Brief hands-on with Samsung OMNIA

I had an opportunity to test Samsung OMNIA (Samsung SGH-i900) last Thursday at The Peninsula Manila, during its press launch. Here are my impressions.

The Samsung people were careful enough not to position this device as their answer to Apple’s iPhone, but the comparison can’t be helped. In fairness to Samsung, OMNIA has several features that iPhone doesn’t, and that clearly differentiates it from the so-called gold standard.

First, the touchscreen. I fond of touchscreens, and the OMNIA’s touchscreen is good. It doesn’t come with a stylus (the Samsung people said it will come with a stylus, but the phone does not have a slot for one, so that’s doubtful; they did provide stylus during testing), so you have to use your fingers. The TouchWiz user interface is a Samsung custom UI for Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional. The icons are large enough so that you can easily point to the right icon. What I like about the custom UI is that Opera Mobile is available as an alternative to IE Mobile. This is a great addition. More on this later. Of course, you can revert to the traditional WinMO UI.

Haptic feedback is available, but I had it turned off, as I find it annoying. Basically, the phone vibrates every time you press an icon. It is not a useless feature, but as I have said, I am annoyed by haptic feedback, and I felt it is a waste of battery.

There is a mouse pointer that is controlled by an optical touch pad below the screen. It is like having a touchpad on a phone. I find it odd, but it has its uses.

The on-screen keyboard remains a lot to be desired; people with large fingers will have to get used to it. The keys are too narrow for the thumbs. That is why I think the lack of stylus is a drawback.

It has an accelerometer on board, so that when you turn the phone, the UI changes its orientation. The orientation can be sluggish when, for example, Opera Mobile is running and showing Plurk in mobile mode, for example. But that is hardware limitation, which is understandable.

Probably one of the best features of the phone is its camera. It has a 5-megapixel camera, though the flash is just LED. It has camera functions that are not found in other camera-enabled phones. For example, you can take a panoramic shot with the phone, and you can stitch up to 8 images for a panoramic shot IN THE PHONE. There are other helpful features for taking shots, and I think some of them are quite useful.

One problem that I had found with OMNIA is that it runs out of memory that fast. For example, using Task Manager, the apps that were currently running were Main Menu and Task Manager, which consumed less than 1MB of memory combined. But when I tried launching Camera, I got the insufficient memory error message. Good luck running the Camera app while Opera Mobile is loaded.

I have not tested the multimedia capabilities of the phone – these features are not on top of my preferences for a phone, and there were no available video files for viewing.

The phone is nice when held, though it is shiny and fingerprint magnet. It does not feel flimsy, and you will not be embarrassed to be seen using it. Heck, I’d want this as a phone, though the lack of stylus and keypad would make me pause.

Here are the specs of this phone:

Network: HSDPA (7.2Mbps), EDGE/GPRS 850/900/1800/1900 bands
OS: Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional
Display: 3.2″ WQVGA TFT LCD (240×400 pixel resolution)
Camera: 5 Megapixel CMOS with autofocus, image stabilizer, geo-tagging, auto sequence, panorama shot, wide dynamic range (WDR), face detection, smile detection, 14 scene modes
Video: DivX/XviD/H.263/H.264/WMV/MP4 formats; video recording; video editing: trim video, audio dubbing, live dubbing, add subtitle, image capture
Audio: MP3/AAC/AAC+/WMA/OGG/AMR formats, FM radio with RDS, Touch Player, A2DP
Other features: GPS/AGPS,TouchWiz UI, haptic feedback, MS Office Document Viewer, Advanced PIM apps, push email, accelerometer, etiquette pause, TV out, digital frame, optical touch pad, business card recognition
Connectivity: Bluetooth 2.0, USB 2.0, WiFi
Memory: 8GB/16GB flash + external memory slot: up to 16 GB microSDHC

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Brief hands-on with HTC Touch Diamond

Last Thursday, HTC Southeast Asia (HTC SEA) unveiled HTC Touch Diamond to reporters and bloggers at the Renaissance Hotel in Makati. Some pundits dubbed this as HTC’s answer to Apple’s iPhone, and a reporter asked if this is HTC’s iPhone killer. Kevin Hou (pictured, right), Managing Director of HTC SEA answered this question by saying that they are not out to kill anyone or anything. HTC Touch Diamond is being differentiated from the iPhone through its impressive specifications contained within a small phone.

I had an opportunity to touch (bad pun, I know) this phone, and indeed it is small. With dimensions of 102 mm x 51 mm x 11.35 mm (LxWxT) and weight of 110 grams (with battery), it is definitely smaller, thinner, and lighter as compared to Sony Ericsson P1i (my current phone). As I had no camera that day, I wish I could have taken a picture of the two phones side by side. But trust me, it is lightweight, and it is easy to handle (another bad pun).

The back cover has geometric designs on it, shiny, and fingerprint magnet. The front is smooth, shiny, and fingerprint magnet too. The screen is bright in its glorious VGA resolution – an edge against other phones.

This phone incorporates the latest version of HTC’s Touch user interface (UI). Called TouchFLO 3D, I think it is a nice UI to supplement Windows Mobile’s UI. Some people might call the music interface of TouchFLO 3D as CoverFlow ripoff. I haven’t tried CoverFlow though I had seen it, but TouchFLO 3D is a bit different.

Speaking of the UI, it will take getting used to. I have been using touchscreen mobile phones since 2006, and no two touchscreen phones are alike. You will need some time to get used to TouchFLO 3D. It’s intuitiveness is not very apparent at first look, but once you get the hang of it, it works. There’s some lag time at certain places, like viewing a picture full screen. Also, when scrolling on the certain places (like Music or People – the phonebook), the UI seemed to be unresponsive. Maybe that’s just me, or maybe I should have used the stylus. BTW, I like the way the stylus is kept – there’s a magnetic mechanism wherein when you return the stylus, it snaps in.

Quick Specs:

Processor: Qualcomm MSM7201A 528 MHz
Operating System: Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional
Memory: ROM: 256 MB, RAM: 192 MB, Internal storage: 4 GB, no external memory slot
Network: Tri-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE, dual band HSDPA/HSUPA/WCDMA
GPS: Internal GPS antenna
Connectivity: Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR, A2DP, AVRCP; WiFi 802.11 b/g; mini-USB port
Camera: Back: 3.2 megapixel with autofocus; Front: VGA
Battery: rechargeable Lithium-ion or Lithium-ion polymer
Talk time: up to 270 minutes for WCDMA, 330 minutes for GSM
Standby time: up to 396 hours for WCDMA, 285 hours for GSM

For such specifications, this phone is not cheap. The suggested price is Php 41,800. When asked about the price, Hou said they believe there is market for a phone like this. When someone suggested that HTC should use open source, Hou replied that they do have plans for that (HTC Dream, anyone?), but they also believe in the partnerships that they have forged through the years, and he reiterated their belief that Windows Mobile is a good operating system.

I think HTC Touch Diamond is a good phone, but it is not for your grandparents. However, I am a believer in touchscreen/QWERTY keyboard combo, so if I have the money, I’d rather wait for HTC Touch Pro. Or Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1.

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