Samsung's Omnia Doesn't Disappoint

Samsung's Sexy OmniaAs part of a perfect start to my winter holiday, Reiko surprised me with the very cell phone I’ve been looking forward to holding in my hands since paying my bill at a SoftBank store last month: The Samsung Omnia (also known as the SC930). With its sleek lines and nice feature set, this is certain to become one of the best cell phones to own this year and the next.

Before getting too far into my impressions of the 80,000円 device, I should mention some of the nice features that this phone comes with:

  • 3.3" Widescreen VGA LCD

  • 5.15 Megapixel Camera

  • 8 GB storage

  • Digital TV (One Seg)

  • Media Player

  • microSDHC Memory Card

  • Bar (QR) Code Reader

  • Bluetooth

  • IrDA

  • PC Site Browser

  • Global Roaming Service

  • 3G High Speed (download data up to 7.2Mbps)

The list goes on quite a bit further, but it's just as easy to read them on SoftBank's site as it is here.  The only difference, perhaps, will be the amount of Japanese on the screen.

Smooth and Responsive

Unlike the Omnias sold in other parts of the world, the Japanese model does not use Windows Mobile as the base OS.  Instead, we're given a tiny Linux variation that works incredibly well with the TouchWiz interface.  Of all the phone interfaces that I've had the (occasional) pleasure of working with, this one is by far my favourite.  Not only is it quick and responsive, but the phone is also the most intuitive technological device available in Japan.  One might wonder if the Japanese cell phone designers could stand to learn a thing or two from their South Korean neighbours….

All in all, the phone required about 10 minutes of setup and an hour to input all of the data from my old phone.  This could have been done through an automated process at SoftBank, but it was a great opportunity to familiarize myself with the phone and how it works.  One of my biggest problems with my last cell phone was just how unintuitive it was, so the Omnia is a welcome addition to my digital arsenal.

TouchWiz is incredibly easy to work with, and I really like the number of widgets that are available for the little machine.  One that I would be particularly happy to see would let me update Twitter right from the phone.  I’m sure one already exists somewhere and, if not, it wouldn't take too much to make one.  The phone is programmable with Java and some of the newer Flash technologies.  If you haven't had the opportunity to play with TouchWiz, I'd suggest stopping at a cell phone retailer the next time you see one.  It's really smooth and a lot of cell phone companies could learn from Samsung's example.

Yes, I'm talking to you, Sony Ericsson!

It's a Phone, Too!

Despite having a 5.1 MP camera and digital TV tuner embedded, the little computer is also a pretty good phone.  I've had the opportunity to call Reiko a few times and the sound has always been perfect; even in areas of low signal.  Hopefully there will be fewer issues in the future when I'm walking inside a building while talking on the phone … I really hated it when I couldn't even go into a convenience store with my older cell phone because it would lose signal.

One area that I am curious about is how to have a video call.  All of the current phones have a camera both at the front and rear of the phone, and I would enjoy having the opporunity to call my wife with video on those days when we're two prefectures apart because of work.  It might not happen very often, but sometimes a voice just isn't enough.

No GPS or WiFi, but Great Everywhere Else

Two of the features that I wish were crammed into the Japanese Omnia are GPS and WiFi.  GPS is part of the European and North American models, and it seems that WiFi is going to be held until the second or third revision.  While I can't blame Samsung for wanting to keep their phones nice and thin, it would have solved a few of my technical problems in the near future.

All this said, I love the phone.  I'm really happy that Reiko went to pick one up for me early, and it will be a great tool to keep me in touch with the rest of the world.  That said, I need to be careful with the data aspect of the phone as, unlike the last model, it's incredibly data friendly … and data is expensive.

If you live in Japan and are shopping for a new phone, I suggest you take a quick stop by a SoftBank retailer to take a look at this tiny phone.  It might not be an iPhone or even something with a nice HTC logo on it, but it's a solid performer that will not leave you disappointed.

Have you seen this phone?  Do you have something similar or better?  I'd love to hear what you think.