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Gadget watch: Samsung Omnia 7 review

Last updated on: January 18, 2011 12:59 IST

Gadget watch: Samsung Omnia 7 review

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Get Ahead reader John Paul reviews Samsung Omnia 7 that runs on Windows Phone 7. He lists 7 things he likes and doesn't like in the phone in response to our reader invite (below).

John's a software architect at Plackal Technologies. He is passionate about technologies that make people's lives smarter and easier. Read more of John's articles at www.johnpaul.in.

Of the 10 devices launched running Windows Phone 7, I picked the one that appealed the most to me, the Samsung Omnia 7.

A review of my experience with the phone follows. The device I am reviewing is an unlocked, contract free device. In this review, while referring to the hardware by Samsung, I have used the term 'Omnia 7' and while referring to the software by Microsoft, I have used 'WP7' (Windows Phone 7).

Thumbs up

1) Live Tiles

The concept of 'Live Tiles' or 'Hubs' on WP7, is a fresh take on usability. While it is not as versatile as live widgets, it does get the job done in a very simple and elegant way.

2) The virtual keypad

The virtual keypad on WP7 is as good as the best out there -- the iPhone's! The brilliance of the keypad is in that it does not require you to switch predictive text on and off. You just type away and click on the suggestions if required.

Inclusion of Swype or something similar would have made it more than perfect!

3) Zune

Music on WP7 through the Zune music player and subscription service is brilliant. I miss an equaliser to customise the sound output to my taste.

4) Xbox

Xbox fans will love WP7. Your Avatar and achievements from Xbox live will sync with your WP7 device. Both Xbox and Zune on WP7 feel like they are an extension of the overall experience.

Check out: The all new Gadgets and Gaming page

Reader invite

Are you a gadget/gaming wizard/afficianado? Would you like to write on gadgets, gaming, the Internet, software technologies, OSs and the works for us? Send us a sample of your writing to gadgetsandgaming@rediffmail.com with the subject as 'I'm a tech wizard/afficianado' and we will get in touch with you.


Image: Samsung Omnia 7
Photographs: Samsung.com
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5) The screen

The Super AMOLED screen on the Omnia 7, as on the Wave and Galaxy S by Samsung, is almost flawless. The only aspect that stops the screen from getting a perfect 10 is the artificial colour reproduction.

6) Facebook

I love the way Facebook has been fused with WP7. Though Android and Bada (Samsung's proprietary OS) does this already, the execution on WP7 is a lot slicker. If you have linked your Facebook account to your WP7 device, every time you look up a contact, their Facebook pictures and updates are very neatly laid out.

7) Calendar

The calendar, combined with 'Live Tiles', is a neat little organiser. For all my dependence on smartphones, I still rely on my spiral notebook when it comes to getting things done. An easy to use calendar plus 'One Note' in the WP7 Office hub is nearly as versatile as my notebook.

Thumbs down

1) Usability

WP7's UI looks beautiful. The catch is, it comes at the cost of usability. It may not matter if a WP7 is your first smartphone. If you are a seasoned smartphone user, the increase in number of clicks to get things done is quite obvious. Enabling/disabling Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS take upwards of 7 user actions.

Initial setup though is much faster than competing platforms.

Check out: The all new Gadgets and Gaming page

Reader invite

Are you a gadget/gaming wizard/afficianado? Would you like to write on gadgets, gaming, the Internet, software technologies, OSs and the works for us? Send us a sample of your writing to gadgetsandgaming@rediffmail.com with the subject as 'I'm a tech wizard/afficianado' and we will get in touch with you.



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2) GPS

Maps that need to be loaded on the fly renders the GPS useless when there is no coverage. That apart, Bing maps is poor on readability and usability. The map does not use the compass to align with the direction of movement and this makes it unintuitive. The phone screen locks often during navigation. Apart from the frustration, this can be a dangerous distraction for drivers.

3) Oversimplification

Microsoft wanted to make WP7 simple and easy to understand for the masses. They pushed things a little too far that it leaves users of WP7 crippled. For example, there is just no way to set an MMS profile on an unlocked, SIM-free handset.

4) 'Back' and 'Search' button

The spin from Redmond on the hardware 'Back' button is that it takes you to an app in its previous state. The concept is flawed and confusing even to a power user like me.

It is quite obvious that Microsoft thought that this is good enough a behaviour until multi-tasking is ready. While the 'Back' button is useful at times, it has different behaviors in different contexts and makes for a poor experience.

To make matters worse, these buttons on the Omnia 7 are touch-sensitive and it is easy to make accidental button presses. The hardware 'Search' button, by default, uses Bing and cannot be customised. I don't use Bing and that is one precious button on the phone rendered useless.

5) Only for supported geographies

To get started with a WP7 device, you need a Windows Live ID. If your Live ID was created in a geography not yet supported by Microsoft, it will not work with the Zune PC client. WP7 is not compelling enough to discard your existing Live ID and create a new one!

Check out: The all new Gadgets and Gaming page

Reader invite

Are you a gadget/gaming wizard/afficianado? Would you like to write on gadgets, gaming, the Internet, software technologies, OSs and the works for us? Send us a sample of your writing to gadgetsandgaming@rediffmail.com with the subject as 'I'm a tech wizard/afficianado' and we will get in touch with you.



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6) Office

If viewing Microsoft Office docs is what you need, WP7 is good enough. If you had hopes of creating full-blown Word, Excel and Power Point docs on the move, apps on Android and iOS does a better job than the Office hub on WP7!

7) Long list of missing features

No multitasking. No tethering. No copy paste. No Bluetooth file transfer. No expandable memory slot. No universal search. No Flash support. No VOIP. If you are a power user looking for power features, WP7 is not ready for you yet.

The unmentionables

Nothing controversial, here. Just a header to group together the 'average' performers. The camera, e-mail client, picture viewer, application store, browser and battery life scored a 'achieves expectation' and hence does not warrant a special mention in this review.

Check out: The all new Gadgets and Gaming page

Reader invite

Are you a gadget/gaming wizard/afficianado? Would you like to write on gadgets, gaming, the Internet, software technologies, OSs and the works for us? Send us a sample of your writing to gadgetsandgaming@rediffmail.com with the subject as 'I'm a tech wizard/afficianado' and we will get in touch with you.



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Verdict

Hardware on the Omnia 7 is brilliant, except for the touch sensitive 'Back' and 'Search' buttons, which are prone to accidental triggers. The software, running Windows Phone 7 has a long way to go.

To Microsoft's credit, whatever is available on WP7 at version 1, works very well. It is the omissions that are glaring.

It really does not matter to me whether a device is version 1 or version 10. At US$ 630 or Rs 29,000 contract free, I don't find the Omnia 7, running the current version of WP7, value for money. Hopefully, the rumoured update in January will iron a few things out.

My rating: 6/10

Check out: The all new Gadgets and Gaming page

Reader invite

Are you a gadget/gaming wizard/afficianado? Would you like to write on gadgets, gaming, the Internet, software technologies, OSs and the works for us? Send us a sample of your writing to gadgetsandgaming@rediffmail.com with the subject as 'I'm a tech wizard/afficianado' and we will get in touch with you.



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