Windows Phone 7 (WP7) launched in Australia around November 2010 with an initial handful of devices with similar under-the-hood specifications from manufacturers HTC, Samsung and LG. Early in 2011 an additional device or 2 was added to the available range of handsets here, completing what was know as the launch or Generation 1 (Gen1) device set. In Q4 2011, the second generation of Windows Phone devices were launched in the US, Europe and some Asian markets. Last week, WPDownUnder was contacted by Telstra, and kindly given the opportunity to exclusively preview the first “Gen2” device to finally make it to our shores, the Samsung Omnia W. Quite simply, the more I have used it, the more I have come to think it is a genuine WP7 Pocket-Rocket!
The handset launches later today on Telstra – and you can buy it online here (LINK). Plan details and pricing are at the end of our review. The Omnia W (known in the US as the Focus Flash – with just 4G/Network bands being the main difference) is a mid-range Gen2 Windows Phone with some genuine and welcome improvements over the initial launch devices from 2010/11. If you have seen or own this handset, we would love you to share your own experiences below in the comments field.
SAMSUNG PROMO VIDEO:
- Processor: 1.4GHz Qualcomm MSM8255 (std.)
- Memory: 512Mb Ram (typical)
- Storage: 8Gb (lower end for Gen2)
- Display: Super AMOLED
- Screen Size: 3.7” WVGA(800X480)
- Main Camera: Main(Rear) : 5 MP AF
- Front Camera: Sub (Front) : VGA (1.3MP)
- Battery: Standard, Li-on 1,500 mAh
- Network: Telstra NextG (3G)
One of the real strengths of this phone is it’s compact and efficient design and feel. The Omnia W feels neat and snug. In actual fact, in large hands, it feels incredibly compact – and is lighter than most other WP7 handsets. However this isn’t at the cost of quality, with the handset quite robust and sturdy. In real life comparisons, the Omnia W actually has a slightly larger screen size than the iPhone 4s – with the two devices quite similar overall in weight and dimensions. So it is no slouch. The below picture illustrates this nicely – and also offers a great comparison to other WP7 handsets (courtesy of www.phone-size.com).
Interestingly, the home button is a good old fashioned traditional (mechanical) but subtle button – with the capacitive back and search buttons either side. I grew accustomed to this very quickly in my testing and found my thumb less prone to slide across to the buttons either side as sometimes happens with my Focus.
The Volume slider is on the left of the device, headphone socket on top, power and dedicated camera button on the right and mini-usb jack on the bottom of the handset. The rear-plate is plastic, and it appears to otherwise be made out of light-weight materials. The front-facing camera is located in the top right-hand corner, whilst the rear camera is centred near the top of the reverse side with an adjacent LED flash.
Dimensions are: 115.97 x 58.8 x 10.9mm, Weight is 115.3g
Here’s some comparison shots (side x side) with a Samsung Focus (with Gelaskin adhesives if you are wondering!):
The Screen is a 3.7” SAMOLED display. Slightly smaller than than the 4” on the Samsung Focus pictured above that WPDownUnder uses as our regular handset, it is however absolutely gorgeous. A fan of the best-in-breed black reproduction and the colour vibrancy of SAMOLED (which some like to criticise), viewing angles and outside performance are simply better on these screens in contrast to LCD. The LCD vs. SAMOLED is a little like the European or Japanese old tubed TV argument (more natural, muted colour reproduction in Europe vs. jump out at you bright and happy Japanese colour). I will let you decide which you prefer. Despite what some sites might state, the glass is not Gorilla Glass (reserved for premium Samsung Devices).
The call quality on the Samsung Omnia W in WPDownUnder’s testing was excellent. Over Telstra’s 3G network, I experienced no drop-outs in the week or so of testing from our office. Outer-Melbourne suburbian antenna performance was fine, and I would actually rate the overall experience (reception+calls) as slightly better than the Focus.
