Samsung Omnia II I8000 Review

User Interface:

Perhaps the biggest selling point of the Samsung Omnia II I8000 is Samsung’s TouchWiz 2.0 UI.  Short of the Start button at the top left, which takes you to a non-standard menu, you’d never know you were using a Windows Mobile phone.  Samsung has outdone HTC by skinning not only the homescreen and Start Menu, but every single menu on the device!  We’re talking large, finger friendly menus here. In fact, everything is so finger friendly that there isn’t even a stylus slot on the Omnia II.

The homescreen has undergone a complete overhaul.  TouchWiz was originally built around this widget-friendly homescreen, and this time around we have three pages that can be customized with widgets.  As we’ve seen in the past the left side of the phone houses a hideable dock, from which widgets can be drug out onto the main screen.  Back with the Memoir we felt this dock was best used as a launcher, and that is still a very good idea, but the widgets work better with the Omnia II due to the multiple pages.  For example, we set the first page up with a clock and calendar, missed events bar and a launcher.  The second was set up with weather, internet search boxes from Google and Yahoo, as well as the Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and MySpace apps.  The final page was a work oriented one, with CNN headlines, stock quotes and a world clock.  Unlike the OmniaPRO, there is no option to switch between Work and Life modes.



What Samsung’s done with the menus is downright wonderful.  Windows Mobile is now a joy to use, with much better organization and implementation.  Let’s begin with the Start Menu.  There are several pages; 4 by default but the user can customize it up to 10.  Icons are large, and at most there are 12 per screen arranged in a 3x4 grid.  Each page is named, and though it is Productivity, Multimedia, Internet and Office by default the user can rename any of them.  The icons can be added, removed and ordered in any manner one chooses.  A simple swipe moves from page to page.  Along the bottom there are four non-changing buttons: Others, Cube (more on that later,) Task Switcher and Edit.  The Task Switcher is a visually overhauled task manager, allowing you to view and end running programs in either a grid or card interface similar to the Xperia X1 and Pre, respectively.



The Settings menu has also been reworked completely.  Categories are arranged in list view with text instead of the traditional icon grid layout.  This makes fingering through them much easier.  Toggling between options is done by touching an onscreen button, a welcome difference from the toggle switches of TouchFLO and Mobile OSX.  It is abundantly clear that Samsung put a lot of time into taking any traces of Windows Mobile out of these new Omnias.

When we said that the Start button was the only thing that gave away this being a Windows Mobile device we told a white lie.  Despite the beefed up processing power the spinning WinMo beach ball still pops up at times and this is most noticeable on the homescreen. Within the menus we rarely saw it, but flicking from homepage to homepage produces a 5-10 second delay while waiting for the widgets to load, which is infuriating.  The widgets are a great idea, and some of them (like AccuWeather and Google) are very helpful, but it’s just not quick enough.  Furthermore, we often found ourselves pressing options two and three times to activate them and not being able to drag widgets around unless they were pressed just right.  This problem was only in the homescreen (here we really missed HTC’s TouchFLO 3D), throughout the rest of the phone it was very responsive and accurate. 

Another small gripe is the lack of gesture use.  While there are some swipes here and there, for the most part you do not see them. Samsung’s done some great work here though, and all-in-all it’s the best overhaul of Windows Mobile on the market.

PIM Functionality:

As with everything else, Samsung has put their touch on the PIM applications.  The calendar is large and finger friendly, with tabs for Month, Week, Day and Agenda views along the top.  Smart Memo is a better version of Notes, where the user can draw notes and insert voice recordings, images or sounds.  The phonebook is easy to navigate, again completely skinned.  The Tasks application is…sadly the same old WinMo Tasks application.  In fact, the standard Contacts, Notes, Calendar, Task Manager and a few others are available as well under that dirty little More option in the Start Menu.  Why anyone would want to use it we don’t know, since the Samsung versions are superior in every way that we could tell.



The dialpad has been slightly reworked, but the functionality remains largely the same.  It will match contacts as you enter in numbers (it matches names at the same time via T9) and along the bottom you have quick access to your phonebook, call history and messaging.  Unfortunately there is no voice dialing out of the box, but software is of course available.

Messaging:

With no physical keyboard there is a premium on an excellent onscreen keyboard, and Samsung has delivered.  The onscreen QWERTY is quick and responsive, and when tapping out a message you can rotate the Samsung Omnia II I8000 and get a larger landscape keyboard.  The haptic feedback again works well here, allowing you to know that you’ve pressed the desired key, and with the XT9 mode enabled the error correction was nearly as flawless as it was unobtrusive.  As always, we would have liked to see an onscreen T9 keypad for easier portrait use, but Samsung only offers the full QWERTY with word prediction.  As well as it worked it’s hard to complain.



All the standards are available, including email, SMS and MMS.  Samsung has again skinned these, but the functionality remains the same.  Windows Mobile is a very robust messaging platform, but it would be great to see popular IM applications integrated into the OS instead of being stand alone apps.

Connectivity:

The Samsung Omnia II I8000 is a quad-band GSM device with 3G on the 900, 1900 and 2100MHz bands, making it a world phone, since it supports both European 3G bands, and AT&T’s 1900MHz one.  It offers 7.2Mbps HSDPA and 5.78Mbps HSUPA, Wi-Fi b/g and GPS.  Bluetooth can be used for short distance data transfer and supports too many profiles to list (see our spec page for full details.)

Rather than use their rather horrible “full HTML” browser found on the Memoir and Instinct, Samsung has wisely chosen to stick with Opera Mobile for all of your web needs.  We’ve of course seen this browser employed on many WinMo devices such as HTC’s Touch phones and Sony’s Xperia X1. The build used here has limited support for Flash (adobe.com worked, espn.com gave us a Flash error,) one of the few drawbacks to the otherwise superior WebKit browsers found on the Pre and iPhone.  Opera Mobile is still a very good browser, and will display webpages just as you’d see them on your desktop.


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