The Omnia Lite looks just like any of Samsung’s mid-rangers, with a three-inch touch-screen stretching over most of its black fascia, and a subtle honeycomb pattern on the back.
Usability is the Omnia Lite’s main flaw. The touch-screen is frustrating and interaction with the user interface is lacking.
The Omnia Lite has good spec list, with Wi-Fi, HSDPA and video streaming capabilities.
The browser and email functionality worked well, but the slow touch-screen and clunky stylus detracted from these features.
Battery life was above average.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:57:34 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Three-megapixel camera is fast and delivers decent images, supports push notifications for Microsoft Exchange email
Touch-screen lags a bit, stylus has to be tied to phone instead of fitting inside, user interface looks dull
Way back when, Samsung announced its Omnia trio of Windows Mobile 6.5 phones, each meant to tap a different market segment. According to its box, the Lite is a ‘simple all-rounder’, but truth be told, it has pretty much the same features as the ostensibly business-focused Omnia II and Pro – and many of the same failings.
The Omnia Lite looks just like any of Samsung’s mid-rangers, with a three-inch touch-screen stretching over most of its black fascia and just a call, call end and OK button below. There are three home screens to play with, and the main one also has a customisable shortcut bar to any program on the phone. Its back cover has a subtle honeycombed pattern that’s probably the most interesting thing about its design, and boy, does this phone have a lot of buttons down its sides – charger port up top, volume control, camera shutter, microSD slot, phone lock button, and a hard menu button. The touch-screen is the pressure-sensitive, resistive sort, and even though that doesn’t have to mean it’s terrible, the one on the Omnia Lite is pretty slow. It often doesn’t register commands, and when it does, there’s often a lag of up to a second. Tap it too often, and crazy things start happening as multiple apps load and other ones shut down. Like most resistive touch-screens, it does come bundled with a stylus, though incredibly, you’re meant to tie it to the phone. Yes, really. It’s about the girth of a pencil, two inches long, and actually has its own cap (which is the bit that attaches to the phone). It’s virtually impossible to pull off with one hand, though as a sort of silver lining, it doesn’t actually make the phone much easier to use. Happily, the touch-screen keyboard is better than you’d expect – it’s a little slow, but we’ve used far worse. The accuracy is pretty good, as is the auto-complete system which generally slotted in the correct word. Unfortunately it is a pretty ugly keyboard, with tiny keys and that classic Windows Mobile font that reminds you of early DOS days.
Samsung has overlaid the phone with its own TouchWiz interface, which is all about the widget toolbar from which you can drag and drop Samsung widgets. It’s a pretty clumsy process because of the less than stellar touch-screen and most of the widgets aren’t particularly noteworthy. Facebook, for example, is just a link to the preloaded WinMo app (which to be fair, is one of the fuller featured Facebook apps out there). Memo, calendar and weather are always useful, as is the CNN news feed – though that can only be set to update in six or 12 hour intervals (or you can manually refresh). Most of the actual widgets look pretty dated as well. The new-look Windows Mobile 6.5 means your programs menu is now a scrolling list of cheerful icons, but dive into any app and it’s back to plain, text based menus. It doesn’t look great, but it’s easy to navigate.
The preloaded browser is the generally excellent Opera Mini and will automatically load mobile-optimised sites rather than the full versions you’d see on a desktop computer. It behaves quite strangely here however, possibly because the touch-screen seems over-sensitive in this feature; scrolling upwards with the usual stroke sent us flying up the page. Pictures render well though and fonts are clear with smooth edges. A corner tab fires up top and bottom toolbars for skipping back, switching windows or going to the homepage. Unfortunately, YouTube looks terrible on the phone. Many videos are resized oddly and don’t play smoothly, with blurry images and ‘ghosting’ even when we allowed the video to buffer first. The browser also has a small box showing how far down the page you are, but you can’t interact with it, for example to skip downwards. The three-megapixel camera has the standard Samsung interface and lots of different modes to play with – portrait, night shot, text scan and more. You can also adjust light exposure and white balance, and the shutter is quick to release. There’s only around half a second recovery after each picture, so you’ll be able to take shots in quick sucession. The auto-focus gets a clear image within a few seconds, but pictures tend to be a little cool with a slightly dull colour. It’s more than good enough for web though. After taking a photo, you can MMS, email, Bluetooth it, or upload it to social networks including Facebook, Friendster, Flickr and MySpace. Finally, like all Windows Mobile phones, the Omnia Lite packs the full suite of office features including Office Mobile with Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and Adobe Reader. We found actually editing or creating documents quite fiddly with the touch-screen, even if the stylus was used, but this is a useful feature for reading or checking work materials. Email-wise, you can get push-email on Microsoft Exchange accounts only, while popular webmail such as Gmail can be set to perform a send/receive in intervals from five minutes to daily.
The problem with Windows phones isn’t the lack of features – the Omnia Lite sounds great on paper – it’s the lack of usability. A flawed touch-screen and non-finger-friendly user interface doesn’t really cut it any more, and though its browser and email functionality is decent enough, the phone’s just not much fun to use.