Clash of the Touch Titans: iPhone 3.0 3G vs Samsung OmniaHD S60 device

Clash of the Touch Titans: iPhone 3.0 3G vs Samsung OmniaHD S60 device

Summary: 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.


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.

Let's check out the Hardware »

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.

Carrier support and 3rd party applications »

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.

Which device appeals most to me? »

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.

Go back to the beginning »

Topics: Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Operating Systems, Samsung, Software, Wi-Fi

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  • Why bother????

    Seriously Matt... Why bother???

    We are not going to see anything that can come close to the iPhone user experience for at least a decade.

    Will we see an iPhone killer at some point??? Yes, we will.

    Will it happen in the next 10 years? No.

    So why bother??? When somoene announces something revolutionary... It might be worth a comparison. Currently, no one gets to steal the gesturing that Apple invented... It's already been redmond proofed. So they don't get to steal the iPhone user experience. For once, they have to do thier own innovating... Give em 10 years... Thats when we might see something cool emerge.

    Until then... why bother???
    • Short sighted

      ....and the world is flat. No way we can sail all the way around it. 10 years bud? C'mon. More advancements in technology have happened in the last 3 years.
      • Move along, he's just trolling. NT

    • Single carrier for one major reason

      There are several reasons that the iPhone is not the one and only device for people, such as single carrier choice, lack of physical keyboard, lack of multitasking, etc. One device can't meet everyone's needs so it is valid to take a look at the competition and see what is out there.

      While the OmniaHD has better specs in almost every department, I still prefer the iPhone UI and seamless application and media content support. It isn't always about feature sets, but that doesn't mean the iPhone is for everyone either.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • "single carrier" = handicap that promotes competition

        I love the iPhone, but I love technology and innovation more.
        If the iPhone were readily available for every network, I think it would have an unfair advantage and might even hamper the development of an iPhone killer. It seems that the main driving force behind most of the iPhone hate is the fact that it is tied to AT&T, and I can sympathise because at least in my stomping grounds, Verizon rules the roost in coverage.
        Of course, there will always be Apple hate, QWERTY hate, and battery hate among others, and these fuel the market for other manufacturers, but none of them seem to compare to the market generating power of the "single carrier" hate, and without that there would be less incentive for innovation.
        Imagine everyone had an iPhone, and no one wanted to bother with anything else? First of all, the prices would be reflective of such a monopoly, but more importantly, there would be little money to fuel competitive innovation, even within Apple. I personally am thankful for this handicap because although my iPhone is almost essential to my lifestyle, there is always room for improvement.
    • 10 years ... give me some of that stuff your smoking.

      The iPhone is currently the leader. However, give me a break about ten years. You will see some real competition in 2010 and maybe by the end of this year. Apple made a big splash when they jumped into the mobile market. Now, that these other hardware vendors see where the market is going, they are gone to blow the iPhone away with hardware specs. Cheaper more powerful phones. So, enjoy now your chest pumping Snobbery, the new phones are coming.

      Hardcore Apple people, please just enjoy your phones. I'm tried of Na, na, na, na, na, naaaa ... Look at my phone it's better than your phone.
  • RE: Clash of the Touch Titans: iPhone 3.0 3G vs Samsung OmniaHD S60 device

    I have reached the point in my contract that I am once again searching for new phones. Beyond that, I havent been following the technology updating wars.

    I like the iPhone ... but it doesnt have the windows OS. All of our programs are windows based. If (and I believe it will someday) the iPhone ran on Windows, I would be there.

    But the bottom line remains, I need to be able to call backup while away from my car and all our phones, laptops, etc require windows.
  • RE: Clash of the Touch Titans: iPhone 3.0 3G vs Samsung OmniaHD S60 device

    the problem with "reviews" like this is, they tell us what it
    has, in gushing prose; somehow, they omit telling us how it
    works. The STORM has lots of features; it performs those
    badly. any apps for this POS? enough already with the
    Black Barack
  • Capacitive

    I sure wish this article explained what "capacitive" touch screens were. It seems key to this article but there's no way to find out. Wikipedia only explains a lot of exectronic theory, not applications. We're not all electrical engineers!
  • The UI limitations are going to change- a lot.

    Very informative, thanks! But you and Andrew both ignored Nokia's strategic direction: nearly all future App interfaces, AND the underlying code, are likely to be written in QT.

