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Samsung i900 Omnia – Updated

tmp2F2This is an update of an earlier article on the Samsung Omnia. Those of you who read my constant gripes about mobile phones will know that I’ve stayed with HTC for the longest time. There can be no doubt that their phones are pretty. For some time I used the HTC Touch Diamond while Maureen has been using the Diamond HD.  The original Touch Diamond however had a number of flaws… not the least being a tendency for the ringer to stop working for no reason. Orange of course didn’t have a clue how to fix it and just kept swapping phones.

Samsung i900 OmniaI finally lost it with Orange a little while ago and demanded another phone. The first person I spoke to was useless – said I had to have the same phone – I told her I wanted out of the contract, she wanted to charge me £250 – thankfully on my next call a very well spoken gent put me right – and introduced me to the Samsung i900 Omnia.   I’d originally asked for an upgrade to the Diamond HD (the larger brother of the Diamond – which bears more than a passing resemblance to the iPhone and works a treat) – but as is the way of things in the mobile industry but the Diamond HD now defunct – which is a shame as it’s a BLOODY MARVELOUS phone which works well.

Anyway – the HTC Touch has another fatal flaw – it comes with 4Gig of memory built in and no expansion. Once you get TomTom in there and maybe a movie – that’s it – you’re done. They addressed that on the Diamond HD phone – and that and future models have the ability to take micro-SD cards.

What sold me on the Samsung was when the Orange operator pointed out that the i900 comes with 16Gig AS STANDARD – AND has expansion, so in total you could have 32gig of memory – enough for all your photos, all your tunes and more’s the point, a good number of movies and apps – AT LAST, a serious mobile.

How to show you the phone – MyMobileR – is free and it works.

i900 clock

And so here is the original Samsung i900… complete with screenshots (most of the software is built-in – the rest are free or cheap apps with the exception of Navigator.

The phone comes complete with the usual – Windows Mobile 6 and a host of Microsoft utilities including a fairly useless OneNote – by name only. HOWEVER check out Evernote which lets you take audio, text or scribble notes and sync them with your PC – and does it well.

Of course that would not be much use if it were not for high speed cell communication, WIFI and Bluetooth – and the i900 has the lot along with GPS and more! It even has an FM radio. Google Mobile Apps gives you your messenger and email, Skype – well – works! The RSS reader lets you keep up with your news, you can FTP to your PC via Bluetooth…. the list goes on – I suggest taking a look at this phone. It comes with mains charger and the ONLY gotcha is the crappy connector which means you can’t use all your mini-usb chargers – however a quick order to China and for around £8 I have a car charger, silicon case, screen cover and spare battery.

GPSGateGPS on the i900 
The GPS on the i900 appeared initially to have issues, it did NOT like TomTom and some other programs however there is a solution for a few dollars in the states – which takes the GPS further than you might imagine. For a mere $14 or thereabouts not only does it fix the GPS on the i900 but also lets you share it by a number of ways with other programs – simultaneously – you can even share the GPS with your PC via Bluetooth – stick MapPoint on your PC – turn the Bluetooth serial port on and Bob’s your uncle. It even lets you SIMULATE GPS when you’re working indoors to test things. WELL worth the money. The program is called GPSGATE.  Of course there is a lot more to the use of this phone than this – OH  – before I forget – typical touch-screen Smartphone (pocket PC) the buttons for the telephone and keypad are no real – i.e. they are onscreen – but where the i900 scores is it uses vibration feedback to give you a sense of having hit a button! Update: The internal GPS on the i900 appears to use LOTS of juice – i.e. it eats batteries. It took me a while to narrow this down but I’m now doing the same as others – I happen to have a tiny pocket Bluetooth GPS I picked up from Ebay for £20 a year ago.  GPSGATE allows you to select an external GPS as the source – and this works a lot better than the external one… I can even pick up 3 satellites in my office! For now I’m progressing this route.  As an update, with Windows mobile 6.5 none of the issues with the GPS have ever showed up again and the battery life is fine.

Video on the i900Video on the i900
Yes – it does work, before you ask. I loaded up a standard DIVX test recording (not a specially reduced version which would no doubt be smaller and run faster but what a hassle) – which for a full movie or show would be maybe 700meg – played it NO problem at all. One touch and it’s in landscape, full-screen. Audio is similarly simple to use.

Did I mention the phone has accelerometers? So it knows which direction it is facing and can go into landscape or portrait mode automatically (good gimmick but I turned that off – speeds things up a lot).

tmpD5As for images – 1.5 meg original JPG images played a treat. They really do seem to have cracked this – in a phone that’s small, light and thin with a half-decent camera and a “flash” – though in reality it’s a bright white LED so don’t get too excited by the possibilities. See the pic of my grand-daughter on the right.

tmpD6Opera on the i900
Opera browser and the new Skyfire browser all work – though I don’t think the WIFI is quite as sensitive as the HTC.  The phone does not come with weather software but a quick look on the web for a freeby sorted that out. Weather Watcher works a treat.

i900 Camera
The camera is a 5Mpixel effort with built in ability to take panoramas using up to 8 original images – all automatically – you just take the first shot and move the camera until it takes the rest.

