Is the Samsung Omnia 7 a worthy flag-bearer of the newly birthed Windows Phone 7 or does it short-change early adopters with a below par handset? Read on to find out.
They say that your first impression is the best impression. And, in this case at least they are right on the money.
Samsung’s candy bar-shaped Omnia 7 is an imposing device from the start, with a massive screen and an all-round premium look that demands attention.
When Microsoft announced it would be re-inventing its ill-fated Windows Mobile OS as an all-new platform, nobody seemed to care. Few refused to believe it was even possible. The software giant’s long-awaited response to its critics may not be the finished article, but it is doubtless an effort worthy of credit where credit is due.
The Samsung Omnia 7 is a handsome bit of kit. The huge, glossy screen teamed with a sleek metal shell add up to a device that feels as good as it looks.
It’s an eye-catcher, too. In the few days I’ve had the phone in my mitts, I’ve been inundated with questions about it from friends and curious strangers alike. It’s certainly no iPhone - but that is a good, good thing if you’re in the market for a smartie that is not as exasperatingly common as Apple’s one-size-fits-all solution.
Side-by-side, the Big Sam’s effort towers well-above that of Apple’s in stature, which only adds to one’s disbelief at how remarkably thin the Omnia 7 is. At just 11mm thick it will easily slip into even the tightest jeans pocket without creating an unsightly bulge.
Buttons have been kept to a minimum, with only the standard Back, Windows (Home) and Search buttons given front row seats. A power button and a dedicated camera button reside on the right, while the volume rocker is neatly tucked away on the left. Everything feels tight and rock solid. This is clearly a product from a company that makes its bread and butter from selling quality hardware.
Microsoft has gone to a great length to ensure Windows Phone 7 smarties meet a minimum set of hardware standards out of the gate, so its platform doesn’t undergo the same fragmentation problems as Google’s Android operating system.
The result: a powerful 1GHz processor keeps everything ticking over smoothly. Applications load fast, and I mean really fast.
Second in line when it comes to standout specs is a five-megapixel snapper with LED flash, autofocus, geo-tagging, the lot, and which takes gorgeous snaps and doubles as an HD camcorder. Advanced settings options give you greater control over your shots, along with a sizable collection of effects to add a bit of sizzle your photos.
Of course, high-res shots and clips take up considerable amount of memory and there’s up to 16GB of it on board, depending on the model you pick.
Nothing in the Omnia’s 7’s spec set stands out more, however, than its massive 4-inch, retina-scorching, jaw-dropping Super AMOLED touchscreen that is as vibrant, if not more so, as the iPhone 4’s Retina display. The touchscreen is also incredibly responsive and buttery smooth.
As far as extras go, Sammy has crammed more bells and whistles in this kit than you can shake a turtle at. From 3G/HSDPA to Wi-Fi (b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, GPS (with AGPS support and digital compass), 3.5mm headset jack, microUSB 2.0 port, proximity and ambient lighting sensors, accelerometer and a FM radio transmitter. You name it, it’s got it.
Top marks for practicality also go to the removable battery, which means you can always carry a spare if you have to have to travel a lot.
The major selling point of the Omnia 7 is obviously the operating system itself, Windows Phone 7. This is Microsoft’s attempt at rebuilding its smartphone business with a clean slate and while I was sceptical at first, that is no longer the case.
Microsoft deserves some credit for not only shedding the archaic menu styles of Windows Mobile, but actually coming up with an interface that is not a cut-and-paste job of its rivals’ efforts. This new ‘Hub’ style UI arranges your home screen in a set of tiles that serve as a nexus of all the people, content and information that most matter to you.
The People hub for example, is centred on the integrated social networking capabilities of WP7, giving you instant access to all your Windows Live and Facebook friends. The News hub pulls the latest headlines and weather information, while Zune Marketplace serves as Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s iTunes, with thousands of applications and millions of songs and videos to download.
Then there’s the Xbox Live hub, which taps directly into Microsoft’s hugely popular online gaming service. This is where you’ll be coming for all your gaming needs and something that Microsoft will surely expand as the platform matures.
The built-in search and maps apps are both powered by Bing, unlike Google on rivals’ platforms. Rest assured, both work superbly.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Windows phone without seamless integration with Exchange and Microsoft Office suite, which should keep business users happy.
On the downside, there is no Flash support and this is unlikely arrive anytime soon, if at all. Plus, the stock Internet Explorer browser is very basic at its current state. It gets the job done, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.
On a brighter note, the unit we tested was running on 3, whose reliable coverage meant pages loaded lightning fast over 3G, so if browsing on the go is your thing, you’ll not be disappointed.
Ease of use
Windows Phone 7 is a joy to use and equally pleasing to look at. There’s something endearing about its minimalist design, vanilla icons and large, ultra-smooth typography, which lend the OS a distinctly clean and refreshing appearance. Not to mention, it hogs less in the way of resources, which means apps load faster and that the battery lasts longer.
I am not the biggest fan of touchscreen typing so I was positively bowled over by how robust the text prediction and error correction here is. Coupled with the Omnia 7’s massive screen, fiddlyness while emailing and messaging and typing out entire documents is not an issue you’ll have to face here.
That’s not say that the Omnia 7 is faultless. Multitasking right now is limited to only Microsoft’s apps and even then there’s no easy way to switch between running apps.
However, on the whole, the positives of Windows Phone 7 far outweigh the negatives. It may be early days still for the OS, but it’s also the most exciting time to get onboard with it. If you’re shopping for not just a fantastic handset but something new and different to what’s already out there, look no further.
- 4-inch, 480 x 800 pixels Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen
- 122.4 x 64.2 x 11 mm 138.2g
- Windows Phone 7
- HSDPA, Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, GPS with A-GPS
- 5-megapixel camera with autofocus, LED flash and 720p video recording
- 8GB/16GB internal memory
- 3.5mm audio jack
Overall Mark: 9