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Three’s Samsung Omnia 7 Windows Phone Rocks

Well then I’ve now had the Samsung Omnia 7 from Three for just under a fortnight and I’m very much enjoying the Windows Phone experience. This has been aided in no small part by the riotous Three data network upon which the Omnia has been screaming with joy. Seeing the 3G+ icon and watching the operating system’s little blue dots zip along swiftly has made me feel very good.

My primary handset is a BlackBerry (Torch — at the moment) on Vodafone’s slightly ailing data network that, no matter what awards they purport to have won, doesn’t always feel at all fast. Especially when I’m in Richmond, where Vodafone hasn’t quite discovered the secret of telecommunications beyond a creaking ‘no signal’ Edge network. In order to try and give the Omnia a bit of a work out, I forwarded all my calls.

And whilst I am most sincerely wedded to RIM’s QWERTY messaging devices, I really did appreciate the Omnia running Windows Phone 7. The screen is huge and wonderfully lit. The curving on the casing makes it feel a lot thinner than anything else in it’s class. The camera is good. The operating system does not get in the way of things happening. Now and again I had to relax into the Microsoft Bosom and accept that it-will-work, rather than demanding some kind of clear demonstration of success. For example, when you tap the little dots to the right of the screen whilst viewing a photo, you are presented with the option to share a photo with one-tap. I would routinely tap to share the photo to my Windows SkyDrive, see the animated blue dots at the top of the screen dance a little and then boom… I’d be … well. I just worried that the photo hadn’t actually uploaded. My worries were unfounded though. It all just works. Obviously some kind of background process was in operation as I didn’t stay on the screen too long. Plus Three’s data network makes short work of even the largest files, especially at 3.5G+ rates.

During setup I configured my ‘Live’ account (e.g. my Hotmail address) and was rather impressed to see my Hotmail contacts already waiting for me when I hit ‘People’. Those Hotmail (or MSN) contacts who’d recently changed their status were also displayed. Responding to their updates requires just a tap. Adding in Google or Facebook (or, in my case, multiple Google Apps accounts) was ridiculously simple. Just the username and password, everything else is sorted by the OS — no exceptions. Contacts were synched, calendars were updated — again, everything just worked. I didn’t have to organise anything — and since most of my address book records are reasonably well organised, the People app worked beautifully, collecting information from Facebook, two Googles Apps accounts and Windows Live into one contact record.

Sharing is a delight. Indeed I felt like I wanted to do more sharing and more interaction thanks to the operating system.

I didn’t tire of the interface either. I was a little concerned about how I would feel about the ‘swipe right/left’ UI that involves incomplete words. (Marketplace is titled ‘Marke’ — and you have to scroll right to see the rest of the word). It actually works really nicely. I’m particularly impressed at how the email works.

The little sounds and transitions are nice too. The way the screen builds when you turn the device, or if you send or delete an email is pleasing.

The Marketplace works swiftly and easily. No arsing around. No ‘would you like to install this application?’ and ‘are you sure’ silly prompts. Tap ‘install’ and woosh, the phone starts downloading and installing the app.

Keyboard input is painless and you really can type fast once you’ve got used to the keyboard — much like the iPhone. Although I really do like the auto-suggest options where the OS shows you an array of possible words. Very useful. Very quick.

The Maps app, powered by Bing, is very pleasing to look at. I like how the map fades in as you zoom and eventually turns to a satellite photo when you zoom closer. I was less impressed by Bing — when I was filming on camera I searched for ‘Tottenham Court Road, London’ and the only result Bing presented on the Maps was ‘Gala Casino, Tottenham Court Road’. Rubbish. Usable — because I could see Tottenham Court Road and the surrounding area, but a little bit silly. Come on Bing! Everything else — from finding my location to plotting directions worked fine.

I’m going to play a little more with ‘Office’ — Word, Excel and PowerPoint, along with Outlook and OneNote. I didn’t get much of a chance to use them during the two weeks as I was mostly stuck in my email, taking photos, answering calls or messing around with Marketplace.

Another element I need to examine more closely is the entertainment capabilities. I don’t have a credit card setup on Zune and I wasn’t able to add that from the device. And I’m an Apple user by default so I had to mess around with VMWare Fusion running Windows Vista to download Zune (the iTunes equivalent). I managed that, but not without a few Microsoftian hiccups (‘install service pack 3’, ‘install failed’, ‘seriously, install service pack 3’, ‘error’, ‘restart’, ‘install failed’). That is one area that the Windows Phone 7 team need to show to love. Carrier billing will no doubt fix that too. So I’ll add a credit card soon and give some of the games, paid-for apps and other content a test. From what I’ve seen of the Marketplace, it’s regularly updated and there’s lots to see.

I’m hearing lots of whispers about better-than-expected results for Windows Phone across the industry and — well, we’ll need to wait until sales figures are announced — but I wouldn’t be surprised if they show positive reception by consumers.

I used to have to hide my pained look whenever I came across someone who’d purchased a handset running Windows Mobile 6.5. Invariably the devices were phenomenally well specified but the slugging 6.5 was abhorrant. Now, when I come across consumers who’ve plumped for WP7, I am genuinely pleased for them — and they too appear to be happy.

My first impressions of Windows Phone? Excellent.

The Samsung Omnia 7? Top marks.

And Three? Yes, yes and thrice yes.

[I should point out that the areas I generally frequent have got really, really good 3.5G+ Three signal.]

I’ve done a video walkthrough of the phone and the OS — I’ll have that online shortly.

You can pick up a Samsung Omnia 7 free for £40/month on a 24-month contract with Three. That includes 2,000 minutes, 5,000 texts, 1GB of data and 5,000 Three-to-Three minutes.

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