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Samsung Omnia i900 review


We review Samsung's Omnia i900, a feature-packed smartphone with storage to die for

Rating:

Verdict: The Samsung Omnia is a feature-rich smartphone that puts Windows Mobile in a consumer-friendly frock.

Price:

Pros: Finger-friendly user interface, impressive feature set, good camera, large, bright, clear screen, plenty of storage

Cons: No 3.5mm headset jack, fiddly soft keyboard, average battery life

Design: A good-looking, very light phone that is slightly let down by  its plasticky chassis

Operating System: Windows Mobile Professional 6.1

More Info: Samsung Mobile website

Samsung’s Omnia puts a professional grade operating system (Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional) into a shell with definite consumer appeal. In order to broaden its reach beyond the professional classes, Samsung adds its own look and feel on top of Windows Mobile, making it appear less staid, fuddy-duddy and downright dull than it would otherwise do.

The result is a sort of hybrid that does quite well in the usability stakes, and very well in the specifications and features department.

The Omnia is an-all touchscreen phone. The screen measures a generous 3.2-inches across diagonal corners, and offers 400 x 280 pixels. These are not top-notch dimensions, but they are good enough for media-rich activities.

There are just two buttons under the screen – for Call and End functions. Between them is an optical mouse which, frankly, we didn’t find much use for. It was OK for Web browsing, but most of the rest of the time we just prodded at the screen to get what we wanted.

The chassis feels a bit on the plasticky side in the hand, but at 122g this is a very light smartphone and so your pocket might be grateful for the plastic parts.

On the features front most of what you could want is here. This is a 3G phone supporting downloads to 7.2Mbps – check what your operator offers in your area but basically you should be able to get the fastest speed available. Bluetooth is here too, of course, and it is accompanied by WiFi and GPS. The latter offers geotagging of your photos.

Storage

Storage is plentiful with both 8GB and 16GB versions of the handset available. You can also add more memory thanks to a microSD card slot. This makes the Omnia ideal as a mobile music machine, but there is a serious drawback. Samsung has decided not to include a 3.5mm headset adaptor. Instead, the connector on the phone is proprietary. Now, you do get a converter in the box, but really, we would much rather have had 3.5mm at the handset end. If you do use audio with this phone, then the presence of an FM radio for those times when you get bored with your own tunes is a plus.

It is the main camera that really grabs the attention, though. It shoots stills to five megapixels, which we reckon is all you really need from a phone camera and more than you get from almost every other Windows Mobile device. It has an LED flash and shoots reasonably good photos, with the usual caveat that in darker conditions the LED flash won’t light up a room.

We noted that Samsung has added its own look and feel on top of Windows Mobile 6.1. The idea is to largely both disguise the staid looks of Windows Mobile and to make the device more finger friendly. You do get a stylus for the touchscreen but it doesn’t live in a housing on the chassis, as is the usual convention. Instead, it is on a short lanyard and you can hook it on or forget about it completely, if you wish.

There are times when you’ll need fingertip precision to hit icons, but mostly life without the stylus is fine. If there is an area where the Omnia falls down is in its text entry. The softkeyboard is just a bit cramped. We had to slow down a lot to use it effectively without making lots of mistakes.

Widgets

Samsung’s widgets system is employed. Essentially this means you can drag shortcuts from a sidebar onto the main screen of the phone. You open the sidebar by tapping a tab, drag what you want on or off screen, and tap the tab again to close the sidebar. The shortcuts give access to things like music controls, contacts, emails, calendar and a clock. But the graphics are large and there is only room for about three on screen at any one time.

The large screen is used to good advantage with the inclusion of Opera Mobile which you can use instead of the less pleasing Internet Exolorer. Google Maps screens look great too, and an accelerometer means you can flick into wide format just by turning the phone in your hand.

Battery life is quoted at up to 10 hours of talk and 450 hours on standby. We found we could get about two days out of the phone if we were not too pushy with the features. But if you are a keen user of WiFi, 3G or GPS you will probably need to charge daily.

Overall, we like the Omnia a lot, and if you are drawn to Windows Mobile but want something snazzy looking and finger friendly you might like it too. Just be warned that the soft keyboard takes a little practice to get used to.

 

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Samsung Omnia i900

Samsung's Omnia i900 scores with its impressive feature set

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