Finally! We've got the Samsung Omnia i900 Windows Mobile Professional 6.1 touch screen phone in-house. This import phone is one of the hottest of the summer, and it competes directly with the HTC Touch Diamond. It's got a slate design with a large 3.2" touch screen with haptic feedback that runs at 400 x 240 resolution. Like the DIamond, the Omnia does NOT have a QWERTY keyboard: instead you'll use the customized (finger-friendly) on-screen keyboard to enter text.
The Omnia comes in 8 and 16 gig capacities, and this is flash-based memory rather than a more delicate hard drive. The two models are otherwise identical. Again, like the Touch Diamond, the Omnia is a quad band unlocked GSM world phone, but it has Euro-only 3G so you're stuck with EDGE is the US. But unlike the Touch Diamond which has 4 gigs of flash-bases storage and no card slot, the Omnia also has a microSD card slot-- score! The bad news is that the card slot is under the battery door and you must remove the battery to insert or remove a card. Such is the result of Samsung's efforts to make this phone super-slim at 15.5mm.
How does the phone look? Beautiful! Cross the great looks of the Samsung Tocco or LG Prada with the brains of Windows Mobile and you've got some device. The 5 megapixel camera with autofocus lens is also a special treat on a PDA or smartphone (they usually get less than cutting edge cameras). Haptics improve usability (the screen vibrates to acknowledge you've touched it) but there's a story here... Our unit came with the original ROM (older than some phones shipped with to customers in fact). On this ROM, haptics were active everywhere. We updated to the lastest ROM available on Samsung's web site and now there are haptics only in the Samsung applications and home screen. We don't really miss them except when typing using the on-screen keyboard. In every other way the phone went from so-so to great though. The user interface is much quicker and the screen is more responsive.
The Omnia is loaded with features: WiFi, Bluetooth and a GPS that works fine with Google Maps, Windows Live and CoPilot 7 here in the US. It's impressive specs don't end there: it has a 624MHz processor (that's as fast as WinMo goes), 128 megs of RAM and 87.69 megs of flash ROM (standard Windows Mobile storage that's separate from the 8 or 16 gig storage). The phone supports sync mode and mass storage mode for copying large files (movies, music, photos).
The TouchWiz user interface is extensive-- just as extensive as HTC's TouchFLO 3D UI on the Touch Diamond and Touch Pro. But the philosophies are very different. HTC went for extreme beautification-- the awe factor. Indeed, every element of TouchFLO 3D is pure eye candy. Samsung's customizations aren't as flashy and pretty but we'd say they go further to improve usability and finger-friendliness. In fact, there's no stylus silo in the unit-- if you wish to carry it with the phone, you'll tether the pretty little thing to a mount on the phone via the included short cord. The one flashy element is Samsung's Widgets home screen. Like the LG Dare and Samsung Tocco, you can drag widgets from a dock onto the home screen. They then become functional applets-- there's one for photo caller ID, another with 2 world clocks, a notepad and more. While these widgets are neat, they aren't necessarily what you want or need on the home screen. We found several useful enough to keep running the widgets though. We particularly like the missed call widget that alerts you with missed call info on-screen. Interestingly, you can run one set of widgets in portrait view and select another set for landcape view. If you don't like widgets, you can select a standard Windows Mobile home screen or one of Samsung's 2 home screens (1 of them is very useful). There's so much to TouchWiz that we can't cover it all here-- we'll cover it in the full review. Suffice to say with the new ROM, it's very finger-friendly, fun and overall a great improvement over standard Windows Mobile. While it has occasional lags (2 seconds switching orientation), it's no slower than TouchFLO 3D and unlike HTC's UI, you dont have to stare at the phone for many seconds waiting for it to launch after a reset.
Speaking of rotation, the Omnia has an accelerometer so it can rotate the screen automatically when you turn the phone. You can adjust sensitivity and we found it to work well overall with few overly-twitchy-rotatey moments. There's also an etiquette mode: turn the phone onto it's face to silence an incoming call ring. Turn it back face up and the ring will resume. Fun trick if the phone is on your desk. Watch out if it's in your pocket or purse though .
The Samsung Omnia and HTC Touch Diamond
The camera is fantastic. Certainly Windows Mobile has never seen the likes of this. While image quality for outdoor shots isn't quite as good as the Nokia N95, indoor shots are better thanks to the blinding built-in flash and better light handling. We'd say that the Samsung has an edge for macro shots too. We'll provide sample photos aplenty in our full review. The camera doesn't launch very quickly, but once it's running, it focuses extremely quickly for an autofocus camera phone and saves shots very quickly to internal storage. For once, we don't feel like we'll miss those special shots because the phone is taking too long to focus and shoot. Settings abound-- enough to make hobby photographers happy. The camera can shoot VGA video at 15fps (the N95 wins with its 30fps VGA video) and QVGA video at 30 fps. Video quality is quite good.
Reception on T-Mobile and AT&T is good and EDGE speeds are average for a Windows Mobile Professional phone. Voice quality is very good and call volume is above average for a GSM phone.
Samsung includes a good deal of their own software for the phone, including a touch-friendly media viewer that's wickedly fast thumbing through 5MP images, a streaming media player and the phone even has DivX certification. Video playback rocks-- a good thing because with all that storage, you're going to want to load movies. The Omnia plays mobile youtube video but not desktop youtube (add CorePlayer to get support for full youtube).
Like the HTC Touch Diamond, the Omnia comes with Opera 9.5, and we found it didn't slow down the phone as it does on the Diamond. We confess to liking the Omnia's screen better for web browsing, despite the lower resolution compared to the Diamond. It's larger and easier to read text (VGA on a 2.8" screen can be hard on the eyes).