Friday, April 02, 2010

A year with a Samsung Omnia i900

In 2008 I signed up with MTN on their new Anytime Contract which included a Samsung Omnia i900 at R319.00 per month for 24 months.

I have used Nokia cellphones for the past 6 years. 3 of them have been Symbian S60 platform smartphones. Nokia S60 phones have not been good luck for me, all 3 of these phones, have either developed issues that make them unusable or they just failed to switch on one day. All failures outside of warranty, so I could not have them repaired, without handing over more cash. So I dumped them in a cupboard and borrowed a phone to use until I could renew my contract and get a new phone.

I decided to skip Nokia this time around, and went for a Windows Mobile phone. I am not a Microsoft fan, I believe their software is expensive and unstable. But I thought I should try out their Mobile software at least before I make any judgment on that, and see what all the fuss is about.

I looked around at all the phones available. I was restricted by what I could get on a contract for minimal pay in. I looked at the HTC Diamond, but decided on the Samsung Omnia i900 based on some reviews I read and the fact that I liked the look of the phone.

In the box

Besides the normal stuff, phone, charger, USB cable and manual, this box comes with a car holder (stick on window type), a car charger and an additional 8GB memory card, with Garmin software already on it. With this card installed this phone has 16GB of memory in total.

I switch the phone on, it asks for some owner information and it's up and running. Made a few calls and was impressed with the sound quality.

What struck me as strange right up front was the way that the stylus is stored on a string hanging off the side of the phone. People would ask me why I have an eyeliner pencil attached to my phone. I think Samsung were hoping for an iPhone type user experience, and felt storing the stylus in the phone was not necessary. I must say this did bug me. One can obviously detach the stylus and forgo using it, but I found that trying to use the phone with only your finger isn't easy all the time.

Making a call and sending an SMS

Using the touch screen to make a call, is easy, you can call up a contact or dial a number using your finger tip. Sending an SMS is a bit more of a two handed process, there is a big keyboard to click with your finger, but it takes up a lot of the available screen area, the keyboard is easier to use if you flip the screen on it's side, a process that works well with the motion sensor. You can deactivate the sensor if you wish. I found that finding a contact and then sending the SMS is easier than starting a new SMS and clicking on the To field to add a recipient.

Syncing

In typical Microsoft fashion, you can only sync this phone with MS Outlook, which works fine, but this forces you into buying the software which is around R1200 for Outlook or R4500 for the Office Suite. I would have liked to see MS provide the Outlook software in the box.

WiFi

One of the primary requirements for me is WiFi on my cellphone, I use this to access servers in my home wireless network. It was pretty easy to get the phone connected, and I can browse the internet through my broadband connection. One thing that does bug me, is if you set-up the phone to use a 3G data connection, it will reconnect on this if the WiFi connection is lost, great if that's what you want, but a problem in ZA where cellular bandwidth is expensive. This is a "Windows thinking for me" thing that ticks me off. At least have some way to confirm that you want to reconnect. The WiFi hardware is not very good, I have other WiFi devices that connect fine to my network in places where the Omnia will not. You basically need line of site to your access point, and should be within 10 to 15 meters. Also the WiFi does chomp the battery.

GPS

The supplied Garmin software is similar to that used in the Nuvi range of devices and works in exactly the same way, so it's good and works well. But it sucks your battery dry, so if you plan to use this regularly in your car, have a charger with you. If you think you have a GPS in your pocket for use whenever, be sure you have enough power. Another strange thing is how hot the phone gets when using GPS, putting it into your pocket after use is uncomfortable. The down side with having an all in one device is that making a call when using the GPS is a mission. The screen is a little small, some popup alerts cannot be read while driving.

Camera

With a 5MP camera, this phone does take good pics, it has a flash, but daytime pictures are much better quality. One feature that did work well was the panorama function, of stitching several pics together as you move sideways.

Installing Apps

A few people have said to me that the reason I have bad luck with smart phones, is that I mess around with the software. This is probably true to some extent, but isn't that what they were made for? Now I am not a hacker type of user, I don't dig into the core workings of the software. But I do like to load software and try things out, mostly the run of the mill stuff that is freely available. I must say the stuff available out there is a bit disorganized, There is really no one place, like an "app store" that you can go to for everything, and a lot of stuff just didn't work on the Omnia.

General Use

With not much to install, I ended up using the phone to make calls and send SMS's. But you can do that with a much cheaper phone.

I found that using any of the features that require you to slide your finger over the screen, rather difficult. You need to apply the same level of pressure constantly as you sweep your finger.

R.I.P.

Well that lasted only 12 months into the 24 month contract. I started seeing more and more crashes on the phone, I would need to reboot more often. Then one day I stopped getting incoming calls. With the phone on and showing as "working", the person calling said they got a ringing sound on their side, but the soon to be paper weight was completely silent on my side.

That day ended with the phone taking a bit of flight out of my hand and hitting the floor, as it decided to hang AGAIN.

So like oysters, I tried it, and didn't like it. No more Samsung Windows Mobile phones for me, and probably no Windows Mobile, period.
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