Hardware

Review: Samsung Omnia II

If you tried the original Samsung Omnia and were disappointed, you might be tempted to pass on the Omnia II, but Deb Shinder says that could be a big mistake.

If you tried the original Samsung Omnia and were disappointed, you might be tempted to pass on the Omnia II, but that could be a big mistake. Samsung's latest iteration of the Omnia, the SCH-i920, which runs on the Verizon Wireless network, is a big improvement -- so much so that it just might be an iPhone killer.

Specifications

  • Manufacturer: Samsung
  • Product: Omnia II (SCH-i920)
  • Cost: $199.99 USD with a two-year contract, minus a $100 discount when purchased online for a total of $99.99 USD
  • Processor: 800 MHz
  • Memory: 512 MB Flash/208 MB ROM + 8 GB internal storage
  • Display: 3.7 inch AMOLED 800x400 touchscreen
  • Weight: 5.08 oz. with standard battery
  • Battery: 1500 mAh; 360 minutes usage; 375 hours standby
  • Provider: Verizon Wireless
  • 3G: CDMA EVDO Rev A
  • Wireless: Wi-fi 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth
  • Expansion: microSD, micro USB, 3.5mm earphone jack
  • Camera: 5 MP camera/camcorder with dual flash
  • OS: Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional
  • Interface: Samsung TouchWiz
  • GPS: Assisted and standalone
  • TechRepublic photo gallery of the Omnia II

Who is the target market?

Business users who prefer a touchscreen and need the full functionality and compatibility of Windows Mobile to view and create Office documents, access Exchange email and view, create and extract .zip files will find that the Omnia II gives you all that and much more. Then when the work day is over, the Omnia II turns into a personal multimedia machine. You can store thousands of songs or hundreds of videos on an optional 16 GB microSD card and view your pictures and movies on the large, exceptionally bright AMOLED screen. Downloadable widgets let you customize your three home screens, and you can get Windows Mobile applications from many sources. Best of all, the phone itself isn't just an afterthought; voice quality is excellent.

What problem does it solve?

Many cell phone users like the touchscreen interface and features of the iPhone, but prefer the stability and coverage of Verizon's network. They may also want features the iPhone doesn't offer, such as multitasking capability, a user removable battery, and the ability to expand the amount of storage space by adding a microSD card. Business users need to be able to create and edit Word documents and Excel files on their phones, and leisure time users want a high-resolution camera and camcorder that has a flash so they can take photos in low light. The Omnia II provides all of these advantages over the iPhone, at a comparable price.

Omission of a physical keyboard keeps phones light and thin, but a major problem with touchscreen-only keyboards is the difficulty of composing a long email message or other document on a virtual keyboard. The Omnia II's most revolutionary feature is the Swype text entry technology, which allows you to enter text at a rate of 50 wpm or more.

Mobile device security is a big issue when phones are used to access and/or store business information, and Windows Mobile 6.5 supports security features such as Active Directory Group Policy integration for security policies, PIN lock, remote wipe, and on-device encryption, as well as encryption of files written to the SD card and the IPSec mobile VPN.

Features

Some of the Omnia II's standout features include:

  • Swype technology for entering text quickly and accurately without lifting your finger from the keyboard.
  • Easy synchronization with Windows PCs via ActiveSync/Windows Mobile Device Center.
  • Highly customizable home screens with notification of calendar information/events, email and messages, and logged calls.
  • Multitasking for running multiple programs at the same time, and the ability to set the X button on programs to close the program instead of just minimizing it.
  • TouchWiz interface, which replaces the standard Windows Mobile interface with a more touch-friendly overlay that works better with "fat fingers."
  • Built-in stylus, which I've never needed for anything except pushing the recessed Reset button, but it's nice to have it available.
  • Voice dialing and voice command for controlling your phone and applications in a hands-free situation, which works very well (in contrast to that feature on the original Omnia, which had problems recognizing words I spoke with my Texas accent).
  • Basic built-in tools such as alarm clock and world clock, personal organizer with calendar and scheduler, calculator, memo pad, unit converter, voice recorder, and much more.
  • Multimedia applications such as FM radio, Windows Media Player, Samsung media player, Podcast, video editor, streaming player, DivX video player for viewing movies, and more.
  • Social networking tools such as Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Friendster, Photobucket, YouTube, Windows Live, and Windows Messenger.
  • Verizon services such as Visual Voice Mail, Mobile IM, V CAST music and videos, and VZ Navigator voice-assisted turn-by-turn GPS.
  • Opera Mobile as the default browser, or you can choose the new, more user-friendly version of Mobile Internet Explorer for the Web browsing experience that suits you best.

What's wrong?

No product is perfect. Here are a few things that I think could be improved on the Omnia II:

  • Slow boot-up: Although I've only had to reboot the phone twice in three months of using it, the startup time is slower than I'd like. The process can take over a minute.
  • Awkward design of SD card slot and Reset button: You have to pop the back cover off the phone to remove or insert a microSD card or to do a soft reset with the Reset button. While this may be a feature to prevent popping out a card accidentally and losing it, there is little chance that you would accidentally activate the recessed Reset button.
  • The GPS has trouble finding a satellite indoors with programs such as Google Maps. It doesn't include a free built-in voice-assisted turn-by-turn GPS application like the Droid; you have to pay $9.95/month for VZ Navigate.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

The iPhone started a boom in touchscreen phones, and now there are dozens to choose from, but few have all the features that you get with the Omnia II. When you're depending on your phone to get complete mission-critical work, you can't risk not being able to connect at a crucial moment, and a big advantage of the Omnia II is that it uses Verizon's rock solid reliable network. Unlike the iPhone, the Omnia II is a serious business tool, but you don't have to sacrifice fun. The Omnia II gives you the best of both worlds, and Windows Mobile 6.5 provides important security features that are essential for phones that connect to the corporate network.

User rating

If you have used the Omnia II, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think.

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About

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...

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