No love for Windows Phone
Launched back in 2010 as Microsoft's last attempt to gain a footprint into the mobile phone market, the Windows Phone platform has experienced a rough ride. It continues to lag behind popular iPhone and Android alternatives and even RIM's flagging BlackBerry. It has been largely been held back by poor promotion from manufacturers and telcos alike. See also Samsung Galaxy Ace review.
The Samsung Omnia W is a perfect example of this lack of interest. It isn't the only Windows Phone to suffer the same fate: only Nokia's new Lumia Windows Phone range has received any marketing attention in Australia. See also Samsung Galaxy Ace review.
The Samsung Omnia W is the first Windows Phone in Australia that replaces one of the first generation models, in this case the Samsung Omnia 7. It's also the company's first smartphone to run the latest Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" operating system out of the box.Visit Samsung Omnia 7 revie.
Nothing remarkable, but a good user experience
On paper there is little that is remarkable about the Omnia W. It has a faster processor and a more rounded design than its predecessor but maintains largely similar specifications. This phone won't convert many users of iPhone or Android devices to the Windows Phone platform, but it certainly offers a slick experience at a competitive price.
Despite not offering anything overly new or noteworthy, there are a few things that we really like about the Omnia W. Its rounded corners and compact size means it fits nicely in the hand. It's about the same size as an iPhone 4S but is more comfortable to hold and use. We like the faux, brushed metal finish on the rear which adds a touch of class to an otherwise bland, plastic slab.
The Omnia W's 3.7in super AMOLED touch screen is a real plus on a mid-range device. It's responsive, bright and clear and offers excellent viewing angles. However, it is often hard to see in direct sunlight and the 800x480 resolution is significantly lower than many higher-end smartphones.
The Omnia W has a physical home button that we find far more intuitive than touch-sensitive keys. This Windows key is flanked by capacitive back and search buttons and these are both responsive and effective. The volume rocker, power button and dedicated camera key are all well positioned and provide good tactility, adding to the overall user experience.
Speaking of the camera, we love how it opens within three seconds if you hold down the camera button from the lock screen. The 5-megapixel camera itself produces photos that suffer from plenty of image noise, but the quality is perfectly acceptable for a mid-range device. Shutter speed is also impressive, meaning you can take a multiple shots with minimal delay between snaps.
Samsung has included a front-facing camera for video calls, which can be made through the included Samsung video call app. The 1.3-megapixel front camera will work with any third-party app that utilises this feature such as the Tango video call app, for example.
Slick software but some flaws
If you've used a Windows Phone before, you'll know what to expect from the Omnia W. The software is modern looking, user friendly and smooth. There is barely any lag during general use. Applications open swiftly with no delay. Multitasking is effortless and effective. As Windows Phone devices are almost identical when it comes to software, you can read our full review of the Windows Phone 7.5 operating system here.
That being said, the Windows Phone platform has a few disadvantages. Its browser is noticeably slower than some alternatives. There is only 8GB of internal storage with no memory card slot. We find many apps in the Windows Marketplace comparatively more expensive than iOS and Android apps. The number of apps is also significantly lower than both Apple and Google's platforms, respectively.
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of the Windows Phone platform is the reliance on Microsoft's Zune software for file management. While the same criticism can be aimed at the iPhone and iTunes combination, at least Apple has iCloud to fall back on. Windows Phone has no such backup option that will save important content like your messages, call logs, settings and app data.
Thankfully, Microsoft's SkyDrive service does work well for documents and photos and $11.99 per month for an unlimited ZunePass subscription is a nice option if you regularly listen to music on your phone.
As Wndows Phones are all very similar, vendor-included apps are the main differentiators between devices. The Omnia W comes with Telstra's WhereIs Navigator, which provides Australian maps and full turn-by-turn navigation for free, though add-on services like live traffic updates do come at an extra subscription cost.
The TelstraOne app offers news, sport and weather content, while Samsung's AllShare app allows users to connect the Omnia W to a television and stream photo and video content. Other Samsung apps include a photo editor and a fun shot app that uses the camera to take photos with various effects. These are all nice inclusions, but don't add any real value to the handset.
Battery life is about average. We managed to go a full day without charging the phone, but with excessive use the Omnia W will fall short of a full day of use. We expected slightly better battery performance given the relatively small screen when compared with many competing smartphones.