Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Omnia Qwerty: some first impressions

This blog post is not very structured. I'll just list a couple of points that pop into my mind immediately based on my first couple of hours with my new Samsung Omnia Qwerty. Here goes.

  • First things first: the *#0*# key combination works as advertised elsewhere, including working electronic compass hardware! In oktober Samsung has even released an SDK to access this and other internal sensors on their phones.
  • I like the way it looks very much. The red wavy line effect on the back looks cool. I like the way it feels a bit less: too smooth, too slick. Starts to feel sweaty really quick. The more non-slip back of the Kaiser felt better, I think.
  • The previous point also means that both the front and the back are immensely susceptible to finger print smearing (as expected, really).
  • Even though the TouchWiz interface takes a bit of getting used too - this phone does not really feel like a Windows Mobile phone with it on - and I still feel like a fish out of water a bit, I think it's a great interface for the general phone user. Much better than the regular WM experience. I think I'll continu to use it.
  • Also, I really like the private/work settings. The (default) work UI is the one shown here (I miss the Weather panel though?), while the(default) private one is the one shown here, which you probably know from other Samsung phones. Somehow this works well. The settings switch includes things like ringtone and sound/vibrate settings. So, as mandatory at my current work location, I have the Work profile set to vibrate only. Too bad it doesn't also include phone sound setting, but just the ringtone used. At least it takes only one hardware button to easily switch. It really almost is like you have two different phones.
  • Silly software gripe: what's with the zoom context menu? Sounds like a nice feature, but in the Opera browser - which as I used it on my Kaiser had a great zoom function itself - it seems to (partially?) block the application context menu items. Most irritatingly: I could get "Text Selection" mode active, but could not Copy anything, making text selection useless. me: next to the zoom arrows is a little context menu icon. Tap that, and you still get the context menu you'd expect.
  • Talking about copy/paste: why can't I paste a key into the wifi network configuration utility? I sure hope this device will not have the habit my Kaiser had of occasionally "forgetting" wlan network settings, asking me for a key again for networks that it should know already. I have a private note file on my memory card with settings like this that I would then quickly copy-paste. Here, it seems I will then need to manually enter the key each time...
  • The TouchWiz version of the SMS client seems nice (bit like the calender and contact list apps). Then why isn't there an email variant as well? This looks like the "normal" WM email client app to me. With the tiny scroll bar. And worse: no finger scrolling: this just selects text in the message body. So you have to use the tiny scroll bar to read your mail. Or at least, so it seems to me now.
  • Is there a way to make the font used in built-in apps (like email) to be smaller? It seems to have been beefed up, probably to avoid the "tiny unreadable text syndrome" due to the much larger than 320x200 screen resolution. However this seems to give me less characters per line than I had on my 320x200 Kaiser, which seems extremely backwards. Yes, of course there is, as the email application uses the Windows Mobile system wide text size setting. But of course Samsung doesn't give you access to this through TouchWiz and the default is... suboptimal. Turn TouchWiz off so you get the normal WM start menu when you tap the Start icon in the top left corner, then got to Settings, System tab, Display (or is that Screen in English?) and select a smaller size in the third tab. I'm using the smallest one now, and this makes the email client useable again.
  • Speed seems more than adequate. Maybe not as "zooming" as I was led to believe based on pure Mhz and pre-release hype, but it still feels very good to work with so far.
  • I really like the many sensors this thing has: 3D orientation, compass, proximity and ambiant light (in lux). It's really too bad that so little of the software involved seems to know about it though. I mean, when you place the device screen down on a flat surface all sound except explicit alarms mute (proximity/tilt sensor combo?) and the media player and photo viewer seem to automatically switch orientation. Other than that (and the LCDtest app and a quant little Dice "game" that shows a pair of colors dice that you can roll by shaking the phone...) there seem to be hardly any software that is aware of these sensors in any way. There really needs to be some kind of native support for these things in the OS, people!
  • Have I missed any option, or is it really impossible to have the Camera application take pictures with the front facing camera? Seems like an obvious thing to do, and I could so easily with my Kaiser.
  • I was a bit eager to try out the FM radio (first phone device I've had that has one built in) to maybe listen a bit of radio while at work, but it seems too bad that this will not be possible. Of course you need to use the earphones (as they are the antenna), but at work I have Omnia set to vibrate and this means the earphones are dead. I only hear something when I set the phone to play sound. Wouldn't the earphones override this? What do other phones do here? This is my first phone where I have earphones included and the first time I ever used them...
  • Positive surprise: the Connected Home application. This seems to be a DLNA/UPnP (not sure exactly which, or both) client/server. It only works over wifi, but I could select my home NAS and start streaming The IT Crowd episodes that are stored there. Very pleasant surprise. Also, I saw my mobile phone listed in the Network Browser of my Philips HDTV. Could not see anything, but that's because sharing is not turned on by default (smart move). You can select folders to share, so you could for instance start this application and start browsing images/movies on you phone using your in-home multimedia setup automatically. Cool!

This list seems to contain way more negatives than positives, but this does not mean I don't like the phone. It could just be so (very) much better, which is as expected, but still too bad.

Anyway, more news as it happens. This is a bit of rough week for me so far, so I'm not sure when this will be exactly. In the meantime, feel free to ask for specific things (here in the comments, or on Twitter) and I'll try to answer if I can.


  1. a few samsung tricks to try them out:

    - when it comes to weather panel it can be hidden so you have to put it on screen as one of the widgets or make it ticked [v]in some of the settings

    - try checking all profile settings the radio should work even though phone is set to vibrate only, if it doesn't work samsung has mute key usu. under the # DK how muting is realized here, but how did you mute it?

    - when it comes to camera try holding camera button for some more time either while turning cam on or while in camera mode in some samsungs it allows to change desired cam

  2. HI, is it possible to see every application in landscape mode, for example the agenda? (without opening the keyboard)?


  3. @Sven: Quick (late) reaction: only a tiny fraction of applications react to the orientation change (=without opening the keyboard). Guess it's just the in ROM supplied Opera, the image viewer and specific demo apps meant to show off the orientation and other sensors.