Review of the Samsung Omnia II
Unlike in the movies, mobile phone sequels tend to actually be an improvement from the original. In general the phone maker will take all feedback, both positive and negative, and take that information into consideration when making its successor. Only in very rare circumstances will the successors come out worse than the first. So this was my mindset when beginning my review of the sequel to the Samsung Omnia, appropriately named the Omnia II.
We’ve been waiting for the Omnia II almost as long as we’ve had the Omnia I; since this past June, to be precise. The delay was mainly, we suspect, in order to accomodate the inclusion of Windows Mobile 6.5. The included features sounded much more promising than the original, so I was incredibly hopeful that this particular handset would not disappoint. Let’s find out if it did or not.
Unboxing the Omnia II
My first impression upon unboxing the Omnia II was that it is an incredibly attractive phone; especially when compared to the first Omnia. Where the first was rather boxy, this one certainly has a few more curves to it. The screen is a fair size larger, though the entire device itself is a smidge larger as well. Overall the phone feels comfortable enough in your hand, though a bit slippery because of the plastic material. The box itself comes included with AC adapter, USB cable, a microphone/FM radio antenna, stylus, a software CD, and reference material. All in an average-sized box.
Design of the Samsung Omnia II
When looking down from above, the Omnia 2 is roughly the same size as the iPhone 3GS; however, the Omnia is indeed thicker, even when the iPhone has an average hard-shell case on. In other words, the device is definitely substantial. But it appears that Samsung had a reason in mind when designing the phone this way.
I suspect the larger size is because Samsung has included a 3.7″ AMOLED screen with 480×800 WVGA resolution support. The screen is absolutely gorgeous and large enough to make you forget that a stylus is even a possibility on such a device. Frankly, I never used the stylus, nor did I need to. It was a great move for Samsung to use this large and beautiful screen, because it truly defines the user’s first impressions of the phone. It’s hard to notice anything else when you turn it on for the first time. I ended up just staring at it for a few minutes before even venturing off to other parts of the device.
One thing I wasn’t happy about on the screen was the type of touchscreen used. The Omnia II is a resistive-based screen, which means it’s harder to press. I found myself experiencing difficulty at times, especially when using the keyboard (we’ll get to that shortly). One thing I always look at when first reviewing a touchscreen device is whether or not there’s any type of give to the screen. Generally any screen with any give or cushioning will be tougher to register touches on.
The Omnia II is made primarily of plastic, and you can tell. It’s a bit lighter as a result, but definitely be more cautious when handling the device.
Besides the touchscreen display, the front of the Omnia II offers a call and end button, as well as a central Main Menu button (akin to the typical Start Menu button found on most WinMo devices) that takes up the most real estate of the buttons.
On the left, we find a 3.5 mm jack, volume adjustment keys, MicroSD slot, and an OK button to get out of current programs.
On the right side you get a MicroUSB charger port, screen lock button, and camera shortcut. The included stylus is found near the top right corner of the device.
Then there’s the back, which is a clever and unique 3D-ish looking design with faded red backing. The red color will appear and disappear depending on which angle you hold it at, which adds a creative element to the overall design of the phone. Here’s a picture of the cover as well as what’s underneath. The 5.0 MP camera is shown off here with flash. The top and bottom of the cover curve outwards as if to add a more ergonomic feel (make it more grippable, perhaps?) when you are holding it in your hands.
Features of the Samsung Omnia II
Let’s go over some of the new features of the phone. First off, the Samsung Omnia II is indeed Windows Mobile 6.5 with TouchWIZ interface combined. In fact, most of the whole 6.5 element is missing from the phone because Samsung redesigned the main menu (start menu) as well.
Whether or not the redesign makes the experience easier for the user remains to be seen, though for me it was more reminiscent of iPhone and WebOS. It actually makes me feel as though I’m not even using a Windows device. You get to start out with 5 menu screens full of various apps, but as you download more and more apps from the Marketplace, you can expand the menu to 10 screens. Essentially this gives you a grand total of 120 possible icons at the same time. Also much like the aforementioned OS’s is the ability to remove or move icons by pressing and holding down an icon for a couple seconds.
As you can see in the pictures, there’s an easy button for the Task Switcher. This is incredibly efficient to have when you’re trying to go back and forth between different tasks and applications.
With the Omnia II comes a couple brand new features never before seen on any device, let alone a Samsung device. First off we find the Widget Store, enabling you to download and/or purchase brand new widgets that can be added to the TouchWIZ sidebar. This adds a whole new level of customization to TouchWIZ, and is a welcome sight.
