The Good The Samsung Omnia II boasts a spacious and clear AMOLED touch screen. Samsung’s TouchWiz 2.0 user interface offers great customization of the Omnia II and is easy to use. The Windows Mobile 6.5 smartphone also has advanced multimedia features, Wi-Fi, 3G, Bluetooth and GPS support.
The Bad The Omnia II is a bit bulky; The Swype keyboard does take some affection; it can occasionally be sluggish.
The Bottom Line Although the Samsung Omnia II is not the most powerful smartphone on the market, it has an improved user interface and rich multimedia experience to make it a worthy upgrade to its predecessor and one of the best Windows Mobile devices on the market.
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Editors’ note: This review has been updated since the original publish date with information regarding the proximity sensor. See the Performance section for more information.
Announced in June, the Samsung Omnia II is now available from Verizon Wireless for $ 199.99 with a two-year contract and after a $ 100 mail rebate. The successor to the Samsung Omnia has been hotly anticipated for months, but during this time several great touchscreen smartphones, such as the Motorola Droid and HTC Droid Eris, came to Verizon, which made us wonder if Samsung had waited too long to release the device. However, after spending a couple of days with the Omnia II, we can say that the Windows Mobile 6.5 smartphone has certainly earned a place in our hearts, differentiating itself from the competition with excellent multimedia capabilities. Samsung has done a good job of updating the TouchWiz interface, bringing more customization and making Windows Mobile easier for consumers, although business users may find the HTC Sense on the HTC Imagio more attractive and streamlined. In doing so, the Samsung Omnia II is definitely a worthy upgrade for current Omnia owners or any Verizon customers looking for a modern multimedia smartphone.
Like many touchscreen smartphones available today, the Samsung Omnia II has a candy design, but it is slightly larger at 4.69 inches, 2.35 inches wide by 0.52 inches wide and weighs 4.76 ounces. However, there are significant reasons for the extra size, and it’s a great 3.7-inch WVGA (800×480 pixels) AMOLED touch screen.
The Samsung Omnia II is slightly larger than its predecessor.
As noted earlier, AMOLED screens take precedence over conventional LCDs, offering clearer and brighter images while consuming less power. Compared to the first Omnia and other touch screen smartphones, videos and photos look great on the Omnia II. It has a smoother image, wider viewing angles and higher contrast. Also, the built-in accelerometer changes the screen orientation as you rotate your phone for certain applications such as a web browser, messages, photos and videos. In addition, although the touch screen of the smartphone is resistive and requires a little more pressure than the capacitive touch screen to move between different panels of the home screen, we found it quite responsive and did not require the accuracy of the stylus to select the elements. It should be noted that the touch screen was a bit temperamental when we first used it, but after aligning the screen with the stylus, everything was fine.
Under the screen you get the Talk and End / Power keys and the home menu key (more on that later). There is an OK button, but it is located on the left side of the phone along with a 3.5mm headphone jack and volume. The microSD expansion slot is also located on this side, but you will need to remove the stylish red battery door to access it. On the right side of the spine you’ll find a stylus, a Micro-USB port, a lock key, and a camera activation / capture button. Last but not least, the camera and flash are located on the back. The only thing we missed was the return button to go back to the previous screen, as the onscreen option was not always available.
Keyboard and user interface
Although the physical aspects of the Samsung Omnia II are not that different from the competition, the smartphone has some unique “design” features beneath the surface. On the one hand, it offers an on-screen QWERTY keyboard keyboard portrait and Swype technology, which Webware has previewed back. Instead of punching individual keys, Swype lets you spell the word by dragging your finger on the keyboard from letter to letter. The Swype algorithm then does its best to understand what word you are trying to type; it also automatically inserts a space after the word is completed and includes certain tricks, such as strokes of a key to type a letter twice. In fact, we are very skeptical of Swype. However, to our surprise, it worked, and for the most part it was accurate. We encountered some problems with the introduction of terms that were not true words, such as instant messaging, although Swype will try to list possible results. You also need to type long words as you have to keep your finger on the screen all the time. And yet we were always amazed when we came up with the right word.
The Swype Omnia II keyboard takes a bit of affection but impresses us with its accuracy.
We were still trying to get used to Swype in a couple of days, and when writing emails we preferred to switch to the landscape keyboard and press the keys the old-fashioned way for faster results. However, with more practices, we can certainly see how to use it as an option for text messaging, especially since the portrait keyboard is a little too tight to use the traditional way. (According to Swype, users can type up to 30 words per minute using their keyboard.)
