Samsung Omnia i900

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INTRODUCTION

    I think there’s an unspoken race among WinMo OEMs to add as many features as possible to new devices such as conference call service. And hey, we’re not complaining. The Omnia i900 from Samsung, which unapologetically looks like an iPhone, has a robust list of capabilities. Features like a wide QVGA screen, up to 16GB of onboard storage, an accelerometer for automatic screen rotation, and an optical joystick for easy one-handed operation make us pay a lot of attention to the device. This is the review you want to read to discover all the neat tricks that the Omnia can do. Read on for our comprehensive review of the Omnia i900!

WHAT’S HOT

    The Omnia i900 looks great on paper. The 3.2" screen has a unique resolution of WQVGA, or 240×400. That makes for a pixel density of 145PPI, which is a bit low in comparison to other devices. It’s running on Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, packing a Marvell CPU at 624MHz with 96MB RAM and 96MB ROM, plus 16GB or 8GB of additional memory that acts as an on-board storage card. For further expansion, the Omnia has a microSD slot. It’s a quadband phone with GSM850/900/1800/1900, but only has the UMTS2100 band, meaning that 3G won’t work in the US. It has 802.11 b/g WiFi, Bluetooth 2.0, an FM tuner, and aGPS. For one-handed usage, there is an optical joystick that controls a mouse cursor on the screen. The camera shoots at 5.0MP and has a flash, and the front camera shoots at VGA resolution. Powering it all is a nice-sized 1440mAh battery.

(all images link to larger versions)

The Omnia i900 has a screen taller than most Windows Mobile phones.

Samsung’s widget-based Today screen is interesting, but isn’t perfect. We’ll cover this in detail later in the review.

Device
Size (inches)
Weight (grams | ounces)
4.44" x 2.47" x 0.52"

132 | 4.65
4.44" x 2.27" x 0.63"

156 | 5.61
4.74" x 2.63" x 0.43"

157 | 5.53
4.33" x 2.09" x 0.59"

117 | 4.12
4.66" x 2.48" x 0.47"

130 | 4.58
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.64" x 2.36" x 0.48"

129 | 4.55
3.96" x 2.34" x 0.67"

133 | 4.76
4.68" x 2.44" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.58" x 2.42" x 0.47"

120 | 4.20
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.65"

178 | 6.28
3.92" x 2.41" x 0.60"

137 | 4.83
4.24" x 2.09" x 0.53"

117 | 4.12
4.17" x 2.00" x 0.85"

151 | 5.34
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.57" x 1.70" x 0.64"

140 | 4.94
4.88" x 2.44" x 0.53"

130 | 4.56
4.21" x 2.20" x 0.55"

120 | 4.20
4.53" x 2.47" x 0.47"

146 | 5.15
4.63" x 2.19" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.35" x 2.07" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.56" x 2.41" x 0.51"

125 | 4.41
4.44" x 2.36" x 0.55"

133 | 4.69
4.01" x 1.98" x 0.55"

124 | 4.37
8.28" x 4.67" x 1.08"

640 | 22.5
4.48" x 2.52" x 0.59"

154 | 5.43
4.17" x 2.38" x 0.68"

147 | 5.18
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.71"

165 | 5.82
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.41" x 2.28" x 0.73"

140 | 4.94
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.45"

110 | 3.88
4.56" x 2.36" x 0.70"
200 | 7.05
4.30" x 2.40" x 0.60"
120 | 4.23
4.20" x 2.30" x 0.60"
136 | 4.79
3.70" x 2.30" x 0.60"
126 | 4.44
4.48" x 2.39" x 0.51"
116 | 4.09
4.60" x 2.60" x 0.50"

134 | 4.70

4.10" x 2.10" x 0.60"
150 | 5.30
4.40" x 2.32" x 0.75"
190 | 6.70

WHAT’S IN THE BOX



Here's the unboxing video for the G910.

Here is a shot of the box, which saw some abuse during shipping.

    Inside the box we have software, charger and sync cable (using Samsung’s proprietary connector), a lanyard hook, an external stylus, earbud headphones, earbud gels, and an audio converter so that you can use your own 3.5 mm headphones.

