Samsung Omnia W on Vodafone New Zealand in November

Press release follows:

Samsung delivers a unique smartphone experience with Omnia W, a phone that puts people first

This is the first Samsung device utilising the latest release of Windows Phone and offers power, social connectivity and a vivid SuperAMOLED display that delivers a stunning visual experience

AUCKLAND, New Zealand – 31 October 2011 – Samsung Electronics New Zealand announces the launch of the Samsung Omnia W, its first Smartphone based on the latest release of Microsoft’s Windows Phone, code-named Mango.

Featuring an elegant design, a vivid SuperAMOLED display, as well as an enriched content and social communication experience enabled by People Hub, the Omnia W puts people at the centre of everything.

Stefan Lecchi, Head of Samsung’s Mobile Telecommunications business in New Zealand, says, “We’re excited about the potential for Windows Phone and the possibilities it opens for Samsung customers.

“Mobile consumers increasingly expect to be socially networked through their phones anytime, anywhere, fast. They’re looking for high-performance devices that are easy and intuitive to use, look great and enable them to create and share rich multimedia content with ease.

“The Samsung Omnia W delivers on every count and we’re looking forward to introducing it to the New Zealand market next month.”

The Omnia W will be available exclusively from Vodafone from late November 2011.

Stunning Performance in Vivid Clarity with SuperAMOLED Display

The eye-catching Omnia W sports a minimalist contemporary design featuring a metallic finish. A rich 3.7” SuperAMOLED display provides stunning visuals ensuring that photos and videos captured with the device’s 5MP camera can be enjoyed with vivid clarity.

A powerful 1.4GHz processor delivers seamless performance, allowing a fast and hassle-free user experience. This is further enhanced by the device’s integrated 14.4Mbps HSPA+ connectivity, enabling high-speed data browsing and ensuring that videos and pictures can be shared with friends and family hassle-free.

Enhanced Windows Phone Usability

Windows Phone has been developed to provide an easy, intelligent and socially connected smartphone experience. Users can easily connect and share experiences with their friends using a variety of communication mediums, while the excellent web browsing experience is further enhanced with integrated Internet Explorer9 and Bing.

Mango’s unique and intuitive user interface lays out applications in mosaic ‘Live Tiles’ which flow and move on the screen in response to the user’s touch. The interface provides the benefits of a user environment usually associated with a larger display within the portability of a smartphone screen, delivering a flexible and intuitive experience.

The six specialised Microsoft applications provide an engaging content and communication experience. The Windows Phone People Hub is integrated with social networking services Windows Live, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, ensuring that users always stay in touch with their social community.

Office Hub provides enhanced productivity on-the-go and includes access to Windows Live Sky Drive*, which provides 25GB of free storage and allows documents and media files to be easily stored and accessed anywhere. Users can also create and edit documents through mobile versions of Microsoft Office Excel, Word and PowerPoint, as well as use One Note, a note-taking platform allowing the easy sharing and storage of voice memos, images and text-based notes*.

Seamless access to entertainment is afforded by the integration of a Pictures Hub, Music & Videos Hub – powered by Microsoft Zune – and Game Hub, which provides the latest in social gaming experiences through Xbox Live, meaning that friends can chat with each other while gaming. Windows Phone Marketplace provides access to more than 30,000 apps* for entertainment or productivity needs.

The Exclusive Samsung Experience

The overall Windows Phone experience is significantly enhanced with the inclusion of a set of Samsung-exclusive productivity apps. This includes Samsung AllShare, which provides seamless content transfer between the smartphone and other DLNA-enabled devices such as HDTV’s, monitors and digital cameras. Video Call is an easy-to-use app which allows vivid 3G video conversations with friends and family. Additionally, Mini Diary enables users to capture their experiences in multimedia formats and create their very own personalised digital journal* while on the go. Meanwhile, an upgraded Samsung eBook client will be available from Samsung Zone without cost.

Users can stay up-to-date with the latest news and events through the Now 2.0 app, which provides up-to-the minute current affairs, stock market and weather information on the go. RSS Time allows RSS feeds for newspapers, magazines and blogs to be downloaded onto the device and read in an easily digestible format, while eye-catching articles can be easily shared via email or Facebook*.