    It's license is LGPL (free to use from your own PROPRIETARY $$ code with no further licensing, and "open source", forever). Instead of being tied to Apple's store, you can hang out your own little shingle anywhere you like, sell anything you've made at YOUR price.

    QTe. It's the elephant in the room. For example, I think that is a pretty decent music player. How about having THAT on your phone, or Kaffeine? One of the QT developer guys wrote an App which shows projected arrival times for *his* Stockholm bus route-- to the minute, in real time. Using QT, it took less than 10 lines of code to acquire the real-time location data.

    10 lines. Never wait for the bus again. :))
    Rick S._z
  • RE: Clash of the Touch Titans: iPhone 3.0 3G vs Samsung OmniaHD S60 device

    It's interesting to say the least. I have played with
    some iphones, and I was very pleased with the user
    experience.... very pleased. But then i talked with
    the owners...
    Q: what was their browsing experience like,
    A1: it's okay, but i hate that there's no flash
    A2: it will just suddenly quit out of safari. i'm
    guessing it's because the page is too big or

    Q: how is using the device on a day to day basis?
    A1: it's great at first, and get's more comfortable
    with time, but... at the same time... there's a
    definite feeling of limitation because I can't open
    more than 1 program, and I can't put a lot of my
    movies, shows, and music on the darned thing... oh
    well. Oh yeah, and the camera's pictures aren't very
    good. I usually get the pics that my buddy takes

    So, there's this great user experience, in that it's
    easy to use and fun to look at. There are limitations
    though... but, if you can accept those, then you're
    good. If you can't you have to accept a less friendly
    user experience. After using the iphone all interfaces
    i have played with felt clunky.

    i really want to go with the iphone, but at this point
    i can't. will i go with the omnia hd? i don't know,
    i'll have to try it out. the specs are there, but it's
    using a dated OS. if it was using android... it might
    be better... but there are more apps for symbian... it
    all boils down to:
    A) how enjoyable is it to use?
    B) can it do what i need it to do?
    C) how much of what i want it to do can it do?
    D) can i use it with my current carrier?

    just my thoughts...
    in case you were wondering on a 1-10 scale, how would
    i rank the iphone vs, the omnia hd:
    iphone: A)10, B)6, C)3, D)0
    omnia hd: A)?, B)10, C)8, D)?
  • RE: Clash of the Touch Titans: iPhone 3.0 3G vs Samsung OmniaHD S60 device

    Capacitive - Works with your finger, but not a stylus
    Resistive - Works with Finger *AND* Stylus.

    I have used both for many years on Touchscreens for Retail EPOS Cash registers.

    Your finger is not detailed enough (read too fat) to do anything other than vague pointing - e.g. Cut and Paste, selecting radio buttons, closing an app on the X etc....hence the need for Stylus support as has been available for years on many PDA's.

    In a Retail Cash Register environment, they normally sling a USB Keyboard/Mouse on to get past user interation issues with the touchscreen, rendering it almost a waste of money.

    Capacitive Touchscreens suck, but are cheaper......
    • Touchscreens

      I agree it can be frustrating to use a touchscreen in general in a GUI that is designed for precise pointing, like windows.
      Luckily, *most* touch based phones are thought out well and use a UI that is designed to be used with that screen, not converted from one that is designed to be used with a mouse and keyboard.
      I would think that Retail POS systems would have enough money behind them to do something similar rather than abandoning the technology and reverting back to keyboard and mouse, but I guess not.
      As for Resistive vs Capacitive, how annoying would it be if you had to disable your phone's touchscreen everytime you put it in your pocket so that it didn't accidentally redial or kill your battery with unintentional touches... and then reenable before you can answer a call? Capacitive touchscreens don't have that problem.
  • RE: Clash of the Touch Titans: iPhone 3.0 3G vs Samsung OmniaHD S60 device

    The hand feel of Samsung's square edged phones is my deal breaker, even with their much desired features. A phone like this is designed to be used all day and after a day of square edges, I dreaded using even their smaller flipshot phone, which I got for free, 2 days ago, and am now returning, thanks to Verizon's 30 day trial period.
    But thanks for the great review.
  • omnia HD is waaaay better..of course :D

    I don't agree...I can do so so many things with omnia HD can't be done with iphone...I don't know why do u like this iphone..??!!!