I was a very lucky winner of a competition on the ubelly blog, receiving the amazing prize of a Samsung Omnia 7 smartphone featuring the new Windows Phone 7 (WP7) operating system.
I received it mid-December so I have had just over a month to get used to it. This review is mainly focussing on the Omnia 7 hardware, I have reviewed the Windows Phone 7 OS in a separate review. This is my first ever smartphone after using a Nokia 6233 for 3 years so bear in mind I won’t be comparing it to any androids or iPhones.
- The device was a lot thinner and lighter than expected. I was a bit worried to be carrying around a brick in my pocket but I’d say it weighs les than my old Nokia which was much chunkier.
- The screen is absolutely beautiful. It’s a 4.0” super AMOLED screen (480x800px). It looks great in direct sunlight (not that we’ve had much this January!), can be viewed from any angle and the colours are really vivid.
- The touch screen is capacitive which means it is optimised to work with fingers rather than a stylus. This takes some getting used to but is a lot quicker to use than poking it with a stick and also a lot more accurate than you may think
- It’s got all the bells and whistles you could want, due to Microsoft’s wise minimum specification. GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, FM Radio. The processor is nice and fast, I haven’t experienced any lags, and it’s also quick to start up from cold. It can be hard deciding between phones with features missing so I’m very happy that I’m not missing out.
- Listening to audio is very clear through it’s external speaker and thanks to the 3.5mm headphone jack I can connect it to any normal headphones and even the aux input on my car stereo. It can play the following formats, MIDI, AMR-NB, WMA, MP3, eAAC+, AAC+, AAC, meaning I don’t have to do anything to my existing mix of iTunes AACs or ripped CD MP3s. I should also mention that if I pair it with my PC via
- Bluetooth, Windows 7 will play any audio wirelessly through my desktop speakers.
- Standard connections means cheap accessories! In addition to the standard audio jack is the new industry standard micro-USB port (a slimmer version of the more familiar mini-USB). This means any USB port is a power adapter and spare cables are cheap as chips
- Data connections are really good on the 3 network. Speed is really quick which is great when there isn’t any free Wi-Fi around. They obviously have done a lot of work on their network, much better than it was a few years back.
- Samsung, like other WP7 OEMs, have a set of exclusive apps available on the phone. While not quite as generous as LG they are all pretty decent. The Photogram app is a great way to take photos with special effects like HDR, or Vintage. Photo Sharing allows uploading to sites like Flickr (until they release their own app). The latest edition is DioDict
- which is a great looking offline dictionary app that will come in handy for future games of Scrabble! I hope Samsung up the game a bit to match LG by offering free games or some of the more popular apps, as well as continue to update the existing ones with new features.
- The camera is a very decent 5mp with LED flash and auto-focus (standard for all WP7 phones). The shots that I have taken have come out really well in a number of conditions and the phone has a lot of manual controls to adjust white balance, macro mode, ISO, EV, metering and even a wide dynamic range setting. Check out my photos on my Flickr page aswell as videos testing the difference between VGA quality and 720p HD
- Battery life. Apparently the phone is supposed to last up to 390 hours in standby and over 8 hours talk time. This is not my experience. In fact “Talk time” is a bit misleading for a smartphone, they should really just say “Active use time” as there are a lot more power-draining activities than talking (in fact the screen gets turned off when you hold it to your ear to save power). Realistically, I am plugging it in to charge every night. I might get 2 days use out of it at a push, as long as I don’t play any games/videos on it. I found disabling Bluetooth helped a lot. At least you can charge it from any USB port.
- The case. It has a nice curve and the screen, as mentioned above, is fantastic but it does feel like you could snap it in half. The curved shape also means it is impossible to stand it upright to watch a film or take a steady, timed, photo.I’m also not a fan of the weird metallic purple on the back cover. It is also hard to hold without accidentally pressing a button. Finally it’s very “slippy”. It fell out of my pocket numerous times and sometimes felt like it would go shooting out of my hand when I put it to my ear. Luckily, I got a very cheap custom cut silicon case from Amazon that stops it slipping anywhere as well as making the buttons less sensitive.
- The Omnia 7 has a mix of physical buttons around the edge and touch buttons along the bottom of the screen. The touch buttons are unbearably sensitive. The amount of times I’ve started a Bing search mid-way through a game or pressed back when browsing a website make me scream in anger. Thankfully at least the “Home” button is nicely recessed in the glass so that one requires a more deliberate push. The physical buttons are just plain awkward. You may need to grip it to change the volume and end up knocking the power button. The camera button needs to be manoeuvred so accurately to get it to wake up from standby, autofocus then take a photo, that I have missed the “moment” on several occasions. Also, when the phone is in standby, you should be able to wake it up by pressing the “home” key or the power button but this doesn’t always work. I have pressed the home button about 5 times and nothing lights up and other times it works straight away (could be a software issue).
- There are hardly any accessories for it, and I feel there never will be. With the iPhone you know they will sell millions of compatible accessories because it has a gargantuan user base. The Omnia has a much smaller following which means that even Samsung aren’t that bothered about making any. The counter argument to this is that the phones connectors are standard so you should be able to hook it up to any number of compatible things so I suppose that should comfort me.
- It only has 8GB of storage which is a real shame. Never mind that it’s impossible to expand it, you think they would have at least used 16GB. I would have loved to put my entire music collection on it but I have to limit it to about my top 12 albums. you could argue that this isn’t geared to that kind of demographic, or that you can stream music and movies to it but to me it just seems a bit cheap.
Well, that about wraps up my thoughts on the phone’s hardware. The positives definitely outweigh the negatives and let’s be honest, the real pull of the phone (apart from the screen) is it’s brand new WP7 operating system. I’m so grateful to the ubelly team for picking my fairly rubbish caption as a winner and giving me a chance to own, what I personally consider to be, a very expensive & luxurious bit of hardware.
Check out my review of the Windows Phone 7 Operating System here