Windows Phone’s overall User-Experience has always been one of it’s core strengths. The fluid and responsive OS seemingly getting faster after multiple OS updates on Gen1 handsets absolutely sings on the new hardware specs for Gen2 as evidenced with the Omnia W. The interaction; swipes and transitions of metro text and graphics is absolutely lag-free and even more of a joy to use with this device. WPDownUnder did a side x side load of XBOX Live title; Hydro Thunder Go as a quick demo (sorry – no video). Load times were just under a second faster with the Omnia W than the focus, and the game appeared to run a little more smoothly.
Probably the weakest element of the handset is it’s storage. WP7 as mandated by Microsoft does not allow for storage expansion (the Focus was a Samsung exception). The Omnia W comes with only 8GB of on-board storage. The total reported storage was 6.67GB – with available storage of ~6.2GB. Consequently, don’t think you can move a significant portion of your media library over to this device. It’s fine if you make use of the Microsoft Ecosystem (LiveDrive for online storage, Zune Pass for Music Subscription etc.) If not, then this will be a limit – with many other offerings now standard at 16GB (or with 32GB options/expansion on competing platforms).
Ring volume is good – and speaker volume for media playback is also fine (for a phone speaker). Audio quality through an old pair of ZuneHD headphones was on a par with other smartphones sampled. Personally, no WP7 sampled to date sounds as good as our ZuneHD PMP. Battery life was excellent, with up to 180m talk time reported (250 hrs. standby) – and easily outperformed WPDownUnder’s ageing Focus (age of batteries being a contributing factor).
The Camera, whilst only 5MP, clearly is at least the equal of the Gen1 handsets seen to date. The MP count and size may be trumped by other Gen2 devices, but as a point and shoot for capturing the moment for social media uses – you won’t go wrong with the quality of the shots. Here are some Videos (720p) and Photo’s taken from the Omnia W, side by side with shots from an LG Optimus 7 E900.There are also some additional Omnia W test shots for you to check out and comment on.
(Omnia W on left, E900 on right – click for larger versions).
Omnia W Test Video 1
LG E900 comparison Video 1
Omnia W Test Video 2
LG E900 comparison Video 2
Other Test Photos (click for larger version).
GENERATION 2 FEATURES:
The Samsung Omnia W is fully Video Call capable, based on the front-facing camera. Whilst WPDownUnder remains dubious about the real usefulness of this feature, it ticks the box – and that was something Gen1 Windows Phones could not do. There is Samsung App for Video calling (untested) and Tango. WPDownUnder was able to get 2 Tango calls going. The first was interstate, to a handset with Tango (but no FFC installed) – so video was 1 way. This worked OK, but highlighted the need for a fast/stable data connection to avoid dropouts.
The second was to an iPhone (Melbourne suburb to suburb).This call over a stable and Wi-Fi data connection with no other major network usage worked very well in actual fact. Video was mostly stable, audio was clear – and it was considered to be on a par with Skype on iPhone. Functional = Yes. Capable = Yes. Useful…I guess in some situations = Yes. However the overall intrusiveness of having a 1.3Mb “webcam” in your face is something I think most people will never use.
One of the disappointing feature missing from most Gen1 devices (LG excepted) was DNLA compatibility. Thankfully, the Omnia W comes with allShare fully installed. This feature allows your phone to access compliant shared home media content (NAS drives, PC’s etc.) – or use media on the phone, and send it to playback on approved devices – such as TV’s. Media Players and so on.
Accessing media files of WPDownUnder’s NAS box – and then playing them back on a Samsung Plasma TV with DNLA was a cinch. One of the most effective day to day uses of this feature is the ability to do away with handing your phone over to someone to look at a family snapshot/video on a 3.7” phone screen. If you have a compliant monitor or TV close by, just send it from your handset and review the great moment you captured in all it’s detail.
Other Samsung Apps are bundled with the Omnia W – including (but not limited to – check the Samsung Zone in the WP7 Marketplace) Photo Studio, RSS Reader, Mini-Diary, Fun Shot (add effects to photos) etc. There is also the Telstra App, TelstraOne (pictured), Foxtel Guide (broken since Mango – won’t display single channel program guide views) and the Navigator App – all standard across any WP7 handset offered by Telstra.