The device features enhanced social network integration, with Twitter and LinkedIn woven throughout the Omnia W in addition to Facebook. This means that photos and videos can be instantly shared across a variety of social networking sites hassle-free.

Full specs:

Samsung Omnia W Product Specifications

Network

HSPA14.4/5.76Mbps   900/2100
EDGE/GPRS          850/900/1800/1900

Processor

1.4 GHz Processor

Display

3.7” WVGA(800X480) SuperAMOLED

OS

Windows Phone 7.5 Mango

Camera

Main(Rear) : 5 MP AF with LED Flash
Sub (Front) : VGA for Video Call

Video

Codec : MPEG4/H.263/H.264/WMV
Playback : 720p@30fps
Recording : 720p@30fps

Audio

Codec : MP3/AAC/AAC+/eAAC+/WMA/AMR-NB
Zune Player
3.5mm Ear Jack, FM Radio with RDS

Value-added Features

Marketplace Hub – free and paid Apps
People Hub – Windows Live, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin built-in
Picture Hub
Music & Video Hub – Zune Experience
Game Hub – Xbox Live
Office Hub – Microsoft Office
Samsung’s Enriched Apps
– Now, RSS Times, Video Call(3G), Photo Studio, Mini Diary, All Share(DLNA),Fun Shot, Wireless Manager
– Dictionary (downloadable, except US, Canada, Mexico), Photogram (downloadable),Rubik’s Cube(downloadable)
Windows Live Skydrive® (Free 25GB Storage)
Tile-based Metro UX / IE9 mobile
A-GPS / Bing Map

Connectivity

Bluetooth® technology v 2.1
USB 2.0
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n

Sensor

Accelerometer, Ambient Light, Proximity, Magnetometer, Gyroscope

Memory

512MB(RAM) + 8GB Internal Memory

Size

115.97 x 58.8 x 10.9mm, 115.3g

Battery

Standard battery, Li-on 1,500 mAh

Samsung Omnia W in New Zealand

When I asked Vodafone NZ for an official statement on the availability of Windows Phone 7.5 devices in New Zealand, their response was “We’ll let you know when we are ready to announce anything.”

Imagine my surprise then, when I saw this story from the Waikato Times on Twitter.
[box]A Vodafone spokesman said that the telco hoped to have the Samsung Omnia W, which has a 1.4Ghz processor at its heart, on its shelves by late November.

The phone includes a front facing camera which will enable users to Skype once Microsoft releases a Skype application for the phone.[/box]
Top stuff. I can’t wait to see these and more devices running Windows Phone 7.5. Bring on the Nokias!

Review: HTC ChaCha

HTC ChaCha

“It’s a Facebook BlackBerry”: my answer to the almost inevitable “what the hell is that?” question I’d get every time I pulled out the HTC ChaCha to check my email or get some directions. I took the ChaCha with me to the USA recently as my local phone. That’s my M.O. as a gadget guy: one phone with a local prepay SIM card, one with my kiwi SIM card.

HTC ChaChaThe ChaCha is an eye-catching little phone. Stark white and brushed aluminium, with a broken-looking bend in the middle, this is the device you want to carry if you enjoy people asking about your phone. The hardware qwerty makes it look a bit BlackBerry, but the HTC Sense UI on the touchscreen is very recognisably Android. It’s a little bit disconcerting, but it works.

This is a definitely Facebook phone. There’s a dedicated f-button below the keyboard that is context sensitive and lights up to prompt you when it’s time to book some faces. For examples:

  • When browsing the web, the f-button lights up. Clicking it will prompt you for a comment and share the URL and comment on your timeline.
  • When taking photos, the f-button lights up. Clicking it will share the photo on your timeline.

It all works jolly well if you’re an avid facebookalist. For people like me – I’m more of a twerp – I’d hope someone could hack the f-button to drop the f-bomb. That way I could just tap it to add tasty flavour to my tweets. And on that note, the included HTC Twitter app is adequate. It’s a bit stupid in that replying to direct messages has you composing a public reply, but otherwise it’s serviceable. Avid tweeple would be better off installing an alternative twittering application.

It’s Android 2.3 under the covers, which is a Good Thing. 2.3 means smooth scrolling, fast performance, and good memory management. It also comes with the accoutrements you expect from a late-model Android: GPS, WiFi hotspot function, multiple home screens, and all the other jazz.

