MWC 2009: Live Report
Touch screen phones are cool, aren’t they? It seems that Samsung thinks so and all of its five new interesting models are equipped with a touch sensitive display. Yes, all of them, not only the multimedia centric OMNIA HD but also the flagship UltraTOUCH, the music BEAT Edition handsets and even the eco friendly Blue Earth. Sounds interesting, so let’s check them out in details.
Greet the OMNIA HD – the second generation multimedia smartphone beast of Samsung. Its key feature is mentioned in its name – unlike the Touch HD from HTC, the OMNIA HD is really a high-definition phone. It is actually the World’s first that can capture HD video with its 8-megapixel camera but it will also play such files. Supporting DivX, Xvid, MPEG4 with various codecs, you name it, the OMNIA HD should be able to play almost any video clip you throw in it, as long as it is up to 1280x720 pixels in resolution and with 24 frames per second. The display it is equipped with is also rather high-def, with 3.7” diagonal size and 360x640 pixels resolution, resulting in a 16:9 ratio, suitable for movies. It is a capacitive screen but we are not impressed by its sensitivity – let’s hope this will be fixed with the final units. Although it is AMOLED, its image quality isn’t really impressive as well – don’t get us wrong, it looks really nice, but didn’t take our breath out.
Same goes for the 8-megapixel camera. It has the great interface we’ve seen in the previous OMNIA and the Pixon, but its flash is once again an LED, instead of Xenon – we wish it will be better than the previous models when it comes to shooting indoors. What is great about it is the video capturing, taking 1280x720 pixels clips – good enough resolution for previewing them even on a large HD screen. However, once again this is only specifications, so keep in mind that the quality may be not as good as we’d like it to be.
As we’ve mentioned, the OMNIA HD is a Symbian S60 smartphone. This is the same OS that is used in Nokia’s 5800 Xpress Music and N97, but personalized by Samsung in order to be similar to the rest of the manufacturer’s phones. On the homescreen there is the Widgets bar, now updated to feature three pages of widgets – for example you can put the multimedia apps on the first, and the organizers on the second. Swiping a finger from left to right leads you into a screen with shortcuts, for even more options for fast access. Enter in the menu and you’ll see what seems like a typical TouchWiz Samsung phone – the colorful icons of the manufacturer are also found in the OMNIA HD. However, go deeper into the menus (for example in the phonebook) and you’ll meet the Symbian OS. That isn’t as bad as it was with the first OMNIA and the user interface looks complete.
Overall, we are pleased with what we see. The size is rather large, but its either a huge screen or a small phone, not both. We are looking forward to reviewing a final OMNIA HD – it is expected to launch in the end of April or the beginning of May - cross your fingers it will not be delayed.
The front looks really nice with the brushed aluminum pattern and the uniquely shaped back button, and sliding the phone open doesn’t break its image – the red keypad looks fantastic. Unfortunately, the back uses a rather cheap grey plastic that not only looks bad, but feels so as well. This is definitely something Samsung must fix.
The screen of the prototypes at the show are not as responsive as we’d like them to be, but being capacitive, we hope they will be better with commercial units. The 2.8” size is pretty good for such device, and as it is AMOLED it may deliver some amazing image quality.
Running on the latest version of the TouchWiz interface it also packs decent software. It isn’t a smartphone, but is feature rich and easy to use. The widgets are only one page, unlike the OMNIA HD, but there is a widget for downloading additional ones – it gives you shortcuts to the catalog, with option for latest, greatest and search – choose what you like and download it in a few clicks. The music player looks fine but we are not impressed by the camera interface – it reminds us of the F480’s one instead of the better one used in the OMNIA/Pixon.
As a whole, the UltraTOUCH seems like a decent device, but it lacks WOW effect. As always, we’ll give us our final opinion in our future review.
Samsung BEAT DJ
As with the UltraTOUCH, the DJ has a very nice software as a whole. The music player interface has been personalized though, packing some unique features such as “5.1 surround mode” effect (works only with headphones). What is unique about this model is the DJ software – you start a song and then can change it with different samples, slowing, etc. We’ve no idea who will use their phone to produce music, but is a cool feature for wasting time. Packing lots of features, BEATDJ is definitely a music phone to consider.
Samsung BEAT DISC
BEAT DISC is not that good though – it is a lower class phone and doesn’t have a full touch screen, but a “half touch screen” – only the lower part of the display is touch sensitive, used as a navigation area. This means that it will only look cool but wouldn’t really be of help when using the phone. Luckily, unlike the Soul, the rest of the navigation keys are also touch sensitive and one would get used to the phone relatively easy. The prototype unit we tested was not very sensitive though, and we found ourselves using the numeric keypad (yes, this is a slider with one) for jumping in the menu fields instead of using the virtual d-pad.
The DISC doesn’t use the TouchWiz UI but a simple software, found in lower class Samsung phones. Feature wise it is nothing incredible but is the first to bring a new music feature – one that suggests you similar songs. Choose a song in your play list, ask the phone to show you similar and it will connect with an internet server, send a sample of the song, recognize it and return you suggestions. Sounds fun.
Most of the phones at the MWC are not designed for the U.S. carriers, but Samsung America had a nice surprise for us – together with T-Mobile USA they announced that the Samsung Memoir will be available February 25th for $250 after rebates and a contract. We got our hands on the phone to see what T-Mobile customers will get and frankly, we are impressed. Although it is based on the Pixon we reviewed earlier, the Memoir surprised us with its superb built quality – not only its metal sides, but also the plastic and the fake leather feel top notch. The large wide screen looks fine and responds well. The few hardware keys are also very good.
Feature-wise, the Memoir is not a WOW phone compared to the rest of the high-end phones announced at the expo, but it isn’t bad at all. T-Mobile USA will advertise its 8-megapixel camera, which has Xenon flash and lots of features. After a few indoor photos we are not impressed by the flash, but in real life it may perform well – we’ll see once we review it. Focusing and saving speeds are just average – about 2-3 seconds each which is fine for an 8MP photo but is not as impressive as the 1-second saving of the Pixon. Memoir runs the older version of the TouchWiz interface (found in Pixon, Behold) and not the one that comes with the new phones (UltraTOUCH, BEATDJ). Its widgets are not much, but there are a few nice ones. We personally like the camera one, which once chosen opens a list of shortcuts to different imaging features. Other functions are also similar to the Pixon, turning the Memoir into a nice all-in-one device and a powerful weapon for T-Mobile USA. Expect our review soon!
Samsung Blue Earth
Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to touch the prototype of thedevice (maybe because it should be kept clean), but we still managed toexamine it close enough through the glass-case and we dare say that itlooks really cute. The solar panel on the back suits wonderfully to itsoverall appearance and we hope that it would not get too hot whenrecharging. Moreover, in spite of being made of recycled materials, itlooks rather good so using such materials may even become common forother models of the manufacturer (especially if this is cheaper). Theinterface will not be something impressing, but its features (like acounter of saved trees as you are walking) seem fun to us.
We are eager to check out this ecological phone and be useful to nature, as we’re writing our detailed review.
For now, Samsung has announced that it intends to release the i7410 projector phone on the European and Asian markets only.