Another distinctive feature of the Omnia II is the Samsung TouchWiz user interface. Updated and now with more features, TouchWiz 2.0 makes it easy for people to access their apps and multitask. The general idea is the same as in the previous version. On the left side of the screen, you’ll find an expandable widget tray where you can drag and drop multiple widgets into one of the three home screen panels. However, the Omnia II is much more customizable than its predecessor, as Samsung added more widgets such as Facebook and Bing. Samsung has also officially opened its widget store. From here, you can download about 200 third-party widgets from the directory, which includes widgets for Digg, LOL Cats, E Online, a tooltip calculator, and more.
The smartphone has TouchWiz 2.0, which now includes access to other home screen widgets, among others.
Also at the bottom of the main screen is a notification bar (as well as a lock screen) to alert you to any missed calls, new messages and voicemail, and Samsung has a nice touch to add a function where if you tap the top of the screen, it will increase the status bar to help you can better see and manage your wireless settings, sound profile, and battery life.
Samsung has also completely redone the main menu page. If you press the menu key below the display, you will see a grid of all your phone’s applications. There are 12 icons on the page, and each page can be customized so you can rearrange the programs in the order you want. All you have to do is click the Edit button at the bottom of the screen, at which point you can move the icons to any position on any menu page. Pages will be added as you add more applications to your phone and you can scroll through the pages by swiping left or right. Right next to the Edit button is one of our favorite additions: a new task switch feature. This feature shows all your running programs in thumbnails and lets you easily switch between tasks, exit the program, or finish all running programs. This eliminates one of the biggest problems with Windows Mobile, which was multitasking. In fact, TouchWiz 2.0 does a good job of facilitating the operating system, so much so that you can hardly say that it is a Windows Mobile smartphone.
Finally, like the Samsung Behold II, the Omnia II offers a 3D cube interface for a variety of multimedia features of the phone. However, unlike Behold II, there is also a toolbar where you can run the same entertainment programs with a simple tap that is far more functional than a fun cube. Overall, TouchWiz 2.0 makes a lot more sense and is more useful to the Omnia II than the Behold II, as it provides customizations that Windows Mobile lacks and offers a much more intuitive user interface.
Verizon comes with the Samsung Omnia II with AC adapter, USB cable, microphone / FM antenna adapter, stylus, software CD and help material. For more extras, check out our mobile phone accessories, ringtones, and help pages.
As mentioned, the Samsung Omnia II is a Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional Edition device that includes new features such as Microsoft’s My Phone backup service and advanced Internet Explorer Mobile. In addition to Microsoft Office Mobile Suite and pre-loaded applications, you can also access the Windows Mobile Marketplace to find and download applications for your device in all categories, including entertainment, performance, travel, and more. The Omnia II comes with standard tools for managing personal information such as an alarm clock, calculator, reminder, voice recorder, and Smart Reader business card scanner.
The messages and emails on the Omnia II remain almost unchanged from the original Omnia. The smartphone continues to offer support for Microsoft Direct Direct Push technology for delivering real-time e-mail and automatic synchronization with Outlook calendar, tasks and contacts through the Exchange server. With the advent of Exchange 2010, Windows Mobile 6.5 will support viewing conversations for email, unified messaging, free busy calendar search, and more. However, you will notice that the Outlook box looks different from the standard version of Windows Mobile, since Samsung has added its own skin to give the phone a uniform feel around the world.
In addition to corporate email, you can set up your smartphone to receive your POP3 and IMAP accounts, and Verizon offers a proprietary mobile mail solution to access such accounts. The smartphone also provides instant messaging clients for Windows Live, Yahoo and AIM.
As a phone, the Omnia II offers speakers, conference calls, speed dialing, voice dialing and commands as well as text and multimedia messaging. The smartphone also supports Visual Voice Mail and VZ Navigator for real-time navigation with a built-in GPS phone. Keep in mind that both services require additional fees. The address book is limited only by the available memory and each contact can contain several numbers, addresses, birthdays, notes and more. For caller identification purposes, you can associate a recording with an image, a group ID, or your own Bluetooth 2.0 ringtone built-in for use with Bluetooth mono and stereo headsets as well as handset kits, vCard press, file transfer, base print, base image, phonebook access profiles, and set of networks. The latter requires a Verizon Mobile Broadband Connect plan.
Omnia II runs on 3G, runs on EV-DO Rev. Verizon also has integrated Wi-Fi. Although you could use Internet Explorer Mobile for your browsing needs, we recommend that you go with Opera Mobile 9.5, which is also installed on your smartphone. Not only does the operator provide tabbed browsing and easier page navigation, Samsung has also added a handy zoom function where you can long click on a page and then scroll up to zoom in or out to zoom out (you’ll see down arrows on the screen).
