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As we pointed out in our review of the LG Optimus 7, Microsoft has stipulated that phone manufacturers creating devices based on its software cannot change the interface of Windows Phone 7, and there are pretty tight controls on hardware designs as well. As a result, the vast majority of Windows Phone 7 handsets are very similar. However, with its vibrant AMOLED screen, in particular, the Samsung Omnia 7 does enough to stand out from the crowd.
The Samsung Omnia 7 is a fairly elegant device thanks to a mostly clean front design and appealing taupe-coloured aluminium back. However, its squared corners, physical central button on the front, and slightly cluttered back means it isn't quite as sleek as the likes of the HTC HD7. Moreover, those pointy corners make it less comfortable to hold than some of the competition, and that aluminium back is incredibly slippery.
At least you won’t be worrying about your pocket lining carrying this phone around as at 138g, while not exactly featherweight, it’s none too hefty. With dimensions of 122.4 x 64.2 x 11 mm, it’s likewise large but not too large.
The metal battery cover unclips with a satisfying assuredness to reveal the SIM slot and 1500mAh battery. There is no microSD card, though. While Windows Phone 7 doesn't support hot swapping microSD cards – for easy file transfers – you can still add permanent extra storage (you just need to completely reset the phone and loose all your data) meaning you can potentially add up to 32GB of extra storage. This phone is available with 8GB or 16GB of onboard storage, which, if you're at all into your music and see yourself recording some HD video with the camera, we suggest you choose the latter of.
While the central Windows/Start button on the front of the phone may disrupt the sleek lines of the rest of the front (and be a blatant copy of the iPhone), it does have a practical purpose. For some reason, many handset/software designers seem to think people always use two hands to operate their phones so put the screen lock/power buttons out the way on the top edge or the side. If you're holding a phone one-handed, however, this isn't at all convenient. The physical Windows button solves this by allowing you to activate the screen while holding the phone in a comfortable position at the bottom with one hand.
The touch sensitive Back and Search buttons are responsive, and we actually found the combination of touch and physical buttons worked quite well (even given our general thoughts that both Back and Search shouldn’t require dedicated buttons with a well designed operating system).
The main power button is on the right-hand side, along with the immensely useful shutter button for the camera. However, there's a bit of a problem: the power button is very pronounced so is easy to press inadvertently. This isn't a problem on most phones as you generally have a confirmation screen to ask if you actually want to turn it off. However Windows Phone 7 doesn't ask permission before powering down so it's relatively easy to accidently turn off the Samsung Omnia 7 when in your pocket or a bag, even when the screen is locked.