The other unique addition to this handset is the Swype-capable keyboard. Instead of having to peck at each individual button on the keyboard, thus potentially missing a couple letters in the process, Swype allows you to start with the first letter and then DRAG your finger over to the next, and so on, until you complete the word. The phone is smart enough to figure out what you’re trying to type, and will offer suggestions to possible words if it can’t figure it out for you. Then, once you’re done with the word, it automatically inserts a space for you as you continue through your sentence. The point of the Swype is to cut down on how much time is spent hunting and typing. Whether it truly is successful on this claim can only be found out with longer than a weeks worth of practicing. I did find it pretty easy to use, and simply put, it was much easier to use than the traditional touchscreen keyboard on the Omnia II.
I had an incredibly difficult time typing on the Omnia II’s keyboard, even in landscape. The issue to me was the fact that I had no idea which letters I was typing at the time. Other smartphones I’ve used in the past would have the letter pop up next to your finger in response to your touching it; no such luck on this one. I absolutely hated trying to type passwords into the Omnia II because I couldn’t tell what letter I actually typed! Usually it took me 3-4 tries just to get the right password in, because I would sadly keep typing the wrong letters without realizing it. Sure, the keyboard comes with an option to do xt9 for word prediction, but it doesn’t do much good when typing passwords.
That was really the only major frustration I had with the Omnia II. Besides that, using it was a pleasant experience. I forgot several times that I was actually using a Windows Mobile smartphone, because Samsung did a good job of erasing most major WinMo UI elements from the device and just going with its own style. Even the calendar, contacts, and settings are all Samsung-ized. Opera Mobile is also included in the Omnia II, in addition to the standard IE.
Opera Mobile is pretty much the same standard browser as can be found on any other smartphone, with one exception being the new Samsung-ized zoom option, which I found to be more convenient than the standard Opera zoom. Instead of touching the magnifying glass, just long-press the screen and then slide up to zoom in, slide down to zoom out. Not too shabby. Pulling up Unwired View on the browser was beautiful because of the large screen; I could see so much more of the website at normal zoom than on any other device. I rarely had to zoom out just to get to a different section of the site.
Bluetooth is 2.0, allowing for stereo as well as mono. WiFi is also included on the Omnia II.
There’s the cube feature that is present on many of Samsung’s latest devices. When I reviewed the 3D Cube interface on the Behold II, I wasn’t all that impressed. It was graphically nice, but redundant. It was easier and faster for me to get to the same apps a different way. However, the Omnia II added a new bar at the bottom of the Cube screen this time, featuring all 6 apps without having to move the cube around at all. This was a definite improvement.
The camera on the Omnia II is a 5.0 MP with flash and video capabilities at 720×480 resolution and 18 fps. The videos were slightly choppy because of the frame rate; I always prefer something higher than 18 to guarantee a truly smooth video. In comparison, the Motorola DROID is 25 fps. The camera app is the usual Samsung fare, with the ability to change ISO and MP res, as well as panoramic mode taking up to 8 shots. Anti-shake is also available.
Video playback is wonderful on the Omnia II, as it allows for DivX playback as well as XviD, WMV, and MP4. FM radio is possible, and an antenna was included in the box; just not a set of headphones. The party is BYOH this time (Bring your own headphones).
Another included feature on the device, which frankly should be on every single smartphone no matter what, is the voicedial. This app is powered by Nuance Communications, the same company that uses the Dragon transcription software. Nuance seems to do voicedial for most smartphones out there, so this one is essentially a standard version.
Performance of the Omnia II
The Samsung Omnia II has some major bells and whistles under the hood. It’s running a 800 MHz processor, with 512 MB ROM and 256 RAM, not to mention a full 8 GB of internal memory capacity along with 16 GB MicroSD expansion on top of that. It did lag at times, however. Not a lot, but it went slower than is expected on a 800 MHz processor. It seems to happen this way on most TouchWIZ devices, so I’m assuming that is the culprit. And who knows, maybe that’s why Samsung opted for a faster processor; because it knows the UI slows the rest of the device down.
Another shining aspect of the phone is the 1500 mAh battery which allows for 10 hours of rated talk time and 18 days of standby. For a WinMo smartphone, 10 hours is absolutely wonderful and a nice breath of fresh air.
Audio quality in both calls and music was crisp and clear, and loud enough to hear without issues.
As far as I’m concerned, the i920 Omnia II is a worthy successor to the i910 Omnia in almost every way. It certainly improved on performance, as well as overall features and level of comfort with the device. The only concern I truly had on the Omnia II was the keyboard and how much of a pain it was to use, though the new Swype keyboard concept is a very welcome sight, and it’s good to see the engineers coming up with new ideas to combat a known problem.
For more details on Swype, please watch my video below.