moved to a page of the 3 page home screen before you can use them. We'd much prefer if launcher widgets worked directly from the TouchWiz strip. In contrast, widgets like the month view calendar and mini-media player controller do work well as desktop widgets.
As mentioned, TouchWiz also replaces the standard WinMo icon-based programs listing that you see when you tap the Start Menu with Samsung's own 5 pages worth of icons. There's certainly plenty to keep you busy here from Samsung's Streaming Media Player to My Calendar to Memo (which seems a little redundant since WinMo already ships with Word Mobile and Outlook notes). More interesting applications include a video editor and the FM radio-- how nice to finally see the FM radio is becoming more common on US phones. Unfortunately, when we installed new applications, they didn't automatically show up in Samsung's program listing as it would on a regular Windows Mobile phone or most any other phone. We had to manually edit the program listing and add programs we'd installed.
The Samsung Omnia II has a very impressive 800MHz Samsung processor (ARM 11 compatible). While the Omnia II is often peppier than the original Omnia on Verizon, it still gets balky. The smartphone seems to stop and think for several seconds here and there while it catches up with your actions; which leads to the usual pressing and tapping again because you think the phone didn't register your first action. That in turns leads to more waiting as you accidentally start something with that second tap that you didn't mean to. The Omnia II is by no means in general slow, it just lags often enough to be a bit frustrating. The phone has 208 megs of RAM and that may not be enough to keep things running as smoothly as we'd like. In typical Omnia fashion, there's plenty of flash storage for music, videos and anything else you wish: 8 gigs. There's an SDHC microSD card slot in case you need even more storage capacity.
Phone and Internet
The Omnia II works on Verizon's US network and it does not have GSM roaming capabilities like the HTC Imagio. It has EV-DO Rev. A for fast data and a full complement of Verizon V Cast applications including V Cast Video, V Cast Music with Rhapsody, V Cast Song ID and VZ Navigator. There's also Verizon's Mobile Email and Mobile IM, two applications that are usually found on their feature phones rather than smartphones, making us think Verizon does intend this as a first smartphone for feature phone converts. Voice quality is good on the Omnia II and we enjoyed clear, reasonably loud incoming and outgoing voice. The speakerphone is loud, though a little buzzy at high volumes and the phone worked well with a variety of Bluetooth headsets. Reception was average for a Verizon phone. If you live or work in a weak coverage area, the Omnia II might occasionally lose signal but it will regain it quickly.
Opera Mobile 9.5 is on board for an improved web browsing experience compared to the built-in IE Mobile. It does a decent job of rendering non-mobile websites and you can tell the browser to identify as a mobile or desktop browser. The Omnia II's large, high resolution display does much to enhance the web browsing experience but we do wish it were capacitive for smoother control and multi-touch zooming. We can't fault Samsung for that since Windows Mobile 6.5 only supports resistive displays (but then HTC did write their own capacitive driver for their flagship HD2). Opera is a good smartphone web browser but it's not as fast as the iPhone's Safari nor as near-desktop perfect as the Nokia N900 browser. That said, we'll take it hands down for speed and rendering over RIM's BlackBerry web browser.
Beyond Verizon's own Mobile Email, the full power of Windows Mobile and Outlook are here with Microsoft's excellent MS Exchange support and desktop syncing to Outlook. If you don't mind an on-screen keyboard (see our video review to learn more about Samsung's custom on-screen keyboard), the Omnia II is a good email companion.
Camera and GPS
Like the first Omnia, the Omnia II has a 5 megapixel camera with an autofocus lens and LED flash. Images are comparable to the first Omnia and are quite good. They best HTC's offerings and are generally sharp and clear. There's plenty of image data to work with (less interpolation than HTC's) but the camera is prone to blow out bright outdoor highlights. It's still not as good as Nokia's Nseries phones and the N900, nor Sony Ericsson's high end camera phones, but among CDMA phones in the US, it stands tall. The camcorder can record video at an impressive 720 x 480 pixels (25fps) in MPEG4 format with mono AAC audio. Recorded video is smooth and color-saturated, though it's not as sharp as Nokia's high end phones (again, it's quite good for a Verizon phone).
The GPS managed reliable fixes and kept up with our location even at highway speeds. The GPS is not locked to a single program so you can use Google Maps or other mapping programs. Verizon's VZ Navigator is on board for spoken turn-by-turn directions and large easy to read on-screen maps, and that optional service costs $10/month.
Whether you love TouchWiz 2.0 determines if this is the phone for you. There's plenty of power under the hood in terms of specs, networking and Exchange support, but we find it buried under too many layers of too-sugary icing. That said, if you're upgrading from a TouchWiz phone, it might tickle your fancy. We found the phone to be sluggish at times despite the fast CPU but loved the vivid AMOLED display and strong video playback capabilities including DivX. The camera is quite good and call quality is above average. But given our pick, we'd opt for the HTC Imagio instead.
Display:3.7" AMOLED resistive touch screen. Resolution:
480 x 800 WVGA resolution, supports both portrait and landscape modes.
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
1500 mAh. 2400 mAh extended battery available for purchase.
Performance:208 megs RAM, 512 megs flash ROM and 8 gigs internal flash storage.
x 2.36 x 0.47 inches. Weight: 4.76 ounces.
Phone:CDMA dual band digital with EV-DO Rev. A and 1xRTT.
GPS:Has GPS and VZ Navigator.
Camera:5.0 MP with autofocus lens and LED flash. Can take still photos and video up to 720 x 480 pixel resolution.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR.
Mobile 6.5 Professional. Samsung TouchWiz 2.0 UI. Opera Mobile 9.5 web browser. Verizon V Cast suite: V Cast Video, V Cast Music with Rhapsody, VZW Tones, VZ Navigator, Visual Voice Mail, Mobile IM, Mobile Email and Nuance Voice Command. Standard Windows Mobile applications including MS Office Mobile Suite, Outlook Mobile (email, contacts, calendar, tasks and notes), File Explorer, calculator, Internet Explorer Mobile, voice recorder, solitaire and Bubble Breaker. Samsung apps: FM Radio, Memo, Dice, My Calendar, settings, Podcast, Video Editor, RSS Reader, Text Messages Retry, Smart Reader (business card reader), Smart Search, Digital Frame, Communities, My Files, Streaming Media Player and My Pictures. Other software: Bing, Facebook, Ferrari GT Evolution, Adobe PDF viewer, Microsoft My Phone, MSN Money widget and Windows Mobile Marketplace.