The sophisticated Samsung Omnia has just about everything you could want in a smartphone.

But certain omissions, such as a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and a physical qwerty keyboard, keep the Samsung Omnia from being a threat to the Apple iPhone and the T-Mobile G1.

The Samsung Omnia has an elegant look, thanks to its chrome finish and black matte plastic back. The phone's crisp, 3.2in, 640-by-480-pixel-resolution touchscreen occupies most of the space on its 112x56x12.5mm body. (The screen is just 0.3in smaller than the one on the iPhone.)

End and send keys surround a smallish optical mouse at the bottom of the Samsung Omnia. A volume rocker and a dedicated camera button sit on the left spine of the phone; a proprietary headphone and charger jack, and a stylus tether sit on the right.

The Samsung Omnia carries 8GB of internal flash memory and a microSD slot that can accommodate a card with up to 16GB of external memory.

The Samsung Omnia weighs 121g - that's a shade lighter than the iPhone - and it feels comfortable in hand and in pocket. Call quality is consistently good, although we did notice a faint hiss on one call. The vast majority of calls sound loud and clear with very little background noise or distortion.

The Samsung Omnia has a landscape qwerty keyboard and uses T9 predictive text entry. The T9 function often makes the wrong prediction, however, so we took advantage of the key that lets you turn it off. The keys themselves are a bit narrow, and in our tests we frequently hit the wrong ones while typing long messages.

See also:

T-Mobile G1 video

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Samsung Omnia: Another annoyance

Another annoyance is that the Menu key, which launches a menu of messaging options, can be difficult to access because it's located directly below the minuscule space bar. On the plus side, haptic feedback makes the Samsung Omnia's keyboard much more comfortable to type on than many other touchscreen keyboards are. Still, the Samsung Omnia would benefit greatly from having a physical, slideout qwerty keyboard.

Like HTC with its TouchFLO 3D, Samsung has its own proprietary overlay (called TouchWiz) that runs over Windows Mobile 6.1. Though not as visually attractive as TouchFLO 3D, TouchWiz is user-friendly and responsive. The Today screen - the Samsung Omnia's home screen - has a widget bar running along its left side. You can arrange the widgets in any order you choose and drag them into the main screen. Available widgets include a calendar, a phone book, games, and a world clock. We wish that Samsung had included a weather widget, though, as the one offered by HTC is spectacular.

In our hands-on tests, TouchWiz was sluggish in some areas. For example, dragging the widgets back to their bar sometimes took multiple finger swipes. We also noticed a lag when we scrolled through my contacts in the Phonebook app. Similarly, the accelerometer reacted slowly and sometimes got stuck when switching between portrait and landscape modes. Another issue is that not all of Samsung's applications support finger scrolling; for those that don't, you must use the optical mouse, which is small and not always responsive.

Like all Windows Mobile devices, the Samsung Omnia comes preloaded with the mobile version of Microsoft's Office suite. Consequently it was easy to set up email in Outlook, and the phone's calendar widget integrates nicely with your Outlook calendar. Setting up POP and web-based email clients such as Gmail is a breeze as well. The Samsung Omnia also has an IM client, which supports AIM, Yahoo Instant Messenger, and ICQ. For web browsing the Samsung Omnia offers Windows Mobile Internet Explorer and Opera 9.5. Pages load quickly over Verizon's 3G network and over the phone's built-in Wi-Fi.

NEXT PAGE: camera, media player and extras

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The sophisticated Samsung Omnia has just about everything you could want in a smartphone.

The Samsung Omnia's 5Mp camera launches when you press the dedicated camera key on the device's spine. The camera has autofocus and a power LED flash, but it lacks optical zoom. It comes with a handful of advanced features, including white balance and shooting modes such as Sports, Sunset, Night Shots, and even one for shooting text. Image quality was very good, though we noticed some noise in several indoor, low-light shots. Video quality isn't as good as the image quality of still shots, but adequate for sending short video messages.

The Samsung Omnia comes loaded with Windows Media Player and Samsung's own TouchPlayer, a touch-based player that supports album art and background music mode. Loading music onto the Omnia from a PC is a snap. And if you get tired of the music on your phone, you can listen to the Omnia's FM radio. Unfortunately, Samsung's failure to provide a standard 3.5mm headphone jack undermines the device's potential as a music player--a shortcoming it shares with the T-Mobile G1. If these phones' makers want to compete with Apple's iPhone, they should at least throw in a standard headphone jack.

The Samsung Omnia's other applications include a podcast organizer; VZ Navigator, a GPS app; TVOut viewer, which lets you connect the Omnia to your TV; and ShoZu, a picture-sharing service.

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Samsung Omnia: Specs

  • Quad-band smartphone
  • 112x56x12.5mm
  • 240 x 400 pixels/3.5 inch display
  • GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 (Quad-Band)
  • WCDMA: 900/2100 (Dual-Band)
  • 5 mega-pixels (auto-focus) camera with digital zoom, LED Flash, Face Detection, Landscape Mode
  • Supported music formats: MP3, AAC, eAAC+ & WMA, FM Stereo Radio (RDS
  • Video Recording: supported formats: MP4, 3GPP & H.264
  • Video Streaming
  • Ringtones: Monophonic, Polyphonic (64), MP3
  • SMS, MMS (with video), email (POP3, SMTP, IMAP4 & Exchange), Instant Messaging (MSN)
  • 8GB internal memory, microSDHC (external)
  • Bluetooth (2.2), Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11g), GPRS Class 32, HSDPA (7.2 Mbits), DLNA Support
  • Quad-band smartphone
  • 112x56x12.5mm
  • 240 x 400 pixels/3.5 inch display
  • GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 (Quad-Band)
  • WCDMA: 900/2100 (Dual-Band)
  • 5 mega-pixels (auto-focus) camera with digital zoom, LED Flash, Face Detection, Landscape Mode
  • Supported music formats: MP3, AAC, eAAC+ & WMA, FM Stereo Radio (RDS
  • Video Recording: supported formats: MP4, 3GPP & H.264
  • Video Streaming
  • Ringtones: Monophonic, Polyphonic (64), MP3
  • SMS, MMS (with video), email (POP3, SMTP, IMAP4 & Exchange), Instant Messaging (MSN)
  • 8GB internal memory, microSDHC (external)
  • Bluetooth (2.2), Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11g), GPRS Class 32, HSDPA (7.2 Mbits), DLNA Support

OUR VERDICT

Despite a few kinks relating to the interface and a few omissions in the design, the Samsung Omnia is a high-quality handset that delivers a generous array of features.

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