We have now taken a look at the iPhone 3G 3.0 and the Palm Pre, HTC Magic, and BlackBerry Storm. The iPhone, Pre, Magic, and Storm all have capacitive touch screens and the last one in my series with such a display is the Samsung OmniaHD. The Samsung OmniaHD (aka i8910) is the first S60-powered capacitive touch screen device following the Nokia 5800 and N97 resistive touch screen S60 devices. The use of capacitive displays generally makes for a better user experience, except when looking to use handwriting recognition or small stylus-optimized keyboards. The OmniaHD is also one of only a few S60 devices made by Samsung. Let's take a look at how the Samsung OmniaHD stacks up to the iPhone 3G running the 3.0 OS.
As I have stated a couple of times now, I laid out what we know of the iPhone 3.0 OS operating system in my first article so I won't repost all of that content here. I will run through each section for the Samsung OmniaHD and then offer my personal thoughts on how it compares to the iPhone 3G with 3.0 OS update on the last page of this feature.
I was able to spend a bit of time with the Samsung OmniaHD at CTIA, but also find Rafe's All About Symbian articles covering the first day with the OmniaHD, general design and hardware, camera and multimedia functionality, and GPS, web, TouchWIZ, software, and conclusions to be extremely thorough in giving your a complete roundup of the device.
Operating System - Symbian S60 5th Edition: The Symbian S60 operating system has been around for a few years and is getting a bit dated with the deep menus (have to dive in several layers to access settings throughout the device) and complex UI that can be confusing for people new to the platform, in comparison to the basic iPhone interface. As a power user, I personally like the S60 operating system because it allows me to customize the folder structure and gives me all the power I could ask of from any mobile operating system. There are millions of S60 device owners, but I am pretty sure most people using them have no idea they have such a powerful smartphone in their possession and use the OS like they do a feature phone.
5th Edition of the S60 platform gives you a touch-based UI, but it is similar to the BlackBerry Storm in that touch is a layer added onto the existing S60 operating system so it is not highly optimized for touch like the iPhone, Palm Pre, and HTC Magic Android device. There are some confusing elements in 5th Edition where some single taps/presses are used to select items in lists and at other times when there are lists a single tap/press opens up the item. Samsung seems to have done a bit better job of this with the TouchWIZ UI implementation to make it a more consistent behavior, especially now that the device uses a capacitive touch screen. There is no multi-touch support like what we see on the iPhone and Palm Pre, either.
There are several text entry methods in S60 5th Edition, including a full screen landscape QWERTY, mini-QWERTY, handwriting recognition, and T9 entry. I haven't seen any other details that show the OmniaHD has a different text entry method, but I do wonder how accurate the mini-QWERTY and handwriting recognition methods will be with the capacitive display since these methods work much better with a stylus.
The OS fully supports multi-tasking and I regularly have about 5 to 10 applications running at a time on my S60 devices. It also fully supports cut, copy, and paste so no worries there. After several years of usage I have also found the S60 OS to be rock solid with very few (less than five over five years) lockups and resets of the devices I have used.
Hardware - Samsung OmniaHD i8910: Out of all the devices being looked at in this series of touch screen devices, the OmniaHD may have the most impressive specifications. The 3.7 inch 360x640 pixels resolution display is AMOLED (active matrix organic light-emitting diode) and looks fantastic indoors. However, the display is a bit difficult to see in sunshine. The device supports HSDPA with 7.2 Mbps support and has all the wireless capabilities (WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, FM radio with RDS) you come to expect from high end smartphones. The OmniaHD looks like it will launch outside the US, but there are hints that it may come to the US and work with AT&T's 3.5G wireless data network.
The vivid 3.7 inch display is one of the main attractions of the OmniaHD and in addition to the AMOLED technology we find the first S60 capacitive display. A capacitive display requires you to use your finger to activate and navigate and a stylus will no longer work. I actually forgot this was the case when I first started playing with the OMNIA HD at CTIA and it took me a few minutes to figure out why the display was being so tempermental. The glass panel display feels nice compared to the resistive layered displays, but I am not sure S60 is optimized for these types of displays. Samsung does a good job of making the icons easy to tap and they do have a cool outlined neon look to them.
