Samsung OMNIA first impressions show that Windows Mobile can beat the iPhone

I wrote about my Samsung OMNIA buying experiences in Singapore and wanted to post a first impressions article as I continue to work on a full review of the device. I purchased the 16GB white colored device and think it may be my new preferred Windows Mobile device. Like the HTC Touch Diamond, the Samsung Omnia is quite a departure from a standard Windows Mobile device and with the large 3.2 inch display it looks a lot like a direct iPhone competitor, but with far fewer limitations. The only thing lacking so far is 3G support for the US, but it does have a quad-band GSM radio and works with EDGE (2.5G) here in the US. I found two specific capabilities over the last couple of days that have me quite excited about the device and my T-Mobile SIM has now moved from my BlackBerry Curve to the Samsung OMNIA (SGH-i900) for the indefinite future.

I wrote about my Samsung OMNIA buying experiences in Singapore and wanted to post a first impressions article as I continue to work on a full review of the device. I purchased the 16GB white colored device and think it may be my new preferred Windows Mobile device. Like the HTC Touch Diamond, the Samsung Omnia is quite a departure from a standard Windows Mobile device and with the large 3.2 inch display it looks a lot like a direct iPhone competitor, but with far fewer limitations. The only thing lacking so far is 3G support for the US, but it does have a quad-band GSM radio and works with EDGE (2.5G) here in the US. I found two specific capabilities over the last couple of days that have me quite excited about the device and my T-Mobile SIM has now moved from my BlackBerry Curve to the Samsung OMNIA (SGH-i900) for the indefinite future.

The Samsung OMNIA was launched in Singapore in June and is still only available in a few select countries. Since there is no word yet of it coming to the U.S. I went ahead and paid about US$675 to pick one up in Singapore this past week. I do hope a version that supports 3G networks in the U.S. is launched, but we'll have to wait and see what happens. In the meantime, check out my first look image gallery and thoughts down below.



In the box: The Samsung OMNIA comes in an attractively designed compact retail box and includes the device, battery, A/C adapter (foreign plug), USB cable, wired stereo headset with 3.5mm end, handy headset cable/dongle and spare headset earplugs, stylus, 1GB microSD card with local navigation program, Samsung CD, and documentation. I want to write just a bit about a couple of these included accessories that offer a unique experience for the Samsung OMNIA buyer.

The first is the included stereo headset cable/dongle that connects to the Samsung proprietary port and ends in a standard 3.5mm headset jack. The 3.5mm headset plug goes into the port that also has a shirt clip and microphone so you can use any headset you like with this as a phone headset. I was very pleased to see this accessory since I have hated seeing the HTC proprietary port on their devices without this accessory that limits what headset I can use with those devices. While the preferred solution would be to include a 3.5mm headset jack on the device like many Nokia Nseries devices and the iPhone, I can live with proprietary ports if a solution like this cable is included.

Another accessory that is unique to this device is the external stylus. Now, all Windows Mobile touch screen devices come with a stylus, but they include an on-device silo that holds the stylus in place. Most all of these stylus pens are junk due to the reduction is weight and length to get them to fit into the device. Samsung seems to think you should use the OMNIA primarily with your finger and thus there is no stylus silo on the device. The included stylus actually looks a bit like a compact mascara tube (I do have a wife and three daughters so I am familiar with these.) and has a lanyard on the cap so you can attach it to the OMNIA with a lanyard. The stylus actually feels great in my hand and has a good length and at this time I actually do have it attached to the lanyard. While I was in Singapore I saw just about everyone having some kind of bling attached to their mobile phone so I guess it isn't that unique to attach something like the stylus to the OMNIA. I'll comment more on this usage after I have had more time to test out the device.

Specs: The Samsung OMNIA is one of the most powerful Windows Mobile devices available with specifications that rival the more expensive and much larger HTC Advantage devices. Specifications of the Samsung OMNIA include:

  • Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional
  • Quad-band GSM and single band HSDPA (2100 MHz)
  • 128MB RAM and 256MB flash ROM
  • Marvell PXA312 624MHz processor
  • 8GB or 16GB flash drive (I bought a 16GB model)
  • 3.2 inch 240x400 high resolution display
  • Haptic feedback support
  • Integrated 802.11 b/g WiFi radio
  • Integrated Bluetooth 2.0 radio with A2DP
  • Infrared port
  • Integrated A-GPS receiver
  • 1440 mAh Lithium ion battery with reported 5 hours 50 minutes of talk time
  • microSD card slot with microSDHC support
  • 5 megapixel camera with image stabilization
  • TV out support
  • FM radio with RDS support
  • Weight of 4.30 ounces
  • Size of 4.41 x 2.24 x 0.49 inches (iPhone is 4.5 x 2.4 x 0.46 inches and 4.8 ounces)

While I continue to work on testing out the device functionality and software included with the OMNIA, I'll take you on a quick walk around the device and close with my initial thoughts after using it for the last few days.

