Samsung Omnia 7

The Samsung Omnia 7 forms half of Orange's Windows Phone 7 offering, the other handset being the HTC 7 Mozart, the one with the 8-megapixel camera. In a world where Microsoft has defined the minimum hardware specs, differentiation in the world of Windows Phone 7 comes down to little details. Fortunately the little detail the Samsung Omnia 7 has is a 4-inch AMOLED display.

It isn't the largest display on offer in the Windows Phone 7 portfolio, but all the phones offer the same 800 x 480 pixel resolution. It is the most striking display however, and having been faced with all the release handsets over the last week, we eschewed the vastness of the HTC HD7 for the punch of the Samsung. It offers better colour rendition, whiter whites and blacker black, whilst also staying true when you view from sharper angles.

The screen not only tips its hat to the Galaxy S, Samsung’s 4-inch Android handset, the design does too. Only this time you're not faced with a Palm full of plastic; instead you have a premium metal body that feels great in the hand. From a design point of view, the Omnia 7 towers over its Android brother, even if the internal specs are mostly the same.

This being a Windows Phone, you'll find the stipulated three buttons beneath the glorious screen, offering back, Start and search. This is common to all Windows Phones, as are the dedicated camera button and volume keys. Manufacturers are allowed to place the standby button wherever they like and here you'll find it on the right-hand side, as it is on the Galaxy S, and again the Micro-USB connector is on the top by a sliding cover. In this case the cover is also metal, so you get the sense that it will last the life of the device.

 

The backplate is removable, revealing the battery bay and SIM card slot. With Windows Phone 7 not supporting removable memory there is no expansion slot - you have the 8GB of internal memory and that's your lot. The idea, of course, is not to try and carry around your entire collection of photos, movies and music, but rather get engaged in the cloud-based offering that seems to be pushed here. In particular you'll find a range of ways you can utilise your SkyDrive, which comes as part of your Windows Live account, with Microsoft putting its services front and centre across the device. That's no different to Apple with MobileMe or Android with your Google account and we can live with that.

Microsoft doesn't shut itself off from the outside world though - Facebook integration is one of the headline features of the People Hub and you can plug in your Google details too to pull in your contacts, calendar and emails, along with the expected support for Outlook and Exchange. Out of the box you’ll be up and running in no time at all, your online content syncing to the phone with very little bother.

We've covered the details of the operating system in our Windows Phone 7 review and we're not going to repeat it all here - there are also lots of photos of the OS in that review. If you are interested in the experience of living with the new operating system from Microsoft, then give it a read - we’ve put a link at the bottom of this review so you can head straight to it once you’ve finished here. What we will do is look at those applications you'll find pre-installed on the phone.

This being an Orange handset (in the UK), our review model came with the Orange Wednesdays app, which offers movie trailers and the chance to get your two for one cinema tickets. It is all very slickly designed, matching the style of Windows Phone 7. You also get a Your Orange app, which gives you details about your account amongst other things. iPhone haters will be glad to hear that it knocks the socks off the equivalent app on Apple’s mobile device from a design point of view.

The other Orange offerings are Orange Daily, a news app and Orange Maps Navigation. You are already catered for with mapping in Windows Phone 7, but as Orange Maps is free you can give it a go and see if it offers anything above and beyond what is already included. The app wasn’t available at the time of writing this review, merely being listed as “coming soon”.

Otherwise the phone is mercifully unsullied by Orange, who have a long history of tinkering with devices. A discrete logo on the rear is the only giveaway to your network allegiance; once you get past the orange colour scheme applied to the phone. This is easily changed with a few clicks to get the phone looking the way you want.

With a 4-inch screen the Samsung Omnia 7 is always going to be pretty large, but the dimensions are slim enough to slip into any pocket at 112.4 x 64.2 x 10.99mm, and weighing 138g. Elsewhere the hardware specs match those of the other Windows Phone 7 handsets available at launch: you get a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 8250 chipset, you get the HSDPA connectivity, GPS, Bluetooth 2.1, Wi-Fi b/g/n, and sensors such as the accelerometer and proximity sensor. We found that Bluetooth was unable to connect to our Mac for file transfer.

Part of the Windows Phone 7 media offering is an FM radio, and we found the reception on the Samsung to be good as was the GPS pick-up. The 3.5mm jack on the top will let you connect your headphones (needed for radio reception) to listen to your music on the Zune player built in. Surprisingly, the bundled ear-bud headphones are of respectable quality. We like how media is handled on Windows Phone, with easy access to pause and track skip options from the lock screen, and volume that can be changed at any time using the controls on the side.

Orange has also told us that the Samsung Omnia 7 will be HD Voice enabled. This service promises to improve the call quality that you experience when using the handset on Orange to Orange calls; the best performance offered when calling another HD Voice enabled handset. Obviously, you need to know someone with such a device and presently there are few out there. We’ve used the service and it makes a noticeable difference, so is a nice bonus if you ever get to use it.

Around the back of the Omnia 7 is a 5-megapixel autofocus camera. All the launch devices on Windows Phone 7 feature a 5MP camera, except the HTC 7 Mozart which comes rocking 8 megapixels. On the Omnia it is supported by an LED flash and also offers 720p video capture. Camera software is one area where manufacturers can tweak, and on the Omnia you’ll find a range of settings, including macro focus and image effects - none of which from the selection of mono, negative, sepia, antiques, green or blue really get us excited. Other options include a “wide dynamic range” and “anti-shaking options”. Overall the results are average for a camera phone, and doesn’t really push the envelope in any direction.

Video gets some of the same scene offerings - the negative will give you some interesting results. Talking of negative, video quality isn’t the best despite the 720p resolution. Focusing is fixed in video, so you never really get good results: at the macro distance everything is out of focus, in the distance everything is a little soft - you are left with a band across the middle distance where results are acceptable.

In terms of battery life, we managed to get more than a day from the handset with average use. Like most modern smartphones, if you hit a busy day, make a lot of calls, and spend a long time chewing data, you’ll need to charge it every night. When it does come to making those calls, the hard top edge of the Samsung Omnia 7 does make it a little uncomfortable, but it isn't a significant issue.

Verdict

The Samsung Omnia is a great Windows Phones 7 handset overall. It might not have the best camera options, but the screen is absolutely to die for. AMOLED displays aren’t the most common thing in the world of mobile phones, and we love the vibrancy that it brings to your content and the size to beat most of the other rivals out there.

We found that Windows Phone 7 ran slick and fast on the device, with barely a hiccup as you move around the extra-wide displays. Apps open quickly and we love the simplicity that Windows Phone 7 brings - setting are few, but we didn’t have a problem doing what we wanted. The on-screen keyboard is an excellent size, so we had no problems bashing out Word documents with the keyboard in landscape, to then email to colleagues.

Of course it is early days for Windows Phone 7, and we expect the app space to take off now that the devices have all officially gone to market. Already we’ve had our hands on Twitter, Facebook, Ebay, Seesmic and Foursquare; things that make you feel right at home despite using a new operating system. Office is a real bonus too for workers, and the smart handling of emails and the efficient browser of Windows Phone 7 makes the experience feel very complete. We’re eagerly awaiting YouTube, PDF and instant massaging, but otherwise, we’re really impressed with the Samsung Omnia 7.



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