If you’ve read my Android reviews in the past, you’ll know I’m not a fan of OEM add-ons to Android. Google built Android pretty well (version 2.2+ at least), so it bothers me that OEMs layer their crapware on top of a perfectly good OS. However, in this case, HTC’s already competent Sense UI makes a huge amount of sense (punny!). Sense takes the ChaCha’s unusual screen dimensions into account, and provides the user with a bunch of widgets (weather, clocks, Facebook, etc.) that work really well with the layout. Google’s first-party apps (e.g. Maps, Gmail, contacts) also work well on the smaller screen.

Third party apps on this device are hit and miss. The screen must report itself to Android as a landscape layout, rather than a wide portrait. This means that apps like the (otherwise excellent) IRB Rugby World Cup app, or Vodafone’s pre-installed MyAccount app are displayed small and in landscape mode. There’s no way that I could find to rotate them to portrait. The only option was to turn the phone sideways and get tapping on the touchscreen. Workable, but side-tappin’ is going to catch on like N-gage side-talkin’ did. A lot of other apps (e.g. Twitter, Seesmic) display in correct orientation with reduced vertical screen real-estate.

The hardware is HTC-quality. Super solid, no creaks or wobbles, and lovely in the hand. The keyboard is really clicky. I’ve become adjusted to the super light touch of capacitive touchscreen keyboards, so found myself typing pretty slowly on the ChaCha’s keys. I’m sure they’ll become smoother with time, and would be better for someone coming from another device with a hardware keyboard.

Conclusion

It’s a really nice piece of hardware with solid software. If you need a qwerty and love your Facebook, this could be your phone. The only deal-breaker might be if your favourite Android app doesn’t render properly on the screen.

You can grab it from Vodafone for $599, or less with a plan.

If there are any particular apps you want me to test on it, just ask in the comments.

WP7 Non-update Update being Updated

The update that isn’t an update will be coming to Vodafone New Zealand’s HTC Trophy devices next week. Revealing an interesting insight to the update shenanigans, Vodafone has said that the update has been approved by both Vodafone Group and Vodafone NZ, and Microsoft will push the update next week.

Microsoft announced the update on Monday, and has been slowly rolling it out worldwide, with some troubles on some phones creating a ruckus. This being the first public update (developer devices got a couple of updates prior to general release), Windows Phone 7 nerds have been trying to find out how the update process works. Carriers are apparently allowed to block one update, but will then be forced to accept the update along with the subsequent update. This means if carriers were to block this update, they would need to roll it out along with the heavily telegraphed NoDo update (including copy-paste).

The delayed rollout of this first update has caused some to query if the update is indeed being blocked by their carrier. Turns out the “staged” rollout might very well take more than a few weeks with carriers worldwide collaborating with Microsoft to approve the update prior to releasing the hounds.

Vodafone NZ Rolls out DC-HSPA+

Vodafone have just added some new funkyness to their network in Auckland and Wellington CBD, and will be pushing it to more “heavy usage sites” in other cities soon. It’s known as Dual-Carrier HSPA+, and sounds … fast. I wonder if 4.6c per minute will be enough to cover the costs of this sort of stuff?

Press release:
[quote]Vodafone New Zealand has today announced it is rolling out dual-carrier HSPA+ technology across its 3G network. It is one of only 10 carriers worldwide, and believes it is the first carrier in New Zealand, to roll out this technology.

Dual-carrier HSPA+ (DC-HSPA+) will enable Vodafone to offer even faster mobile internet speeds to customers who are using smartphones and mobile data devices.  Vodafone plans to offer a Vodem which supports dual-carrier HSPA+ in early 2011 and expects smartphone support to emerge over the coming months.

In testing dual-carrier HSPA+ in the field, Vodafone technicians have obtained mobile broadband speeds ranging between 4 and 20Mbit/sec.  Actual speeds available to customers will vary according to a range of factors including customer demand at the cell site providing the service and the bandwidth supported by the web service being accessed.

The first seven sites in Auckland’s CBD and three in the Wellington CBD are now live. This will be followed early in 2011 with targeted deployment across further heavy usage sites in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

“This is only the first step in our smart network plans, as we transition towards Long Term Evolution (LTE) or 4G technology – the next evolution of mobile,” says Sandra Pickering, Vodafone’s Chief Technology Officer.[/quote]