Review: Samsung ATIV Odyssey for Verizon Wireless
With Windows Phone, you know the drill. The user interface of the Odyssey uses Windows Phone 8. It looks and acts the same as every other WP8 device out there. Handset makers and carriers aren't allowed to mess with the look and feel of the OS, and that's a good thing as far as I'm concerned.
The biggest changes are reflected on the lock screen and the Start screen. The lock screen has customizable alerts that pop up when the screen is locked. It's a big improvement over the earlier versions of Windows Phone. You can choose which alerts reach the lock screen and which don't, as well as pick which type of alerts are given priority.
The Start screen is more customizable than before. The Live Tiles can be resized in small, medium, and large variations, and of course the Tiles can be arranged however you wish. More apps support Live Tiles, which should make the Start screen even more dynamic.
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The main app menu is an alphabetical list of apps. This cannot be customized. You can, however, choose which color the background is (white or black) and change the color of the basic Live Tiles. There are usually about a dozen or so colors from which it pick.
It doesn't take long to get the hang of Windows Phone, which is probably the simplest of the major smartphone platforms to use.
The Odyssey is the very first Windows Phone I've ever seen suffer from performance issues. The vast bulk of WP smartphones are lightning quick. The Odyssey is not. I often found it stalling when opening apps, and it often stuttered when swapping between the Live Tile and main menu screens. Worse, if you attempt to multitask overmuch, you'll be met with some significant screen freezes.
Samsung hasn't done anything to enhance or change the functions of the WP8 phone and contact applications. The phone app itself is simple to use and offers a standard set of features, such as hold, mute, speakerphone, merge calls, and send to Bluetooth. It's easy to text or call a number stored in the call log, as well as add it to a contact.
The People Hub is as powerful as ever. It ties in users' Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter profile data, as well as their basic contact data. It's the most feature-rich contacts app out there, and provides consistent updates and notifications about those with whom you converse the most.
The Odyssey uses all of the stock messaging tools that are available to all Windows Phone devices. WP8 has a solid email, SMS/MMS, and IM apps. Social networking is baked into the platform, as well. I find the email program to be quick and useful and the social networking to be particularly good. I like the People Hub and Photo Hub, each of which draws in your Facebook friends' activities and photos.
The SMS app also functions as the Windows Live IM app and Facebook Messenger app. The user interface is spartan, but offers just as many tools as competing platforms. It's a cinch to add photos, videos, or other content to outgoing messages. This app doesn't support AIM, Google Talk, or Yahoo IM.
It is important to know that this app is soon going to be replaced with Skype across Microsoft's products. It's available to WP8 in a preview mode right now, so it doesn't quite have all the new features yet. It ties into the device's native phonebook for dialing and messaging. It runs in the background, allowing for calls and messages to be received when you're off doing other things.
Separate Twitter and Facebook applications are available, as well. Last, Samsung's ChatOn app is available in the separate Samsung App Store. It's not preloaded. If you choose to install it, it can be used to conduct IM conversations with other ChatOn users for free. ChatOn is compatible with Android, BlackBerry, and iOS.