Samsung Omnia II on Verizon

If you’re looking for a do-it-all touch screen phone, the Samsung Omnia II on the Verizon network is a phone worth considering. The glossy black shell looks great, but like most phones with this type of finish, it’s a fingerprint and smudge magnet. The back of the phone has a beautiful red reflective pattern that reminds me of car brake lights—this is one good-looking phone. Front and center is the bright 3.69-inch, 480 x 800 resolution screen. It’s an active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED for short) screen, a technology that uses less battery power than a traditional LED screen.

The do-it-all Samsung Omnia II

On the left side of the phone, there’s a 3.5-mm headphone jack, volume buttons, and an OK button. With some applications, the OK button functions as a back button, letting you go back to the previous screen. The right side has a holder for the stylus above the micro USB port that you use to synchronize and charge the phone—and buttons to lock the phone and start the camera application. The stylus holder would be handier if it were on the bottom, but the stylus in the Omnia II extends to be quite long—a welcome feature, because many phones I’ve looked at during the past year have included a very small stylus, which can be a struggle to use for someone with large hands. The Omnia II is 4.7 inches tall, 2.4 inches wide, and 0.5 inches thin. It weighs 4.5 ounces.
Under the hood
Powering this gorgeous piece of hardware is an 800-megahertz (MHz) Samsung processor. The phone comes with a microSDHC slot for expansion up to 16 gigabytes (GB) and includes 8 GB of on-board storage. So you could have a Windows phone with an impressive 24 GB of storage—now that’s a lot of music, photos, and videos! The phone has 256 megabytes (MB) of program RAM—so you can multitask with ease—and 92 MB of storage space for programs. But you’d be hard pressed to run out of space no matter what you install because you can also install software into the 8 GB of on-board storage.

The Omnia II has the full spectrum of wireless capabilities. In addition to the fast Evolution Data-Optimized Revision A (or EVDO Rev. A) data connection from Verizon, the phone features 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, and GPS. A 1,500 milliamp hour (mAh) battery keeps the device going, with an estimated six hours of talk time and 16 days of standby time.

The camera is an impressive piece of engineering; unlike a lot of other phones I’ve looked at, the Omnia II can capture video at 720 x 480 resolution. That’s the same as DVD resolution, which is unusual for a camera phone. The 5-megapixel still photos look good, and the flash helps if you’re in a situation without much light. I was surprised and delighted to see an added piece of software that allows you to use photos on the Omnia II to create slide shows, complete with music and custom text, and a video editor that allows you to make basic edits to the video clips you have saved. I’ve never seen anything like this come on a phone before. It’s great fun to make slide shows right on your phone, ready for uploading to your favorite social networking site.

Software innovations
Samsung put a lot of effort into the software on the Omnia II. The user interface is called TouchWiz, and Samsung has customized the Lock screen, Home screen, programs list on the Start screen, and many parts of the user interface. Although this customization has some great benefits, you unfortunately lose out on the handy notifications feature that Windows Mobile 6.5 added to the Lock screen.

The Omnia II Lock screen

The Omnia II Home screen

The Home screen is widget-based. Widgets are small pieces of software that perform specific functions. Samsung ships the Omnia II with 31 different widgets, including things like a world clock, weather, Verizon-specific tools, such as Visual Voice Mail and V Cast Videos, and one-click access to Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and other popular sites. Widgets can be moved around the Home screen so you can arrange them any way you want. You can toggle between three different Home screens by sweeping your finger or the stylus to the left or right across the screen. You can assign each Home screen a different background wallpaper and separate widgets. So you can create a screen for work, with work-related widgets, and a fun Home screen filled with photo and music widgets, links to entertainment sites, and game widgets.

Customize one Home screen for work use.

Customize another Home screen for fun.

If you want even more widgets, you can access an online Samsung widget store through—you guessed it—a widget. When I checked the four categories of Sports, Tools, Entertainment, and News & Info, 29 widgets were available for free download. They vary in usefulness and quality—you’ll find everything from the dubiously useful (a pick-up line generator widget) to fun time wasters (a Tic Tac Toe widget) to handy widgets, such as shopping lists, tip calculators, and unit converters.

Beyond the widgets, Samsung has loaded the Omnia II with useful software, including Microsoft Office Mobile, Opera Mobile, a custom photo viewer, and software that turns your phone into a digital picture frame. There’s even software called Smart Reader that allows you to take a picture of printed text and have it converted to text you can edit and save on your phone. If you have headphones connected, the phone can also tune into FM radio signals. The default text entry tool is a program called Swype that is an innovative way to enter text. You drag your stylus across the on-screen keyboard, moving from character to character, lifting it only to start a new word. The software is amazingly accurate at figuring out the word you wanted to use.

Who’s this phone for?
The Samsung Omnia II is an all-around good choice for someone looking for a Windows phone that combines a bright screen, a thin design, and the multimedia-friendly features of a 3.5-mm headphone jack and 8 GB of on-board storage. With the 5-megapixel, flash-equipped camera and on-board software for working with photos and videos, the Omnia II makes a great phone for anyone who wants to capture and share life’s memories.