THE DEVICE

The Omnia has got to be one of the cleanest looking devices on the market. It has just two buttons on the front (call start/end), with an optical joystick in the center of them. The touchscreen is flush.

In hand, the device feels comfortable, high quality (despite it being mostly plastic), and lightweight.

    On the bottom we see again the optical joystick (which also has D-Pad functionality), plus a chrome plastic bezel that runs around the perimeter of the device. It’s tough to tell from the picture, but the material used on the call start/end keys has a brushed-metal texture.

Closer in on the top we see the speaker grill, which does double duty as the speakerphone. To the right of that is the VGA camera used for video calls.

The stylus is external. The idea is that you tether it to the side of your phone…

…but doing so takes away from the attractiveness of the phone. That said, the stylus is metal, and feels high quality.

Turning over to the back we have a flat piece of plastic that has a brushed metal texture and appearance. Very nice.

Closer in we can see the 5MP camera sensor, plus flash to the right. How’s the camera, you ask? We’ll cover that later in the review.

If we open up the back, we find the SIM card holder next to the microSD card slot. We don’t like hidden microSD slots, but hey, this device already has 16GB of storage space, so we’re not complaining too much.

    Onto the first side, we see some hardware buttons that are programmable. The first button on the left will launch the menu main with a short press, and with a long press, it will launch the task switcher. Then we have the volume up/down buttons. A long press of the up button will bring up a zooming feature for the phone, and a long press of the down button will turn on the flashlight. Finally, the camera button on the right launches the camera on a long press, and the Photo Slides program on a short press. Once in the Camera application, a half press will focus the camera, and a full press will take the picture.

On the other side we have Samsung’s proprietary jack used for audio/syncing/charging, and a lanyard loop on the far right.

On the bottom we the microphone on the bottom right.

And finally on the top, we have the power/standby button. To the left of that is a soft reset hole.

COMPARISONS

Here we have a comparison shot of the BlackJack II, iPhone, Omnia i900, Verizon XV6900, and AT&T Tilt.

In the same order, here is a skewed shot from the bottom. The Omnia is a just .2mm thicker than the first generation iPhone.

And here is a top skewed shot.

The Omnia comes with a ton of interesting software built in. Flip on to the next page to see more.

So here we have Samsung’s Widget-based Today screen. You can position the widgets anywhere you want, and you can even overlap widgets. To see all available widgets, you tap on the tab you see on the left there…

    …and from this menu, you can add and remove widgets. The widgets included aren’t very useful. Things like an analogue and digital clock, link to Notes and Games, photo slideshow, profile switcher, and play controls for the MP3 player are included. It’s missing important widgets like weather, stocks, next calendar appointment, calculator, and a more robust new message notification window (it has one, but it doesn’t let you see the status of all of your messages in one glance).

Did I mention you can overlap widgets? Seen in the upper right is the aforementioned new message notification.

Widgets also works in landscape. What’s interesting is that when you flip it into landscape, the widget layout you had in portrait is reset, so you can basically have two layouts – one for both orientations.

This is the other Today screen Samsung provides. It has even less utility than does the first one. From here you can access important device functions…

…and add a quick dial list. But again, this Today screen doesn’t do anything with weather or next appointment or email notification. So it’s back to the default Today screen for me!

    Also from Samsung is this menu screen which is accessible via a hardware button, or a shortcut in the Programs menu. It’s a menu that provides access to main programs. I rather have a shortcut on the Today screen to get to a program. I never liked the idea of having to go through multiple screens to get to a program that could be launched from the Today screen.

The second pane, which is accessible with a left to right finger swipe, allows you to drag and drop programs from the left menu, and customize your own shortcut panel.

    I really like the Phonebook application form Samsung. This is one of the few places you can flick scroll on the device. Each entry is finger-friendly; you can quickly get to a particular letter, or quickly filter by category. You can also search.

The Call Log screen also takes on this format.

And this is what the phone keypad looks like, which is also finger-friendly.

And when you’re on a call, the screen is deactivated to avoid accidental key presses.

