Samsung’s Omnia handset was a pretty popular smartphone when it was originally released, but the march of time is never kind to phones so an update is more than a little overdue. With the Omnia II Samsung is hoping to make up for lost time by kitting the handset out with a faster processor, OLED screen and a host of interesting multimedia features.
As with the original model, Samsung has gone for Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS on this update. Sadly it's not used the brand new Windows Phone 7 Series but does have the latest iteration of the 6 series, which boasts an improved interface that’s been tweaked for touch input. The new Lock screen and Start menus work really well, but there are still too many fiddly option screens for our tastes.
Perhaps mindful of this, Samsung has decided to slap its own Touchwhiz interface over the top. This looks virtually identical to the interface it uses on its non-Windows touchscreen phones. For example, its home screen is split into three sliding panels. On the left hand side of each of these panels there’s a pull-out tab that reveals a number of widgets that can be dragged and dropped anywhere on the home screen panels. You can freely move widgets between different panels to arrange them exactly as you want. Samsung includes quite a lot of widgets by default ranging from one that provides a neat looking mobile news feed from CNN to a handy mini media player. However, some of entries that seem to be widgets, such as the ones for MySpace and YouTube, turn out to be little more than shortcuts to these websites, which is rather disappointing.
One of the phone’s headline features is its Organic LED screen. Thanks to there use of individual LEDs for each pixel and there lack of a light absorbing LCD layer, they boast higher contrast ratios and better viewing angles than traditional displays. The lack of a backlight also means they are potentially much more power efficient. However, this isn’t always the case as often they draw more power than an LCD when displaying lots of white pixels (when you’re viewing a web page for example).
It’s pretty obvious that Samsung has tweaked the backgrounds on the phone to try to avoid this. Whereas most Windows Phones use black text on a white background for displaying menus and settings screens, the Omnia II tends to show these as white text on a dark or black background. It’s not a massive deal, but it is noticeable and looks a little less clean to our eye.
Another issue with OLED screens is that although they look very bright indoors, outdoors their performance isn’t usually as good as LCD. Thankfully the one Samsung has used here doesn’t suffer too badly from this issue. Outdoors back to back with an iPhone 2G , the Omnia II doesn’t look too much darker. And indoors the Omnia’s screen clearly has the advantage as the contrast is excellent and colours are really in your face. The fact that at 3.7in it’s larger than the one on the iPhone and also has a higher resolution of 800 x 480 pixels obviously helps too.