In Latin Omnia means everything and from the spec sheet in front of us it seems Samsung is intent on keeping this promise. Could this also be the Omnia's downfall? After all, being everything to everyone is a dangerous road to walk and tends to stretch you thin.
With the knowledge of just how much technology is inside the Omnia, the most astounding feature is how light this handset is. At only 122 grams including the battery, the Omnia feels positively featherweight in our hands and its slim proportions — measuring a lithe 12.5mm in thickness — makes the Omnia very pants-portable.
In line with this design, the 5-megapixel camera module and flash on the back of the Omnia lays flush with the battery cover, as do all soft-keys on the front and around the sides of the handset. Strangely, Samsung has not included a slot for storing the stylus which comes with the phone, instead including a lanyard hook leaving the stylus dangling awkwardly to the side.
A 3.2-inch WQVGA (240x400) resolution touchscreen display is the Omnia's main input, although between the call and end keys below the screen Samsung has included a clickable touch-sensitive optical mouse for selecting menu items. While it is not set on by default there is an option to activate a mouse pointer that is controlled by this small black square.
In regards to the touchscreen interface the Omnia is about halfway there. The Samsung skin on Windows Mobile (WM) is great, but you all-too-often find yourself facing the impossible task of trying to interact with a standard WM menu and its ridiculously small on-screen buttons. The Omnia also employs Samsung's new-ish TouchWiz home-screen interface, displaying a panel of widgets along the edge of the screen. Users drag the widget they need to the main area of the screen to make the widget active. We like this system, but so far the selection and customisation of these widgets is minimal, basically rendering the panel useless. Still, we look forward to seeing where Samsung takes this concept in future releases.
Samsung has really gone out trying to pack as much as possible into the Omnia. Firstly, we should note that the Omnia runs on Windows Mobile 6.1, giving users access to a wealth of business functionality including MS Exchange server compatibility for syncing contacts, email and calendar entries from your business Outlook mail account, plus MS Office document editing. There's even a business card scanner which uses the phone's camera and interprets what it sees into a new contact entry.
The Omnia supports HSDPA data transfers and is compatible with 2,100MHz UMTS networks as well as 850/900/1800/1900 GSM networks when you are travelling outside of the range of 3G coverage. Those looking to avoid carrier data charges can make use of Wi-Fi, and it sports a built-in GPS receiver as well. Our review unit didn't include any dedicated navigation software with turn-by-turn directions; however, we expect Australian carriers to include this option, particularly Vodafone with its Compass software.
While the Omnia is business capable it seems to us to be geared better for media playback. With 16GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot, the Omnia is able to carry large playlists of music and full size video files, plus it supports a wide range of audio and video codecs including DivX, XviD, WMV, MPEG4, MP3, AAC, AAC+, WMA and OGG. It is a shame that the Omnia doesn't feature a 3.5mm headphone built-in the handset. It does come with a hands-free adapter in the box but this adds an awkward extra length of cable to your favourite headphones.
A new feature worth noting is the Omnia's compatibility with DLNA servers and clients. DLNA is an open networking standard being used by major electronics manufacturers to simplify the process of networking devices, which is especially useful for media sharing. The Omnia is able to stream audio, video and images to DLNA compatible devices, such as a PC or a Sony PlayStation 3, and can also have "pull" information to it. This may not seem like a big deal now, but we predict DLNA networking on mobile phones will become a very hot topic in the months to come.
Samsung hasn't taken any chances with the processing in the Omnia, packing in one of the most powerful mobile phone processors available at this time — a 624MHz Marvell processor and matching it with 128MB RAM. For the most part, this is sufficient — certain graphics that heavily process like photo gallery browsing work like a charm, and web browsing is excellent with the pre-installed Opera browser.
We did find we had to keep an eye on processes running in the background. As with many Windows Mobile handsets, hitting the "x" in the top corner of the active window will often close the window but not exit the program, and very soon you are losing significant performance as the handset ploughs on with 10 processes active. Samsung has put a menu key on the right-hand side of the Omnia and when this button is held in for several seconds it opens the task manager. This is a button you will turn to frequently.
Making calls with the Omnia is great, although messaging is clunky with the on-screen QWERTY keyboard. The Omnia does have a range of input alternatives to choose from including dual-QWERTY (two letters to a key) and T9 numeric keypad options, but even these only made composing messages on the Omnia slightly easier. The touchscreen is very sensitive and it's easy to hit the wrong button as you move your finger close to the screen.
The 5-megapixel camera is reasonably good, but it doesn't stand out from the growing list of similar specced cameras in other phones. We managed to take some good photos; photos that showed sharp focus and decent colours, but for every good photo we shot three or four duds. For best results you must be prepared to hold the handset very still while taking the shot or risk your shaky hands ruining your pics during slow image processing.
Perhaps more problematic than troublesome input and slow processing is the Omnia's battery cycles. With light to modrate use of calling, messaging and web browsing, the Omnia was always completely out of juice within 24 hours. If you use the Wi-Fi or GPS receiver expect this figure to shorten further.
Samsung's Omnia is overflowing with features, but lacks the usability that would make it a great phone for everyday use. Owners of Omnias will no doubt find situations to make use of all the technology built into the handset, especially media sharing with DLNA networking; however, using the Omnia for common tasks, like messaging, feels cumbersome. Most of the fault here lies with Windows Mobile and if Samsung intends to continue with Microsoft's OS for a next-generation Omnia we can only hope the company intends to modify even more of the platform so that users rarely face the frustrating interface.