The OmniaHD comes with 8GB or 16GB of integrated memory with a microSDHC card slot for memory expansion (currently up to 32GB). A 1500 mAh battery is included that should give you good battery life. You get all the great Bluetooth profiles for A2DP stereo headsets, transferring files, connecting as a Bluetooth modem, and capability for connecting to a keyboard (may need a Samsung driver though).
The OmniaHD has an 8 megapixel camera with advanced phone software that includes face detection, smile shot, and auto focus. The 8 megapixel camera looks quite impressive with HD video recording (1280x720) capability at 30 fps and easily exceeds the camera specs in every other device we are looking at in this series.
The OmniaHD is a bit longer and narrower than the iPhone and it is definitely not a small phone. There are send, end, and back hardware buttons along the bottom front of the device, similar to the Nokia 5800. There are also buttons for the camera, hold/lock, and volume keys. I personally like having a few hardware buttons like this that make accessing and performing some functions faster and more efficiently.
Samsung tends to use their proprietary port for charging, syncing, and headphones so I was very pleased to see a standard 3.5mm headset jack and a microUSB port for syncing and charging. Using standard connections like these is a BIG deal for me.
The OmniaHD is also the first device to use the OMAP 3x chipset that includes a graphics co-processor that Rafe has stated should provide 3 times the ARM performance of previous ARM 11 based processor.
I liked the feel of the OmniaHD in my hand as it felt quite solid. The length could be an issue though and I really did not like the PSP-esque glossy black fingerprint magnet finish.
Carriers: There is currently no US wireless carrier officially on the record to support the OmniaHD. I think the most likely carrier is AT&T so you would see coverage similar to what is seen on the iPhone 3G. I was unable to test out carrier strength and cannot offer any more experiences on this issue.
3rd Party Applications: You will notice right away that Samsung took the liberty of adding several custom applications and/or skins for the OmniaHD, which is what they often do with their Omnia line of devices running other mobile operating systems. They have a customized media player and podcatcher. Samsung also customized the S60 Browser a bit, as detailed by Rafe, to add some features that work with the capacitive touch screen controls
By the time the Samsung OmniaHD comes out, the Nokia Ovi Store should be up and running so getting 3rd party apps on the device should be much easier than in the past. Andrew put together a great article on how the Ovi Store may even be better than the Apple App Store, but until it launches and we test it out it is tough to make that call.
Samsung also has their TouchWIZ UI where you can add widgets to the "home" screen and customize it to your liking. Since it is a S60-based device there should also be plenty of other ways to customize the device and run a number of 3rd party applications.
My Personal Choice and Final Thoughts
The Samsung OmniaHD is the only S60 device that has been announced or is available that has a capacitive touch screen. However, since the S60 operating system was not designed from the ground up to optimize touch there are issues that I think will make the experience a bit clumsy. This is very obvious when it comes to text entry where only the full screen QWERTY keyboard or T9 phone keypad text entry methods appear reasonable. Samsung should have their own optimized text entry keyboards for the device, but it doesn't appear that is going to happen. This also is present when you sometimes have to double tap to make your selection appear.
The OmniaHD does look like the best of these touch-focused devices so far to challenge the media capabilities of the iPhone 3G. It definitely is the champ when it comes to media creation with its 8 megapixel camera and HD recording capability. The OmniaHD supports several different codecs too so it may even be a better media player, but it is also tough to beat the iPhone when there is such a seamless iTunes experience on the iPhone. We may see the Nokia Music Store eventually here in the US, but there is a long ways to go before it competes with iTunes.
The iPhone 3G 3.0 update fixes several issues where S60 beat the iPhone in the past (MMS, Bluetooth A2DP, etc.), but there are still a few areas where power users will find S60 better (multi-tasking, open Bluetooth profiles, easy tethering, etc.).
I think I have had enough experience with my current iPhone and Nokia 5800 to say that my personal preference between the Samsung OmniaHD and iPhone 3G with 3.0 will be the iPhone. That may even be more apparent if new iPhone hardware is announced this Summer.
My next and final article will focus on the HTC Touch Diamond2 that I had a chance to also see in person at CTIA.