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Samsung Omnia Icon review: Samsung Omnia Icon

Its excellent multimedia support, storage and gorgeous display make the Omnia better for people who put pleasure before business.

Joseph Hanlon Special to CNET News
Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies.
Joseph Hanlon
6 min read

Ah, Omnia, how we wanted to love you this time last year. You had everything we could have wanted; fast web browsing, a high-res camera, touchscreen interface, huge storage capacity and excellent media playback options, but when we finally spent time with you we couldn't get passed how slow you ran and the too frequent reminders of how difficult Windows Mobile is to use on a touchscreen. Now you're the Omnia Icon, you've got a new look and the same awesome specs, but are you just going to break our hearts again?


Samsung Omnia Icon

The Good

Nice, familiar design. Excellent multimedia capabilities. Superb, finger-friendly skin of Windows Mobile. All popular connectivity options.

The Bad

On-screen keyboard is a little small. Lag can still be an issue when multitasking.

The Bottom Line

When you weigh up its strengths and weaknesses, the Omnia Icon is better suited to lovers of mobile media than to dedicated business people. It has a capable suite of productivity tools, but people who need excellent messaging will find the on-screen keyboard a tad too small.

*cough* iPhone

Before we go on let's draw attention to the great, big, pink elephant in the room. Yep, the new Omnia Icon looks so much like Apple's iPhone even Steve Jobs would have trouble telling them apart. Though there are a few key physical differences, the most important being the Omnia's fantastic display. This 3.7-inch WVGA screen not only packs more pixels than the Apple, but it also uses the considerably superior AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) display technology, giving the images on screen a boost in colour and contrast over anything available from the competition at this time.

Like the iPhone, the Omnia Icon keeps it simple when it comes to physical design. Around the edge of the enormous display we find calling keys and a "cube" key, which operates as a Windows key replacement, bringing up the main menu from the home screen. Its 5-megapixel camera lens is found on the back of the handset, while a 3.5mm headphone socket and a micro-USB charging socket are found on the top. Everything is exactly where we want it.

Media magnet

Everyone who is reading this review to see how the Omnia fares as a business phone will have to wait a moment; we're starting with the fun stuff. Mainly because the Omnia is just so good as a media player. It's capable of DivX, XviD, MPEG4, H.264, H.263 and WMV, plus a range of audio files including MP3, AAC and DRM-protected WMA files. Not only does it play these files, but it looks fantastic doing it. The AMOLED screen really shines with video playback, and music sounds great.

The real thrill though is media streaming. Samsung includes an application called "Connected Home" which connects the handset to DLNA compatible devices, like a Sony Playstation 3, using your home Wi-Fi network. Once connected, the Omnia Icon can act as either player or streamer; searching your computer or PS3 and playing the media you have stored, or streaming media located on the handset's memory. We tested this service a few times using different networks and each time it performed seamlessly, connecting automatically and streaming video to the TV via the PS3. If you don't own a DLNA capable device the Omnia also has a TV-out option to share your media with your big screen TV.

Like last year's Omnia, the Omnia Icon ships with two variations, an 8GB model and a 16GB model. Those who think they need more memory than this can expand the storage capacity using a microSD memory card (up to 32GB) via a slot under the battery cover.

Its rear-mounted 5-megapixel camera impressed us until we viewed the pictures on our desktop. The camera software is excellent, and the image processing time is almost instantaneous — the shutter fires as soon as you press the camera key. The resulting images were fair but struggled indoors, even with the flash. Outdoor pics looked vibrant and colourful and the autofocus worked a treat. However, for people who use the camera infrequently and most often under natural light, then the Omnia Icon performs well.


After the weekend, the Omnia Icon holds its own as a Windows Mobile business phone too, thanks not only to the suite of apps installed but to its improved user experience. This has to be one of the most complete Windows Mobile interface mods we've seen yet. Every menu, every application, every options pane has been customised by Samsung to look more attractive and much more finger-friendly. By choosing Windows Mobile, Samsung is forced to include a resistive touchscreen, but you wouldn't know from how responsive this screen is.

If you're new to Windows Mobile, there's a few very good reasons to choose this platform. While many competing phones connect to Microsoft Exchange servers for syncing business email, none do it easier than phones running Windows. Using XP, we connected the Omnia Icon to our desktop, opened Active Sync, entered our credentials and had our work emails, contacts and calendar entries synced to the phone in a matter of moments. As well, Windows Mobile handsets have Office Mobile pre-installed, giving you access to Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents with the ability to edit them.

Pacey performance?

As you may have gathered at the beginning of this review, we didn't exactly love last year's Omnia. Sure it looked fantastic on paper, but it was let down by three core measurements; performance, ease of use and battery life. Needless to say, we kept a very close eye on these areas while testing the Omnia Icon.

Across the board this newer model performed better than its predecessor. Battery life was the standout, with the battery lasting nearly two full days between charges, with reasonable use of Wi-Fi web browsing on top of basic calling, messages and push email. Ease of use is also greatly improved, thanks to the complete interface overhaul we mentioned earlier. The email client, address book and web browser are improved with gesture controls, verging on an iPhone-like experience. However, the on-screen keyboard is lacking a little with the keys as they are a touch too small and the predictive text software not being as helpful as we would have liked.

Processing performance is still a bit hit-and-miss, though the overall experience is pretty pleasing. Like all Windows Mobile phones, the Omnia Icon suffers from poorly managed multitasking. After you've opened a few different apps — your contacts, an email and the browser, for example — the performance of the phone takes a noticeable dive, especially in the widget-centric home screens. The problem is that apps don't close when you exit them using the "end call" key, or if you access an app through a different app, like the video player through the media library. We resorted to placing a shortcut to the task manager on the home screen and using the "End All" option every time the phone got sluggish.

One thing that irked us is the poor Wi-Fi management on the Omnia Icon. Setting up a connection for the first time is simple enough, but the software doesn't remember the settings and won't connect immediately when it's in range. Instead, the phone is constantly beeping at you for confirmations, *beep* Do you want to connect to network X?, *beep* You've lost this connection, *beep* Do you want to connect to network Y or Z?. We would prefer the inconspicuous way Wi-Fi is dealt with on Android or Nokia phones.


The Omnia is one of those handsets with too much to talk about in a single review, and almost certainly more toys and tech than any one person will use on a regular basis. Importantly, Samsung has focused on the user experience in this iteration of Omnia, the modifications to Windows Mobile are excellent and our everyday use of the phone was a far more pleasant experience than it was 12 months ago. This said, the Omnia Icon isn't just shadow-boxing against last year's Omnia, it's competing against the Nokia N97, the HTC Touch HD and Hero, the BlackBerry family, and the phone it lends its look from, the iPhone.

Side-by-side with the rest, the Omnia Icon rises above as the most capable media player of the bunch. The combination of outstanding file recognition, large storage capacity and the AMOLED screen is hard to ignore. We don't like the Omnia as much as a messaging device, and people who need a strong emailing smartphone for business purposes would do better looking at a BlackBerry, or a Windows phone with a physical keyboard.