Do I hate my Samsung Omnia cel phone? Yeah, I think so...
I was thinking about getting a new cel phone for several months. My previous contract expired in September 2008, so I was going month-to-month using some refurbished Motorola V265 phone that my current provider, Telus, sold me when my first phone (an LG) died.
I was very interested in an iPhone, because I won an iTouch at our company Christmas dinner in 2007. I use it all the time to check my e-mail via wireless, go on the WWW around the house, play Sudoku, etc. An iTouch is sort of like an iPhone without the phone.
But to get an iPhone in Canada means you have to deal with Rogers. The data/phone plans for the iPhone are expensive (more so than those for a “regular” cel phone) and a lot of other “conditions apply.”
So after reading a lot of reviews about the Samsung Omnia (as well as the people at Telus hyping it), and finding those reviews gave the phone around an 80% OK rating, I decided to get one, especially when Telus gave me a very good deal for the new contract which includes this phone.
Straight out of the box, this phone gave me a very bad case of “new device shock” which transported me back to the early 80’s when I bought my first computer (a VIC-20, which had 3K (yes, K) of RAM and cost hundreds of dollars). After playing with that computer for a day or two I was just about ready to throw it in the garbage. Same with this phone.
The first thing that annoyed me was a pop-up screen that appears when you are making a call. This pop-up prevents you from entering stuff easily on the keypad, like entering extension numbers and other prompts. I totally hate this. Yes, I know this is supposed to keep your face from hitting the keypad and causing weird things to happen when keys are pressed. The iPhone solves this problem in an intelligent way by making the keyboard "rotate" away from you and if you want to get back to it, you just push some simple prompt. With the Omnia, you have to hit the optical mouse button at the bottom (the pop up looks like you are supposed to hit the representation of the optical mouse, which is a small square -- this is hard to get used to) and then hit the "Keyboard" prompt. As well, if the pop up wouldn't appear like every five seconds after you make it go away, I wouldn't be so PO'd. There is some fix for this available. I have installed it, and it makes the pop up go away -- but it got removed when I hard reset the phone a few times for other reasons. I have reinstalled it. I am skeptical that it doesn't cause some other problems.
Here are some more things that annoy me:
- Opera Mobile browser. If you click on a link, this default Internet browser wants to open up this link in a new tab. There is a maximum of five tabs available, after that you have to close some of them. I eventually figured out that if you touch or click (using the stylus) on the links in Opera Mobile very quickly, they will open in a normal manner, without a new tab. But this only seems to work from the "largest" view of the page that you can produce by tapping on the page. There is also something on the right of the WWW pages with Opera Mobile, sort of like the positive-to-negative thing with Google maps which increases the map's size, which will increase or decrease the size of the page very dramatically. In the vertical ("portrait") mode of the phone, this takes up much of the width across the page. For one particular site where I want to avoid this "multiple tabs" business, I switched to using Internet Explorer, which many people say is crap -- it seems to work just fine. Another beef with the Opera browser: When it is running, it seems to totally monopolize the phone, so you can't do the usual swipe from bottom to top to go to what is the equivalent to Task Manager, so you can switch to another application. You have to go to the "Desktop" by hitting the hang-up button in the phone's lower right, and then do the swipe. As well, I often click on some link with this browser (to be fair, this problem has happened with Internet Explorer too), and it just sits there, the link does not open. One nice thing about the iTouch is if you click on link, there is a very good chance that it will open!
- Autocomplete. The hassles mentioned above pale in comparison to my utter hatred for the autocomplete feature which tries to guess at words which you are typing (known as xt9), especially when entering information like URLs and typical fill-in-the-blank forms on WWW pages. I have this feature totally turned off through some settings, but often when I haven't used this certain WWW page which searches books on the Internet for a while, the first time I use it, this xt9 pops up. UGH! Sometimes I have tried to click the "xt9" button on the keyboard and the feature persists. The way to deal with it seems to be clicking "xt9" so it changes to "abc" and then waiting for several seconds, then shutting down the keyboard through the icon on the bottom and starting it up again. What a hassle.
- Windows ActiveSync. This program is supposed to help move files from your computer to the phone in a manner similar to iTunes. I thought iTunes on Windows was stupid -- ActiveSync is even stupider. I originally tried to ActiveSync the phone with my work computer, which was a mistake, since I have Outlook on my work computer, whereas it isn't on either of my two home computers. When I tried using ActiveSync at home, it failed, presumably because it couldn't find Outlook (or some other program) so I did a hard reset on the phone and then it was OK. But a couple of days later, it suddenly stopped working on the home computer again. So I did another hard reset, and it was OK. This is very dumb. According to some geeky WWW site, you should be able to upload data from your computer into the phone "via the USB cable" without using ActiveSync, but this does not work completely. You cannot access the phone's innermost workings using this method, you can only reach stuff that is on the storage card.
- Playing movies. According to various WWW sites, this is supposed to be a DIVX certified phone, which means you can play movies on the phone (I have been able to do this on the iTouch with few problems). But this is total BS. I tried uploading some .AVI file from the DIVX site which is only about 54 megs in size, specifically the mobile version of this movie. It uploaded fairly quickly via ActiveSync, but when I tried to play it (which happens automatically with the Touch Player when you click on the movie file via File Manager), it seems to lurch forward for a few seconds, then it pauses, then it plays a few seconds more, etc. -- as if it was having problems loading into memory or something. I then uploaded a movie in the form of a .WMV file, which also uploaded sort of quickly. This played back with no problems at all with Windows Media Player on the phone, despite the fact that this file was over 600 megabytes in size. Then I uploaded an .AVI movie file which was about 700 megs in size (a standard size to fit the movie on a CD-ROM). This took an absurd amount of time to upload, like about 2 hours! As well, the ActiveSync related progress bar would move ahead a few "chunks," then it would seemingly go back to the beginning again. I don't know if this really means anything, since it did something similar with the .WMV file that I uploaded, but that didn't take two hours for sure. After this .AVI movie file was uploaded, I tried to play it with both the Touch Player and Windows Media Player, and had the same problem as the DIVX file. In other words, I totally wasted my time uploading this file. I should note that I turned off all other programs when trying to play the above files if they didn't work, and there is more than enough memory available (like about half of the phone's memory).