While the Omnia II is enjoyable (see the Performance section for more information), the Samsung Omnia II really shines in the multimedia department, more than many other Verizon smartphones. First, the media player offers support for various formats, including DivX video playback, and includes basic player features as well as DNSe and SRS audio effects, playlist creation, and various shuffle / repeat modes. The attractive Cover Flow-like interface lets you navigate through multimedia files by uploading album images, videos, and photos. In addition to the built-in media players, the smartphone also has an FM radio (this feature requires a headset), a streaming player and support for V Cast Music and V Cast Videos.
On the back you will find a 5MP camera and a flash of a smartphone.
The Omnia II also has a 5 megapixel camera with flash, digital zoom and video recording capabilities. The camera interface is mirrored by Samsung digital camera type, so if you own it, it should look familiar to you. There are many camera options available, including autofocus, shooting modes, white balance, ISO, anti-shock, and various image sizes. For video, you can record normally or in slow or MMS mode. There is even a built-in video editor so you can add music, text, etc. to your recorded videos right from your phone.
When done, you can share your photos and videos with others via MMS or email. Samsung also includes a Community app where you can access and download popular media from popular social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Flickr and Photobucket from one place. Also cool is the Digital Frame application, which will rotate stored photos, displaying the date and time and status of the phone. In addition, the Omnia II has TV output capabilities. Storage shouldn’t be a problem as the Omnia II has 8GB of internal user memory and a microSD expansion slot that can hold up to 16GB of memory.
Even in darker conditions, the Omnia camera took decent photos.
The Omnia II’s image quality was decent. Even in darker conditions, the Omnia II camera was able to take fairly crisp photos with good color. However, even with the antishock feature enabled, we did have some minor blurry problems. The recorded video was impressive with very little graininess.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1 900 MHz; EV-DO Rev. A) Samsung Omnia II in New York using Verizon service and the call quality was good. The sound was loud and mostly clear at our end, but sometimes the voices might sound a little embarrassed, forcing us to ask our subscribers to repeat. However, we were able to make numerous calls without much hassle and did not experience any missed calls during our test period. Meanwhile, friends were startled by the clarity of the call, and only one caller recalled a slight echo on their side.
The speaker quality was also decent with plenty of volume and minimal background noise and distortion. We had no problems pairing the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveler Bluetooth headset or the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active headset. Our only complaint is during our call, we accidentally hit the main menu page, and every time our cheek would click into the display, we would feel a quick screen response. According to Samsung, the smartphone has a proximity sensor that automatically blocks the display during calls, so we work with the company to determine what happened in our situation.
The Omnia II runs on an 800GHz Samsung S3C6410 processor, and overall the smartphone was responsive. The accelerometer quickly changed the screen’s orientation, and for the most part, applications were quickly started, although it took a few seconds to load and shut down applications that consumed more processors. We didn’t have any major issues, such as system crashes, during our testing period.
Using the Opera browser, surfing the web on the Omnia II was painless. Using the 3G Verizon network, the full CNET site booted in an impressive 30 seconds, and the CNN and ESPN mobile sites appeared in 12 seconds and 7 seconds respectively. In the meantime, downloading a song on the V Cast Music network took 1.79 MB. We listened to a variety of music on our smartphone, from hip-hop to classical, and enjoyed the audio through our Bose On-Ear headphones every time. We also appreciate that you can choose different DNSe settings to suit the genre of music (such as rock, jazz, concert hall, etc.).
We downloaded the DivX movie trailer and uploaded it to Omnia II using ActiveSync. We were blown away by the clarity of the image and smooth playback. YouTube runs on the Opera mobile browser and plays on the streaming player. Connection times varied, as did video quality, and there were several times when videos had to be restored.
Unfortunately, we have not been able to test all the navigation capabilities of the Omnia II here in New York, more precisely as it is done as a car navigator. However, the smartphone was able to find our location on the map in less than a minute and was able to provide us with the exact pedestrian path from the Upper West Side to the Middetown CNET offices.
The Samsung Omnia II is equipped with a 1500mAh lithium battery with a rated talk time of 10 hours and up to 17.9 days of standby time. In our battery discharge tests, the smartphone provided 6 hours of continuous talk time per charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the Omnia II has a digital specific absorption coefficient of 1.06 watts per kilogram and has an M3 hearing aid compatibility rating.