If we were Nokia, we'd be rather annoyed with Samsung, because, with the i8910 HD, it's achieved what Nokia hasn't yet: a desirable touchscreen phone with the Symbian operating system. The power of Symbian gives the i8910 its brains, but its spectacular AMOLED screen and touchable user interface makes it worth having in your pocket.
But all this loveliness doesn't come cheap. You can pick up the i8910 -- formerly the Samsung Omnia HD -- from free on a £30-per-month, two-year contract with Orange.
HD and seek
The i8910 is billed as the first phone with high-definition-quality video recording, but that may be overstating the case somewhat. High definition means more than just good resolution, and, at 24 frames per second, the i8910 doesn't deliver the frame rate or lack of noise that you'd get from an HD camcorder. In fact, it's nowhere near, but that doesn't mean that its 720p quality doesn't blow every other mobile phone out of the water. Although the i8910's video is jerky and noisy compared to a Blu-ray movie, it would be fantastic for uploading your high-quality shenanigans to YouTube.
As for the screen, it too doesn't quite live up to its HD promise -- it's only got a 640x360-pixel resolution, or half the number of lines normally considered necessary for HD. But that doesn't keep it from being truly spectacular among its phone peers.
Symbian gets touchy
At first glance, the i8910 looks like it's rocking the same user interface as the Tocco Ultra, which we liked a great deal. It has a larger version of the spectacular AMOLED screen, and the same homescreen with customisable widgets that can show things like photos of your contacts or a mini media player. But pop the hood and there's a major difference -- the i8910 sports the Symbian operating system inside, and that means this is a fully fledged smart phone.
Samsung hasn't joined the gold rush by opening its own app store yet, but you can download new apps from Orange. But, without something like Nokia's new Ovi Store, Symbian is slightly tricky when it comes to installing things, with confusing messages popping up all over the place.
Our i8910 had good applications included, however, so you may not bother downloading anything. For example, there's a search app that searches for anything on the phone, such as contacts, messages and music files. There's also Quickoffice, for editing Word, Excel and PowerPoint files.
The i8910 supports background processes, so you can keep the Web browser window open while you go off and write a text message, for example. But all this multitasking can lead to a very sluggish phone, if you tend to bounce around without closing things down.
We had to spend an annoying few minutes tidying things up, or restarting, when things started to go wrong. We found it easy to see what applications were running from the options menu, but didn't like how things such as the homescreen, which is always running, are shown on the list. If we can't turn it off, we just don't see the point of cluttering things up.
And that's just one example of the ways in which the i8910 still falls short of the usability bar set by the iPhone. There's very restricted multitasking on the iPhone, and it's missing key features like copy and paste, but the i8910's flexibility and power comes at a price. The user interface is more complicated and less intuitive, and performance slowed down when we pushed the phone to its limits.
Tapping and typing
The i8910's glossy black plastic body, trimmed with a chrome edge, and touchscreen goodness can't help but prompt comparisons with the iPhone. But its real peer is Nokia's touchscreen phones, such as the N97, which runs the same powerful Symbian smart-phone operating system.