Surprisingly for a Windows Mobile device, the Omnia also boasts iPhone-like speed and responsiveness and it’s a darned site nippier than the HTC Touch Diamond – even with the Diamond’s latest firmware applied. Applications launch speedily, browsing the web on the phone’s superb Opera Mobile 9.5 web browser is zippy and the accelerometer, which rotates the orientation of the screen from portrait to landscape as you flip the phone around in your hand, works just as you would expect it to, complete with fancy animations.
Samsung’s touch-driven user interface is a valiant effort at dealing with the inadequacies of Windows Mobile’s UI, too. Interestingly, Samsung provides no stylus stowage on the Omnia – the stylus attaches to the phone’s lanyard loop instead. This wouldn’t be an issue, of course, but unfortunately the one key area where the Omnia can’t compete is with the iPhone’s beautifully elegant operating system.
It starts well. When you first fire the phone up you’re confronted with a blank screen and a scrolling toolbar arranged down the left hand side. This contains a number of attractive, graphical widgets that you can drag into to the blank space to display stuff like recent emails, the time, currently playing music tracks, phone profile, calendar, analogue and digital clocks and so on.
These don’t just display information, though, they provide basic controls too, so not only can you see who your most recent email is from, you can also click it to read it in full, or scroll back to see who the previous mail was from. Music tracks can be paused and skipped and favourite contacts can be added or removed as well.
It’s an interesting approach and allows you to completely customise the front end of the phone. It’s easy to get a little over enthusiastic and clutter the screen to such an extent that it becomes unusable, but fortunately stowing away widgets you’re not using is simple – you simply drag them back over to the toolbar.
There’s also a more standard grid-based launcher application, accessed via one of the soft keys at the bottom of the screen. From here you can access all the phone’s main applications via finger-friendly touch-screen buttons. Many of Windows Mobile’s most commonly used tools have had a proper touch-screen makeover, too. The alarm clock – a feature I use all of the time – no longer requires prodding with a stylus; the phone book has oversized entries and the music player is much easier to get on with.