    Here we are in the Programs menu. The longer 400 pixel screen really allows a lot of icons to show on the screen at once. Sadly, you cannot flick-scroll the Programs menu, so you have to drag the scroll bars. The interesting entries we see here are: FM radio, Digital Frame, and Google Launcher. We’ll go through those now. But before we do – if we rotate the device, the screen will automatically switch to landscape…

…and we’ll get this.

And while we’re in this view, I should note that all soft key menus throughout the operating system are large and finger-friendly. Nice.

To use the FM radio, you must have your headset connected. The signal strength was about as good as you can expect with a WinMo phone having radio – it was adequate but not great. From here you can enter radio presets.

And this is the Google launcher program which is bit pointless. Typing in this box will launch PIE to do a Google query. Clicking on Mail will launch GMail in PIE, and Maps will take you to the Maps program.

…which, by the way, looks excellent on the Omnia’s WQVGA screen.

And while we’re on third party apps – Windows Live Search renders perfectly on the Omnia…

…as does Pocket Informant.

The Digital Picture Frame application is pretty neat. The idea is that you can use the Omnia as a digital picture frame by having it display the time, date, and a calendar, all while it cycles through your pictures in the background.

I think Samsung envisions you getting back home after work and throwing the Omnia on your desk with this program running for ambiance. It’s not useful enough for me…

…though there are quite a few options if you’re interested in using it.

    Let’s proceed downward in the Programs menu. Here we see some other interesting entries: Podcasts, RSS Reader, Shozu, Smart Converter, Streaming Player, TV-Out viewer (which I was unable to test because my unit didn’t come with the right adapters), Task Switcher, Touch Player, and Video Editor. Wow, that’s a lot! Let’s go through them now…

This is the main menu of the Podcasts application.

If you’re into Podcasts, you can use your Omnia to manage them.

The RSS reader on the Omnia was easy to use…

…and I was quickly able to add the pocketnow.com RSS feed.

Shozu is a service that allows you to share content from your phone with online services like YouTube, Facebook, flickr, and others.

The Smart Converter is a well-made application that lets you make various conversions. It makes the conversions as you type.

The Streaming Player will allow you to visit mobile YouTube (m.youtube.com) and watch streaming content on your Omnia.

This is the Windows Media Player alternative, called Touch Player, which is a fast and easy to use multimedia player.

All of the menus are finger-friendly, and you can flick-scroll to navigate.

    What you see on the bottom half of the screen is the Task Switcher, which is accessible by swiping your finger from the bottom of the screen to the middle, or through the Programs list. The Task Switcher allows you to access your play controls for the Touch Player from any screen, or toggle between programs, kind of like the Alt-Tab menu in Windows. It’s funny that even as OEMs are trying to make Windows Mobile not "feel" like Windows on the desktop, they add things like the task switcher which is quite reminiscent of Windows.

And then there is a video editor that is not unlike Windows Movie Maker…

But oddly, it doesn’t let you manipulate video that you’ve taken with the Omnia.

This part of the Video Editor lets you make a slideshow and export it as an MP4 video.

Included on the Omnia is Office Mobile 2007 with Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Word.

And while we’re talking about productivity, Samsung gives you three onscreen keyboards. All of them feature predictive text entry and spelling assistance. This first one is the full QWERTY.

And then we have a SureType-style, which has larger buttons.

…and finally we have a T9-style pad, which is probably the best bet for those with large fingers, or those that are especially acclimated to this keypad layout.

And I should mention that all of these keyboards display nicely in landscape. In landscape, the space key is placed awkwardly to the right.

Here’s the full list of keyboard options. From here, we can get into the options for the Samsung keyboards…

…which gives you control on the word completion, and how quickly you will get suggestions.

Moving on from the keyboards…using the File Viewer, you can view PDFs in their full glory with zoom/pan functionality.

Since Pocket IE is still horrible, Samsung includes a full version of Opera Mobile 9.5 – the best of the best in terms of mobile browsers.

