Saturday, 19 November 2011

Omnia 7 vs Lumia 800

It's just over one year on from my day-one adoption of Windows Phone on the Samsung Omnia 7. After much deliberation, I decided to grab a Nokia Lumia 800 to see what all the fuss is about, and get a taste of what so many newcomers to the OS are going to experience.

Nokia has done a fantastic job of advertising the Lumia, and the campaign is a great shot in the arm to Windows Phone after a year of little to no pushing of the platform by Microsoft itself. In the UK, at least, everywhere I look I'm being bombarded with adverts for the flagship device. I don't need to be sold on the platform - I'm developing games for it. I'm sold, I'm locked in. But it's great to see how interest has grown over the last month or so. Having Windows in your phone is becoming cool again, and rightfully so.

But this post isn't for me to extol the virtues of Windows Phone, it's to compare the wonderful phone I've been using for the last year to the new star of the show. Hopefully it'll be of use to other Omnia 7 owners that are wondering if they should make the switch or not. So let's dig in.

To me, the Omnia with its 4" screen never felt like a huge phone. But the first thing that struck me about the Lumia is how small it seems next to it. And yet the Lumia feels weightier, and definitely looks a lot better. That's fairly subjective, but the Lumia has the lovely curved gorilla-glass screen and the equally curvy rear. The Omnia looks fairly plain and businesslike in comparison.

A few reviews had mentioned a slight rattle in the buttons, and although it's present it's not as much of a problem as I had imagined. You have to shake the phone fairly hard to hear it, and the buttons are not loose in any way when you run your finger over them. All in all, the chassis feels solid.

I have a slight concern with the USB socket cover. It's really flimsy, and kind of a pain to operate. You push down on one end of it to open it, and the hinge and cover feel pathetically weak and plasticy. Any amount of force while the cover is open and it will definitely break off. However, once it's closed there's no looseness to speak of. Something to consider if you're constantly recharging, syncing or deploying over USB.

The Lumia has all-capacitive operating system buttons. I do miss the hardware Windows key of the Omnia. I had got used to using the Windows key to wake up the Omnia, and now that's not an option with the Lumia.

Many Lumia reviews have mentioned how close the capacitive buttons are to the screen. This was an issue for me with the Omnia when I was gaming on the phone. I find it less so now, probably because I'm used to avoiding accidental swipes, but that search button still catches me out sometimes. I haven't used the Lumia enough yet to tell if the closer proximity of buttons to screen is going to be an issue, but I will be sure to update if I find it is.

On the audio side I find the Lumia's loudspeaker a little quieter than the Omnia's, but it doesn't distort as much at high volume. It also seems that the lowest volume setting is quieter than the Omnia's, which is great. There's also more control over the volume at low settings. However, the included headphones are dreadful. The Omnia's have a volume rocker, answer button and mic in the remote control unit. The Lumia's is without a volume rocker. The audio quality of the Omnia's pack-in headphones wasn't great, but the Lumia's are somehow worse.

I'm no expert in photography, so all I'll say about the cameras is that I found the Lumia generally produces better quality pictures, with a higher colour saturation. The Lumia's lens has a much wider angle on it, which is very nice.

Omnia 7 Camera Image

Lumia 800 Camera Image

The Screen
The 3.7" Lumia screen is smaller than the 4" Omnia. And I was surprised how much smaller. When you line the phones up side-by-side and look at the home screen, you can really appreciate how nice the Omnia's screen is. Surprisingly, I haven't yet found the smaller screen is hindering my typing in either portrait or landscape orientations. And I have sausage-fingers.

Quality-wise, the screens look about the same. I noticed that the Lumia has a slightly higher colour saturation, and that it had a slightly redder hue to the Omnia's when the phones were both displaying at medium brightness. At high brightness, the colour levels look about the same.

I mention the brightness because the Omnia's light sensor seems to switch to a higher brightness at much lower ambient light levels than the Lumia. I had to shine my desk lamp directly at the Lumia's screen to get it to automatically switch to high brightness. You can always turn off the auto brightness (at the expense of battery life) if you prefer a brighter screen. To be honest, I hadn't noticed that the Omnia's probably been running at high brightness most of the time, and the Lumia screen on medium is very dim in comparison.

A video is all that's required to illustrate how much faster the Lumia is. Here, I run a side-by side comparison of the opening sequence of Survivalcraft, the first Windows Phone Minecraft clone. I've set the resolution to Full on both phones. This blew me away, watch for yourself:

This slickness filters down to the rest of the system. App load times, browsing and task switching are all smoother and faster on the Lumia. This for me is probably the biggest selling point.

I also noticed that my signal strength has gone from showing the "3G" icon on the Omnia to showing "H" (HSDPA) on the Lumia. This is on Three UK. I'm not entirely sure why this is, as I'm not a phone junkie. The browsing speed OTA is marginally faster, so I'm guessing the Lumia is capable of faster HSDPA than the Omnia. I swapped the SIM back to the Omnia to make sure (I had to use an adaptor as the Lumia is micro-SIM), and couldn't get the Omnia to show the "H" icon. So that was an unexpected bonus.

Included Apps
After a year of using the Omnia, I'm now a Zune user as far as music is concerned. I have a Zune Pass, all my purchased albums come from the Zune marketplace. Therefore, the Nokia Music app is redundant. I had a quick flick through it and it seems that all your sideloaded tracks are present and correct should you decide to use it, but it wasn't for me so I uninstalled it.

Nokia Maps didn't fare much better. Once updated, I had a quick play. It mimics the Local Scout behaviour and pinpoints local points of interest, but it doesn't seem to offer anything above and beyond the standard WP7 maps app. The interface is also a little clunky. Bye-bye!

Nokia Drive is the real winner here. When I moved away from Symbian to come to Windows Phone, losing Ovi Maps was a big deal. While functions seem a little limited at the moment (no favourite addresses for instance, just an address history), Drive does what it says on the tin. It's real voice-guided turn-by-turn 3D satnav with downloadable offline maps. And it's really slick. Considering the next best option on Windows Phone - Navigon - costs $99, this is a really great addition.

One other thing to note is that the Lumia did not ship with the internet sharing capability enabled. The Omnia was recently updated to make this new Mango feature available, but Nokia had to ship without it. I believe it'll be coming in a future Lumia update.

A Handy Table to Help You Decide
Omnia 7Lumia 800
Larger ScreenNicer Chassis
Better OS ButtonsMore Storage
Louder LoudspeakerBetter Quality Loudspeaker
Internet Sharing (with latest update)Faster Processor/Graphics

Slightly Better Camera
Faster Data Speed (HSDPA)(?)
Nokia Drive
I hope that helped out at least one person with an Omnia 7 wondering about upgrading.

Update: 4 Weeks Later
After four weeks with the Lumia, I can happily say that I made the right choice in upgrading. I have not missed the larger screen of the Omnia. I'm not experiencing the reported battery life issues (the Lumia lasts as long as the Omnia for me given the same daily usage and overnight recharge). I don't seem to accidentally brush the search button as much, which is a surprise. Maybe I'm just used to avoiding it now.

I still wish the loudspeaker was louder, I can't hear it too well in the shower or whilst cooking like I could with the Omnia. The update that will include the Wifi access point option has been pushed back to next year, but I've already had one update from Nokia so I'm confident that any further issue will be ironed out.

As a footnote, I'd like to plug my two current Windows Phone games - Asteroid Armageddon and Bunny Massacres Episode 1. Both games run wonderfully on both the Omnia and the Lumia! Also, keep an eye-out for my forthcoming Windows Phone action/RPG Dreamland.