Tour around the device - overall appearance and form factor: As you can read in the specifications above, the Samsung OMNIA is very similar in size to the Apple iPhone and has a very similar appearance with a large front display. The slightly narrower width makes it feel a bit more like a phone and very good in your hand. It is nice to have the send and end key on the front as well as the center directional/action button. It is a sharp device and it feels as solid as the iPhone in my hand.

Tour around the device - front: The display takes up the majority of the front of the device and is flush with the outside frame. There are send and end buttons below the display on either side of the center navigational button. I do wish these were highlighted with green and red backlights, but they are in the same location as all other devices so it isn't really necessary. There is also a small front camera on the upper right above the display, but it isn't able to be used in the U.S. so has no impact on the device usage for me.

The center button is actually a touch sensitive button like the upcoming Samsung i780 that I played with a bit at MWC 08 in Spain earlier this year. The button can be pressed in to select an item/perform an action and it is touch sensitive. You can select to use it as a 4-way navigation button that lets you slide your finger up, down, left, and right across the pad and move appropriately. You can also select to use it as a mouse and after some initial usage I find that the mouse is very accurate and useful, much more than I thought it would be with a touch screen device. I plan to spend more time with this unique navigation method.

Tour around the device - top and bottom: You will find the power button and reset hole on the top of the device with only the microphone opening on the bottom. Like the iPhone, there are minimal buttons and openings on the device.

Tour around the device - sides: The Samsung port (used for syncing, charging, and headset connector) is on the bottom left side with the lanyard loop on the upper left side. The upper right side contains the "main menu" button with the volume button and camera button located on the bottom right side.

Tour around the device - back: The back contains the 5 megapixel camera and flash light. The back removes to reveal the battery and SIM card/microSD card slots that require the battery to be pulled to insert/remove the cards.

Some initial software thoughts: While I will post many more thoughts on the software included on the device, a couple of applications that are having a major impact on solidifying my purchase decision are the Touch Player and Podcasts applications. I was in Singapore and for some reason the movies that I converted to watch on my Sony PSP stopped working so I had nothing to take with me on my flights. On a whim, I decided to put the movies on the 16GB flash drive of the OMNIA and I couldn't believe it when they actually played flawlessly with no other conversion or work on my part. I tried them on another Windows Mobile device with no success so Samsung definitely included some additional video codecs on this device that I intend to investigate further. Needless to say, I plan to try out other video formats too and am very happy with the large display playback and performance of video on the device.

One reason I don't like my iPhone and I keep going back to a S60 device is the ability to subscribe to and wireless download podcasts right on the S60 device. I was very pleased to see that the Samsung OMNIA includes a Podcasts utility that serves as a very good onboard podcatcher. I was able to download TWIT, the Cell Phone Junkie, and GeekBrief TV (a video podcast) and all played perfectly.

Experiences using the device: I just returned to the U.S. and plan to try out the GPS receiver, FM radio, and other advanced features on the Samsung OMNIA. There are several included utilities (like the two I mentioned above) that I also plan to cover in my full review in a week or two after further usage. I am also quite impressed with the capability and speed of the display rotation in every application in three directions. Unlike the iPhone and HTC Diamond inconsistent behavior, you get the same experience on the OMNIA in every application you run. Like the popular Samsung Instinct, I think the OMNIA is an Instict on steroids with Windows Mobile powering the advanced features.

The OMNIA is better than the iPhone in so many ways: I know some may say it isn't fair to compare the iPhone with more powerful smartphones, but here is a random order list in which the Samsung OMNIA looks to be a more capable product that you may want to consider (even without US 3G support):

  • Ability to rotate in three directions in all applications
  • Ability to connect to A2DP headphones or a Bluetooth keyboard
  • Ability to tether the device to a PC with a wired or wireless connection
  • 5 megapixel camera that captures video and has image stabilization with flash
  • Download and store podcasts wirelessly
  • Access the file system and connect as a flash drive or via Bluetooth to a PC
  • FM radio with RDS support
  • Office Mobile support (creation and editing)
  • Cut, copy, and paste
  • Handwriting recognition
  • 3rd party navigation and turn-by-turn direction support
  • Advanced 3rd party support (SlingPlayer, photo/video editing, etc.)
  • Advanced Exchange/Outlook synchronization capability
  • Haptic feedback
  • Removable battery
  • Removable storage card

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