    With flash support, plus support for the normal web standards, Opera Mobile 9.5 is a true desktop-grade mobile browser. The pages rendered smoothly on the Omnia. You double tap to get closer to a column of text, you slide your finger to pan around on the page. It’s great.

    A big problem though…when you’re entering a new URL, the autocomplete of the keyboard does not turn off. So when I’m trying to type "pocketnow.com" into the address bar, it wants to correct me with "pocketbook." Now, you can turn off the autocomplete, but not in less than 5 different menus. The autocomplete should be suppressed here!

On the next page, we’ll cover all of the interesting settings of the Omnia, plus take a look at how well the 5MP camera performs.

SETTINGS

    There is a lot to talk about in the Settings department. To start – a bit about the DivX option. This is the first DivX-certified WinMo phone. What’s that mean? DivX certified this phone because of a few reasons: it can decode DivX video (duh), it has a large screen, lots of storage memory, and TV-Out. DivX likes to certify products that allow for a good multimedia experience. Really, it’s just another selling point for Samsung, that’s all.

    Vide Tonz is really interesting. When turned on, it gives you vibration feedback (the magnitude of which is adjustable as seen above) each time you press something on the screen. Other phones on the market such as the LG Voyager and Dare have this function.

    You know, at first I thought Vibe Tonz it was a silly waste of battery power, and I mentioned this in one of the videos. But after giving it a chance and seeing that with fantastic battery life (more on this later) the Omnia could afford to use this feature, I really like it. This is why: with a resistive touchscreen as found on the Omnia (see this article for more on touchscreen types), there are times when you don’t press hard enough to cause the screen to register your press. This can lead to mis-strokes on keyboards, and so on. With vibration feedback, you always know when the device has registered a keypress. I love Vibe Tonz now, and I wish that every WinMo touchscreen device going forward would have this feature.

Here in Theme, we can adjust the color scheme to one of 11 colors.

Over in the System tab, we have some other unique entries.

The GPS menu lets us set up the aGPS so that it downloads positional data at certain intervals. I found the Omnia to get a GPS fix in 10-15 seconds on Google Maps.

    Next we have the settings for the optical joystick. You can have it turned off which will make the mouse pointer go away. When turned on, you can adjust the mouse speed. I kept it on the fastest speed so that I didn’t have to swipe my finger many times to jump across the screen.

We can adjust the sensitivity of the accelerometer so that a slight tilt of the device won’t initiate a screen rotation.

Like the HTC Touch Diamond, the Omnia has an etiquette feature that will silence the phone’s ringer when flipped over on its face. This is a very useful addition! I demonstrate this in the video towards the bottom of this page.

    For those keeping track, this device is running the DXHG2 ROM. Rumor has it that Samsung will be releasing a new ROM soon that will add more flick-scrolling to other parts of the operating system, plus fix some stability issues.

With the light sensor, the Omnia can manage screen brightness.

With all programs closed, we have about 50MB of program memory free. The 16GB of storage space won’t show up under storage memory.

Rather, it is considered to be a storage card, dubbed My Storage. Interesting.

That said, when installing a new program, you can choose to install it onto My Storage, which is, again, your huge reserve of storage space.

And finally we get into the Connections tab…

..which allows you to see the non-skinned Wireless Manager…

…plus choose which operator you’re on. Since this device is not yet intended for use in the US, I had to manually enter settings for AT&T.

And, also like the Touch Diamond, you can choose what happens when you plug the device into a computer: start up ActiveSync, or initiate mass storage mode to use it as a storage drive.



Here’s a video of the Omnia that covers more on the mouse pointer, screen rotation, and more.

CAMERA

    The camera application is the best I’ve ever seen on a Windows Mobile device. Really. It’s very fast and easy to use, and allows for a lot of control. The Omnia’s camera has smile and face detection, anti-shake mode…

…and it shoots at up to 5MP, which is a very high 2560×1920 resolution. That’s the highest yet on a Windows Mobile phone. In the upper right, we can see that with the current settings, we can store over 17,000 pictures on the device.

The auto focus works quite well and has modes for Macro and Face focusing.

Here is a picture of yellow flowers. The colors are vibrant, and the image is clear. Click it for the original.

