I was very excited before my renewed encounter with the Omnia.
After all, I did have some great memories from the first model that in my opinion was one of the best Windows Mobile handsets ever.
Samsung knew that, of course, their Omnia was a very popular model in 2009, and they have turned it to be a brand, a line of models carrying the name: Omnia.
But to my disappointment, the second version of the Omnia did not fulfill my expectations. In fact, I strongly believe that in many places the first version had much better things to offer.
True, the specs of Omnia 2 are better than the first one, especially with regards to the screen, but as I usually say, technology is not always 0 or 1, and when it comes to the bottom line: the magic is gone. Completely vanished.
The bad feeling started when I opened the box. The plastic back cover just wouldn’t open up!
I mean, I’ve used a few mobile phones in my life, right? Opening the back cover of a phone shouldn’t be such a big challenge, right? Nope, here you should actually pull it up as if you are trying to break it. Weird.
The phone looks overall OK, bigger than the old Omnia, but the plastic quality seems to give the phone a negative touch.
And the problem don’t stop there: the power button is hidden somewhere in the right side. No top button like all the new phones, no way to use the ‘End’ button for that, seems weird.
Another thing I spotted was that the power button does not react immediately, there is some kind of a lag from the minute you click on it until the screen actually opens up.
Looking at the Omnia pictures, I kind of liked the diamond D-Pad, and yes, at least there is one comparing to all of those HTC phones without it.
But. When you use it it doesn’t feel right. Too bad Samsung replaced the fun optical D-Pad with this one, and the worst part comes with the fact that the “enter” button (the middle of the d-pad) actually doesn’t act like one, it’s the main menu shortcut. So in fact, many time you click on the middle button expecting to click the ‘Enter’ button but instead - the home menu pops up.
This one is actually a world record in bad usability.
OK, here comes a good part (one of a few I’m afraid) – the screen has grown by half an inch, to 3.7-inches WVGA display, and the old screen has been ditched in favor of brighter, more power-efficient OLED screen.
I actually like the screen, and don’t have anything negative to say about it!
The camera is still a respectable 5 megapixel unit with a dual LED flash and adjustable focus, and the Omnia II comes with all the mod cons. But as it seems to me, as much as the specs are good, Samsung’s User Interface engineers tried with all their power to ruin it by creating just the worst UI ever. It took me 2 minutes to figure out how to use the camera application, and now that I know how to use it, I still think the camera UI is horrible.
Virtual keyboard have done a long way from 4-5 years ago, when I use my iPhone or my Nexus One virtual keyboard, I can type pretty fast (especially with the iPhone amazingly smart engine that knows exactly what I want to type even if I completely mess my fingers around). Typing with the Omnia is frustrating: whenever the speed of clicks becomes too fast, the resistive screen starts losing it, and the keyboard doesn’t come close to the iPhone one. I’ve yet to see a Windows Mobile keyboard that will give a decent typing experience.
(well, expect maybe Swype…)
User Interface and Customized Applications:
Like in the first Omnia, many of the standard Windows Mobile stuff were completely re-written by Samsung. For many users this is a great upgrade, as we all know the problems Windows Mobile has with the UI. I cannot say I am very excited about the apps. Some of them work fine, the others seems not polished. I guess trying to re-write so much functionality in such a short time is a big challenge even for giants like Samsung.
Another problematic thing is the black theme that turns every text box into a dark one. I personally think it’s too much, especially when trying to use Excel (at least this is something you can change via the themes admin).
The Samsung TouchWiz Widgets shell was significantly improved; there are plenty of widgets, few pages you can place them in, and the entire usability of the widgets is much better then the old version.
The first Samsung Omnia was, and still is, one of my favorites WinMo phones. It had a lot of great elements but more than all, it has the charm that only few devices truly have.
The second version of the Omnia not only does not stand to the expectations, it’s lacking a lot of the fun elements required from a smartphone these days.
It’s true that my high expectations might have caused this disappointment, but still, if the Omnia 1 had a better screen and could run Windows Mobile 6.5 – I wouldn’t see any reason to upgrade to the new model. Even without those specs, I still prefer the first version over the new one…