Navigator on the Omnia
Mapfactor Navigator turned up today – and I have to say – with a caviat, it blows TomTom 6 out of the water. For £69 you get full maps of all of Europe plus of course the UK – now, I’m only really interested right now in the UK and Spain – and you can select what you install – result – the entire installation – which works in storage card space of course, takes up well under half a gigabyte – which, given the Omnia’s expansive 16Gig – is hardly a drop in the ocean!

Pocket NavigatorI don’t have time to go into the details of Navigator here but the key things are 3D navigation, voice-guide, you get a PC program to view maps etc, it has so much programmability it will keep you going for hours, most of the little windows can be selected by simply touching them and then selecting from a larger range… which is great as some folk want to know what speed they are doing, others want to know the height from sea-level – and that’s on of my gripes about Tom-Tom, it doesn’t give you that level of flexibility.

Navfactor Navigator with UK and European Maps
Pocket NavigatorThe program comes complete on a DVD with maps, points of interest and cameras and features FULL postcodes!! Up to now I just can’t fault it – best buy I’ve had this year!  It also comes with an odometer feature and for a little extra it can handle vehicle tracking… though GPSGate can easily handle that also.

Finally if you have the right hardware it can handle TMC traffic monitoring – that’s my next job – for now I’m enjoying up to date maps and hassle-free sat-nav!

Now, the PC-based program that comes with Navigator is useless except for one thing – it can import basic CSV POV files into the Navigator format. Add a free program to take GOOGLE EARTH files and convert to CSV and you have the ability to create a bunch of favourite locations in Google Earth – and import into your Windows Mobile phone!

Upgraded Samsung OmniaUpdate: Upgrading the i900
Now, you might say, if the i900 is so great, why upgrade it – well the phone out of the box does have issues: like the HTC Touch the battery life is naff, you could use it up in less than a day with sat-nav running… and also everywhere you turn it says Orange… so… here’s what I did – no guarantees it won’t turn your phone into a brick. The procedure involves making sure your phone is fully charged, downloading a registry editor and making a trivial change to one entry – then going off to the official Samsung site for the latest upgrade. According to the site  this helps battery life and offers other fixes. Here is the AVForums link to the Samsung i900 upgrade. Here on the left is the upgraded phone with Samsung’s gadgets added. This powers up as a Samsung phone, I’ve tested the WIFI and GPS and all work well. The upgraded phone immediately asked me if I wanted to configure the phone for Orange UK and so I’m hopeful that when I get in range it’ll even still work as a phone:-)

tmp438

Oh – if you are into Twitter, get pocketTwit…. absolutely marvelous. I added that and the new pocket mobile Facebook app. This time around I’m running Navigator natively, i.e. without GPSGATE – as there is no point in having TomTom using up space. I have however purchased GPSGATE as it’s useful for sharing the phone’s GPS with my laptop!

And yes, I did go get the “iPhone”-look-alike software, it’s free and it’s called iFonz – but the icons he gives you are not up to much. I reset the sizes to 48 pixels and went off and found icons from all over the place – changed their transparent backgrounds to black (which the guy who wrote iFonz uses as a sort of transparency – see the icons on the bottom) – and then it’s just a case of collecting up enough decent icons for all the progs I’m putting in the massive 16gig space of the phone – no doubt soon to be complemented by a 16gig microSD – though I do have all my records in there already 🙂

To be honest, the iPhone display etc is more of a gimmick – I kept it on for a couple of weeks then scrapped it. Other interfaces are coming out of the woodwork now that look as good if not better.

Update September 2009: I’ve since upgraded the i900 to Windows Mobile 6.5 and it just works. Very rarely it needs a reset, the GPS works, the interface is wonderful…  but then other phones are now coming out with Windows Mobile 6.5 out and a larger screen would be about my only must-have. The HTC Touch Pro 2 would be my current recommendation – if you regularly spend £30 or more a month the cost of the phone is likely to be minimal. Who would I recommend? Well, aside from their customer service, Orange still offer one of the better deals if you need 3G data access… I’m on Racoon 35 and I get unlimited data, 600 minutes any network and enough texts to keep me going.  Unless something better comes along  – I’m sticking with that contract.  I should have a Pro 2 shortly and will endeavour to provide further updates.

2 Responses to “Samsung i900 Omnia – Updated”

  • Hi.

    Fascinating article on the i900 Omnia. Just got hold of one myself & trying to get to grips with the interface. Don’t know what you think but the widgets are a bit useless as far as I can tell…bit of a pain they don’t appear to be customisable!

    Would be interested to know how you managed to get Windows Mobile 6.5 on there. I have been hunting around for it but drawn a blank! Would you be able to offer any guidance?

    Many thanks
    Simon

  • Pete:

    XDA Developers – Google it! Works a treat. As it happens mine is up for sale as soon as I get a chance to put it on Ebay as I have another smartphone – but it’s a great phone.