Meet Bella. We can see the detail of her hair, and the lighting is even with this half indoor, half outdoor shot.

And with an outdoor shot on this cloudy day, the Omnia does very well.

Click on to the next page as we wrap up the review, run benchmarks, and come out with a final conclusion about the Omnia i900.

BENCHMARKS

   Spb Benchmark from Spb Software House has been used for the
following benchmark comparisons with the Omnia i900.

The Omnia i900 exhibits very good performance, and we can see that it ranks close to the Touch Diamond in many tests.

BATTERY
    The ample 1440mAh battery provides plenty of juice for the Omnia. In my testing, after using a moderate amount of WiFi, GPS, and cellular data, I still had 40% left on my battery by the evening. That’s excellent. If I had been using HSDPA rather than EDGE for data, the battery would probably be down to about 20% or so, which is still fine. On the average, expect your Omnia to last 1.5 or even up to 2 days on one charge. That’s very good for a Smartphone.

BUGS AND WISHES

    To start, I found my Omnia to be a bit buggy, and I think this is a matter of the ROM version that mine shipped with. Samsung is working on a new ROM that fixes some bugs, plus adds more flick scrolling (like in the Programs menu). Anyhow, there were many occasions when the device would shut itself off. This happened during a call, after a charge, and while in standby. I really can’t find any explanation for this except that it’s a bug in the ROM.

    Next, I have to complain about the lack of built-in stylus. The device can undoubtedly be used without one thanks to the finger-friendly enhancements and the optical joystick, but during the times when you want to take a note or (for some reason) use the standard tiny onscreen keyboard, you’re out of luck unless you plan to tether the external stylus to the lanyard hook on the phone, which just seems silly to me.

    Where’s the case? Samsung should have included a high quality Samsung-branded leather case for the Omnia. I would hate to witness the aftermath of a drop of this device onto a hard service. It would suffer some serious damage with all the shiny and plasticy parts.

    The resolution of the Omnia is "wide" QVGA – so compared to a TyTN II, for example, it adds an extra 80 pixels to the tallest dimension. If you crunch the numbers, we get a pixel density of 145PPI on the Omnia with its 3.2" screen. This is quite low, which lends to images that aren’t as sharp and crisp as they could be if the resolution was bumped to "wide" VGA, like the XPERIA X1 or Toshiba G920.

    And my last gripe about the Omnia, which should be remedied soon, is price and availability. If you import the phone and don’t buy it from a carrier, it’ll cost you $700-800. Rumor has it that it’s coming to AT&T as the SGH-i907, so if it does, we’ll get a lower price plus real 3G goodness (right now you’ll get up to EDGE speeds in the US because of the lack of UMTS850 band).

PURCHASING

    The Samsung Omnia i900 can be imported from Smart-Mobile-Gadgets for $709.99. That is the lowest price I could find as of the date of this review.


PROS


  • Gorgeous, thin design


  • Optical joystick

  • Lightweight

  • Incredible camera


  • Snappy performance


  • Finger-friendly enhancements


  • Includes Opera 9.5


  • Great battery life


  • Vibration feedback helps to avoid mis-taps


  • aGPS/WiFi/HSDPA


  • Good onscreen keyboard choices

CONS


  • No inbuilt stylus


  • Buggy


  • Pricey (unsubsidized)


  • Fingerprint magnet


  • No case included

  • Screen resolution is a bit low

  • No 3G in the US, yet

Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    This is going to be a really hot device, and when it comes to the US (which is still not confirmed, but quite likely), it’s going to sell very well. Samsung has made it very easy to love the Omnia by adding a surfeit of features that can appeal to everyone: the mobile professional, the multimedia fiend, and even the fashion conscious.

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About The Author
Brandon Miniman
Brandon is a graduate from the Villanova School of Business, located near Philadelphia, PA. He's been a technology writer since 2002, and, in 2005, became Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow, a then Windows Mobile-focused website. He has since helped to transition Pocketnow into a top-tier smartphone and tablet publication. He's so obsessed with technology that he once entered a candle store and asked if they had a "new electronics" scent. They didn't.