Samsung Omnia (Verizon Wireless) review: Samsung Omnia (Verizon Wireless)

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Samsung Omnia (Verizon Wireless)

(Part #: SCH-i910) Released: Nov 26, 2008
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Samsung Omnia features a spacious touch screen with customizable Home screen, haptic feedback, and accelerometer. The Windows Mobile smartphone also offers Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, and EV-DO Rev. A support, as well as a 5-megapixel camera and robust multimedia features.

The Bad You're still limited to the preloaded widgets. The onscreen keyboard is a bit cramped, and the Omnia can be sluggish.

The Bottom Line Though slightly more expensive, Verizon customers looking for a touch-screen smartphone will get a better user experience and faster performance from the Samsung Omnia than the RIM BlackBerry Storm.

7.7 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 7.0

Editors' note: Portions of the Design and Features section were taken from our original review of the unlocked Samsung Omnia, since both models share a number of similarities.

Back in late September 2008, we reviewed the unlocked version of the Samsung Omnia and at the time, we didn't know if it would make it to the United States even with all the demand for the touch-screen smartphone. However, it looks as if Verizon Wireless is making some people's holiday wishes come true as the carrier has picked up the Samsung Omnia (SCH-i910) and will start offering it through business sales channels and online on November 26 and in stores on December 8.

Verizon's Omnia offers a lot of the same great features as the unlocked GSM version of the phone, including a large touch screen with Samsung's customizable TouchWiz user interface, a 5-megapixel camera, integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. In addition, it adds support for the carrier's EV-DO Rev. A network, which allows for faster Web browsing and downloads. Like the RIM BlackBerry Storm, the Omnia is not the best smartphone for those who need a messaging-centric device, since the onscreen keyboard is a bit cramped. However, for Verizon Wireless customers looking for a touch-screen smartphone, you'll get a better user experience and faster performance from the Samsung Omnia than the BlackBerry Storm. While slightly pricier at $249.99 (with a two-year contract and after rebates and discounts), the Omnia is worth the extra $50 and is a respectable competitor to the Apple iPhone.

The highlight of the Samsung Omnia is its touch screen and TouchWiz user interface. It's hard to ignore the 3.2-inch TFT screen that dominates the face of the smartphone, and with a 262,000-color output and 240x400-pixel resolution, the display is quite eye-catching. Admittedly, it's not as sharp as some of the other touch-screen devices out there, such as the HTC Touch Diamond or the BlackBerry Storm, but it's still bright and clear for viewing images and text.

The Samsung Omnia is sleeker and faster than the RIM BlackBerry Storm.

For text entry, you have several options, including a full QWERTY keyboard (called Samsung Keyboard), Block Recognizer, Transcriber, and more. The full QWERTY is fairly cramped in portrait mode, so you might want to switch to the keypad or use the included stylus for more accuracy. Even the full QWERTY keyboard in landscape mode isn't the most spacious, but we managed to get by OK. Obviously, it's not going to be the best device for messaging fanatics, but we were still able to compose short e-mails and text messages with fewer errors than the BlackBerry Storm even though the latter had larger buttons. The Omnia does provide haptic feedback, so you'll feel a slight vibration to confirm your action. You can adjust the intensity of the vibration in the Settings menu.

There is a built-in accelerometer so the screen orientation will rotate from portrait to landscape mode when you turn the phone left or right. We like that you get vibrating feedback when you rotate the phone to let you know it's registered the change. It's also one of the most responsive accelerometer-equipped smartphones we've tested. The screen orientation on the Samsung Omnia was always quick to change whenever we flipped the handset, unlike the Storm and the HTC Touch Pro.

What makes the Omnia unique, however, is Samsung's TouchWiz user interface. TouchWiz lets you customize your Home screen with different "widgets." There is a tray located on the left side with various applications, such as the clock, music player, photo gallery, games, and notepad. You can then drag and drop these widgets to the main screen so they're easily accessible to you every time you fire up your phone. Once you've customized the phone to your liking, you can collapse and hide the tray by tapping the arrow button. Beyond the Home screen, there's also the Main Menu page that organizes the major applications in a nice easy-to-use view--very non-Windows Mobile.

One of the complaints we had about the unlocked Omnia is that you were limited to the widgets that were preloaded on the smartphone. The same is true with the Verizon Omnia, but Samsung and Verizon have at least added a couple more shortcuts for your use, most notably an Internet browser widget. In all, you get 16 widgets to choose from, including messages, wireless manager, contacts, calendar, games, and multimedia. Admittedly, the look doesn't offer the cleanest-looking layout, and if you find you're not a fan of TouchWiz interface or if you're a traditionalist, you can switch back to the standard Windows Today screen or choose from other themes in the Settings > Today menu.

Physically, the rest of the Verizon Samsung Omnia doesn't differ much from the unlocked GSM version. For more information on the smartphone's design, please read our full review of the unlocked Samsung Omnia.

Verizon Wireless packages the Samsung Omnia with an AC adapter, a stylus, a USB cable, a 3.5mm/FM radio antenna, a 2.5mm headset adapter, software CDs, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.

The Verizon Samsung Omnia offers many of the same core functions of the unlocked model, though there are some differences and new additions. Starting with the phone features, the CDMA Omnia includes a speakerphone, conference calling, speed dial, voice dialing and commands, and text and multimedia messaging. The smartphone also supports visual voice mail. The address book is limited only by the available memory, and each contact can hold multiple numbers, addresses, birthdays, notes, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can pair an entry with a picture, a group ID, or one of 22 polyphonic ringtones.

Bluetooth 2.0 is onboard for use with mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets as well as hands-free kits, object push for vCard, basic imaging, phonebook access profiles, and dial-up networking. If you want to take advantage of the DUN capabilities and use the Omnia as a wireless modem for your laptop, be aware that you will need to sign up for one of Verizon's BroadbandAccess plans, which start at $15 per month.

The Verizon Samsung Omnia work on the carrier's EV-DO Rev. A network so you should enjoy faster Web browsing, e-mail, and downloads. The Rev. A offers an extra boost over regular EV-DO, bringing download speeds up to the 450Kbps-to-800Kbps range versus 400Kbps-to-700Kbps, while upload speeds will average around 300Kpbs to 400Kpbs (compared with EV-DO's 50Kpbs to 70Kbps). Of course, this is all dependent if you live in a coverage area (you can find a coverage map from Verizon's Web site).

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