- Signal Strength. I live in a house built about 50 years ago which is very well made. The signal strength in the basement of my house (lots of concrete) has always been pretty bad but this Omnia is unusually bad at latching on to the signal -- it seems like the phone is abnormally sensitive to anything that might interfere with it. Even in the upstairs of my house, I am lucky to get two out of 4 bars. At my desk at work (where previous phones have had at least 3, and usually 4 bars because my office is only like one block from my phone company's building where there is a huge antenna on the roof, presumably for cell phones), I can get anywhere from 1 to 3 bars, depending on which side of my computer the phone is located! What is weird, though ... I took the phone to this thrift store up the street from my house where I have had variable results in the basement getting a signal, and the phone worked fine -- even better than it does at my house. I was able to look up stuff on the Internet without any problems and the phone seemed to use hardly any power when it was doing this (it would display at least 1 or 2 bars). As well, when I was driving to visit my daughter out of town, I would check my cel phone for signal strength when I was in the middle of nowhere, and would often have 2 or 3 bars. I am starting to think that the bars don't really represent the signal strength that you are receiving at any specific time.
- Wi-Fi. The wi-fi on this phone gave me a lot of hassle. With some applications like the mail program, if it doesn't connect by wi-fi, then it tries to dial #777 (i.e., use the data plan from the cel phone company). I do not want this to happen if I am in some city trying to use the wi-fi in a hotel room, for example! Another problem I was having was due to the fact I was using the wrong password (called "network key") for the router ... DUH!! But the various pop-up windows don't specifically tell you "the password is wrong," they just give vague messages like "cannot connect." Once I figured out what the correct password was (by deleting the wi-fi from my iTouch and logging on again with that device until I figured out what it was), then I entered it into the Omnia and seemingly connected. But the quality of the wi-fi signal was very weak. I had to go downstairs next to the router to get wi-fi, then go back upstairs (and it stayed connected until I was far away in the house as I could be). Kind of annoying. Since that time, it seems to work better ... even better than the connection through the phone line sometimes, depending where I am in my house. Go figure.
- Charging. For the first few days of owning this phone, I charged it overnight for several hours (like 8 or more). Then I didn't charge it at all overnight, but tried to just charge the phone the next morning while it was still on (it was like 75% prior to doing this). When the charge was finished, I disconnected the charger, and even though it said 100% under "Settings," a few seconds later, the charge dropped from 100% to 95%, then to 90% and even lower! According to some WWW site I checked, it says the best results for charging are when the phone is completely turned off. So I did this. If you push the "end" button, you can see the charging icon that looks a bit like a tuning fork while this is going on. When the phone is totally charged, it will tell you so via this icon, though I am skeptical that it really is fully charged, unless you let it charge for like 7-8 hours or more.
MORE PITA STUFF:
- In bright sunlight, the phone is completely useless as far as seeing the screen is concerned. I tried to take pictures at my company BBQ when it was brilliantly sunny, and I couldn't see anything at all through the viewfinder (the main screen) -- I was essentially shooting blind. Despite this, the pictures actually turned out pretty good.
- I uploaded some media player application called KMPlayer into the phone (it was highly praised by a couple of WWW sites). After using it for a day or so, I discovered that it had caused all my ringtones to stop working.
- There are plenty of Windows Mobile applications available for the phone. Unfortunately, most of them are relatively expensive compared to apps on the iPhone/iTouch, and have no trial versions.
- There is no easy way to export your contact information from the phone without investing in some third-party application, as far as I can tell. This is dumb.
- The latest annoyance: according to my phone bill, I was charged some miniscule amount because the phone was being used as a wireless modem. This is interesting, because I have no idea how to do this. According to some Google searches, you have to hook the phone up to your computer (typically a laptop) with the USB cable, and then run some software which will suck information from the internet into the computer via the phone. I have no such software, and it doesn't make sense to do this at home, since I have a super fast Internet package anyway. I am convinced the phone did something flukey which resulted in these charges.
- I downloaded some video podcast which was very large (like 100 megabytes in size) from a WWW site, directly into the phone. It was stored in My Storage (several gigabytes available). When I tried to play this file (an MP4), the audio was OK, but the video was very jerky, and many seconds behind the video. Trying to copy video files into the phone via ActiveSync is an exercise in insanity. If the file is very large, it may never get transferred.
So how much do I dislike this phone? So much that a few times, I have been tempted to phone Telus and cancel my contract (unfortunately three years), even though it would cost me hundreds of dollars to do so.
Not getting an iPhone was a big mistake, though there is still one thing very much not in the iPhone's favor -- iTunes. With my iTouch I tried to copy a CD that I had created from one of my own LP records into the phone. This caused about 6 gigabytes of other music to suddenly disappear from the phone. This totally soured me on getting an iPhone, even though this device is so much more intelligent than the Omnia from what I have seen so far.
If you want to e-mail me, please do so!
Eric from Australia e-mailed me in June, 2009:
I just got talked into an Omnia.
I am so pissed off with it. This message keeps coming up about Critical low memory... such bollox... this ph is supposed to have 8gig of memory.
Then I jump online to try and find out how to fix it I struggle with all the lingo. One needs to be a rocket scientist to understand what to do.
I wish I bought an Iphone. Macs are soooo simple.
Updated Jan 20, 2010