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Review: Samsung Omnia for Verizon Wireless

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First off, someone at Verizon Wireless must have been drunk or asleep at the wheel when they gave the Omnia the green light because it has Wi-Fi. Isn’t Verizon notorious for stripping that feature from every single phone in its lineup? Something tells me the other manufacturers are going to throw a fit over this bit of news.

Quick Version: The Omnia boasts just about every feature you’d want from a smartphone and Verizon, surprisingly, left it exactly the way it leaves the Samsung factory. Sure, they added their VZ Navigator app and the VZAppZone but we’re okay with that because they left the Omnia untouched. For a Windows Mobile device with a decent skin Samsung calls the TouchWiz, the Omnia is the clear choice for Verizon Wireless customers.

Features

• Access to VZAppZone – downloadable games, ringtones, wallpapers and more

• Playback of MP3 files

• VZ NavigatorSM capability – get visual and audible directions to thousands of destinations, locate businesses and other points of interest, get maps of a location and share directions with others

• Text, picture and video messaging

• Mobile IM using AIM®, MSN®, Yahoo!®

• Bluetooth® profiles supported: headset – mono and stereo, hands-free (car kits), object push for vCard, basic imaging, and phonebook access profiles

• 5.0 megapixel camera and camcorder with flash and zoom

o Face Detection – centers on your face when taking a picture

o Panorama, split shot and anti-shake camera settings

o SmileShot – enables the camera to detect when a person is smiling and automatically take a picture when in the “SmileShot” mode

• Wi-Fi technology (802.11 b/g)

• Support for Divx and Xvid movie files

• Personal organizer with calculator, calendar, alarm clock, world clock, stop watch and notepad

• Dimensions: 4.41” (l) x 2.24” (w) x 0.52” (d) with standard battery

• Weight: approximately 4.34 ounces

• Display: 3.2” display

• Usage time: up to 346 minutes with standard battery or

Standby time: up to 464 hours with standard battery (subject to environmental and other factors)

Hardware

Samsung devices are inherently lightweight and rather stylish, but the thin plastic screens will always irritate me to no end. I simply cannot stand them and after seeing the damage inflicted on John’s Instinct some time ago I feel weary about sticking this in my pocket. Because of its weight I wonder whether or not the Omnia will hold up to the rigors of daily use.

The 5-megapixel AF camera is on par with that of Nokia devices and comes with a bevy of editing apps, various scene modes and a wonky panorama mode that works fairly well. Like any other mobile phone camera, you won’t be capturing any action shots, but it works well for still subjects.

Have I mentioned that the Omnia for Verizon Wireless has Wi-Fi? That’s out of left field and one of the best things about this device.

The optical mouse on the Omnia is superb and doesn’t hinder your flow when navigating the device. You can choose between a traditional 4-way D-pad-like setup or use it as if it were a computer mouse. A stylus is included but you’ll have to attach it as a charm on the left hand side of the Omnia. I think Samsung’s market research hasn’t shown that we, Americans, aren’t very big on cell phone charms.

The 3.2-inch touch-screen is relatively bright and crisp but the 240×400 resolution leaves much to be desired. Again, I can’t help but harp on Samsung about these retched plastic screens. Please, please switch to glass screens or a harder plastic and bump up the resolution. A main menu hard button is located on the side of the top right corner saving you from having to tap the lower right corner of the screen.

I’ve never been a fan of the Windows Mobile touch-screen keyboards and the same goes for Samsung’s TouchWiz keyboards. You’re either going to sit and peck or use the stylus. Both are annoyances.

Software

Snazzy features aside, the Omnia is still just a Windows Mobile device so that in and of itself is major red flag for a number of folks, myself included. The TouchWiz UI immediately draws comparisons to HTC’s TouchFLO 3D UI, which has, in the past, made me forget that I’m fumbling with a WinMo device.

So how doth the Samsung’s TouchWiz compare to HTC’s TouchFLO 3D?

Well, it’s not as pretty and flashy, but it gets the job done. I’d say Samsung and HTC make the best Windows Mobile devices with the latter making the best ‘skin’. However, Samsung has a few tricks up its sleeve to make up for the not so flashy façade.

The reorientation of the screen from portrait to landscape is silky smooth and the sidebar of widgets is super convenient. You can drag widgets from the sidebar to the main screen for a quicker launch. The widgets include a world clock, games, media player, etc.

You can bring up the task manager by swiping up from the bottom, which lowers the aggravation of having to dig down into the Windows Mobile menu system.

The Omnia’s web browser is Opera 9.5 and is much better than the browser the Instinct has, but it’s still a so-so browser compared to the iPhone’s Safari.

If I had to choose between HTC’s TouchFLO 3D interface and Samsung’s TouchWiz, I’d have to go with HTC’s Windows Mobile variant.

Application Store

Verizon’s app store doesn’t contain anything worth noting, but I did come across the IM+ client and it’s ridiculously priced at $40. The overall interface of the app store is pretty archaic.

Overall

If you’re in the market for a Windows Mobile device on Verizon then I’d highly suggest the Omnia from Verizon because of the Wi-Fi feature. The HTC Touch Pro is also a superb device on the network, but it lacks Wi-Fi and given the option it’s sort of a no-brainer. The Omnia will be available online starting tomorrow for $250 after a $70 MIR (debit card rebate) and in stores on December 8th.

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