Tethering – or Internet Sharing finally comes standard with this device. Whilst the original Gen1 Omnia 7 eventually received a firmware update (selected carriers only), the more senior Samsung Focus has never seen this. Local experience has even shown that importing Gen2 devices from the US (e.g. the Samsung Focus S) has not guaranteed this feature is enabled out of the box. This has left many looking at hacks/edits to handsets (always risky) to try and enable this feature on older devices.
WPDownUnder had no problems Tethering his 3G Telstra account, over the Omnia W to an Acer Iconia W501 Tablet running Windows 8 Dev. Build. Internet performance over the share was excellent, with web browsing fast and stable. The short video below demonstrates a YouTube video linked from WPDownUnder running smoothly over 3G. It’s great that we have this feature available now on a handset out-of-the-box for Windows Phone here in Australia. This also makes for a powerful corporate outcome, where many companies want to have Sales and Marketing staff using a shared connection for their iPads etc. and avoid the need for separate mobile broadband plans.
YouTube Video: Tethering with Video running off web over shared 3G connection.
What’s also interesting, are the extra settings that come with Samsung devices/Mango/Gen2 in the Omnia W (some crossover into other Samsung handsets). These include:
- “Extra Settings” (Auto Display adjustment and key vibration)
- High Fidelity Position (additional GPS/Location services to deliver more accurate results)
- Call Blocking (Haven’t seen this capability before in the Samsung Focus here)
- Advanced Text Messages (Emergency/Disaster SMS on/off & unicode substitution)
- SIM Applications (Apps built into/stored on the Sim available to the OS e.g. PocketNews).
Final Thoughts & Pricing/Availability:
So what’s the wash-up? The more I used this handset over my week of testing, the more I came to like it! From initially feeling too small and light in my hands - by the time of writing this review the Omnia W actually managed to make my Focus feel a little “akward” in the hand! Whilst sitting firmly in the mid-range of feature sets (screen size, storage, premium design elements, LTE etc.) – this handset excels at nearly every task thrown at it.
Windows Phone “Mango” absolutely shines on the device – and I see this handset having no issues in “smoking” any other modern smartphone for both task activities (messaging/social media etc.) and speed and responsiveness of the OS. Storage aside, there is not really any other significant weak spot in this device. Make sure you get into a Telstra store and have a feel of the unit, demo it – as it is surprisingly good device, and more than a competent replacement for the HTC Mozart in the Telstra line-up.
It’s a welcome first Gen2 device launch for Australia – and hopefully the start of more good WP7 news to come. Also – WPDownUnder has a winner. Telstra (belatedly) has stopped our 2012 count-up clock to the first Gen2 device launch in Australia. Better late than never! 3 weeks, 2 days and 9 hours in – with only 3% of site readers correctly picking January as the month we would see the furst device launch!
The Samsung Omnia W is available now online exclusively from Telstra. It is on the $59 Freedom® Connect Plan for $0 upfront (after using an included MRO bonus) with a minimum cost of $1416 over 24 months. This puts it on a par with the Nokia N9, Samsung Galaxy SII, HTC Sensation to name some….and less than the iPhone 4s. Outright, the handset will cost $528. By comparison, Vodafone NZ’s price for their market is ~$AU620. UK sellers will deliver to AUS for ~$AU400+ and Mobicity here are offering the Focus Flash (US equiv./no current 4G support here) for $519 with no price yet marked for an Samsung Omnia W. Quite a competitive launch outright price from Telstra!
This affordable Pocket Rocket WP7 handset is definately worth a look!
WPDownUnder was kindly provided a review unit by Telstra – and is grateful to the Social Media Team there, most especially their Community Manager Dan (you ‘da man!). With today’s launch, WPDownUnder can now share this review with readers, and discuss any questions you might have.
The OS version and details of the OS ROM reviewed are pictured to the right.
Official Samsung US Omnia W Specs/Product Press Page: LINK.