Review: Samsung ATIV Odyssey for Verizon Wireless
The Odyssey provides the same tie-ins to Microsoft's XBox entertainment services as do other WP8 devices. The music experience has always been good on Windows Phone devices, and the Odyssey is no different. The media player is a solid piece of software that syncs with iTunes, Windows 8, and older Windows desktop systems with ease.
Video is another story. Windows Phone 8 will not work with iTunes movies, and the XBox Store doesn't offer video content. Your best choice for renting movies is to use the Netflix application, which is a third-party service that you need to download yourself.
The Odyssey doesn't ship with YouTube, Samsung's MediaHub, nor any other media apps. You're on your own to find them in the Windows Phone Store.
The camera application within WP8 is decent, but not as feature rich as what Samsung offers on its Android phones; not by a long shot. The good news is, it launches quickly with a press of the dedicated camera button, even when the device is asleep. If you want to take pictures in a hurry, press the camera button quickly and it will snap a shot without focusing. If you want to take more time and assure that the photos is in focus, use the two-stage button or the touch-to-focus feature. Either works just fine. The Odyssey focuses fairly quickly.
Of course, the camera app in WP8 supports third-party "Lenses" for applying certain effects to photos. The Odyssey only ships with two lenses: Bing Search (used for scanning barcodes in stores for product details) and CNN's iReport. More are available in the Windows Phone Store.
There are plenty of settings available in the software for tweaking the behavior of the camera, such as setting the resolution, white balance, etc.
The Odyssey's 5-megapixel shooter captures average images. Some were good, some were OK, some were bad. My biggest complaint is exposure. It tended to blow out whites a lot, while leaving dark regions underexposed. Pictures also showed more grain than I'd care to see. Focus was often soft, as well. It is a passable camera at best.
The video camera produces much better results. The exposure and grain problems go away, and focus is improved as well. It shoots at a max resolution of 1080p HD, and I was overall pleased with my footage. I wouldn't use it for important events, but when you want to catch a spur-of-the-moment clip, it suffices.
The Pictures Hub is all about the community experience. It lets you easily upload images to Facebook, SkyDrive (Microsoft's photo upload service), Flickr, or send them along via MMS or email.
The native gallery app only offers a few editing tools, which are limited to crop, rotate, and "auto-enhance." All this does is fix exposure, white balance, color, etc. The Odyssey also comes with Samsung's Photo Editor app for those who like to spend time touching up their photos before sharing them. This separate app is a rich photo editor with a vast set of features that include crop, rotate, fix brightness, fix contrast, fix color, etc.
There are plenty of apps available to Windows Phone handsets in the Windows Phone Store. The Odyssey ships with a number of Verizon Wireless apps, such as My Verizon Mobile, NFL Mobile (which works really well), VZ Navigator, and Data Sense. This last one is my favorite, as it provides a real-time look at your monthly data usage and can be pinned to the Start screen. All of the Verizon apps can be deleted if you want to get rid of them.
The Odyssey paired easily with other Bluetooth devices, including mono and stereo headsets, and other computers. I thought phone calls routed through Bluetooth headsets sounded very good. Music also sounded great when sent to Bluetooth speakers.
Internet Explorer 10 is a solid browser for WP8 handsets, though the Android and iOS browsers have more features. On the Odyssey, IE10 worked perfectly. It was quick to render web sites and the tools include support for multiple tabs and pinning specific web pages to the home screen. The one problem is the screen, which sucks. Looking at web sites on the Odyssey's crummy display is no fun, and small text is illegible.
As with most smartphone platforms, the Odyssey has a nice digital clock on the lock screen, It also displays the day of the week and the date. I wish the clock were bigger — or at least customizable — but it is not. Thanks to the bright display, it’s pretty easy to see outdoors.
The GPS radio in the Odyssey met my expectations. It pinpointed me quickly and accurately no matter where I was. All Windows Phones now use the Nokia-made mapping product, which easily rivals Google Maps on Android handsets in terms of features and performance. My favorite feature is that you can download individual US states or other countries directly to the phone. They are then fully accessible when the device is offline. Downloading the maps also makes the GPS and Maps app perform faster because it doesn't need to talk to a server across the network.
The Odyssey also ships with VZ Navigator. Verizon's app behaves similar to the Android version, but is far outclassed by the native mapping product on the Odyssey. Feel free to waste $10 per month on VZ Navigator, but you'd be doing yourself a disservice.
Kids Corner is a new feature in WP8 that lets parents cordon off a special area of the phone for their kids. Basically, parents put the phone into a mode that only lets kids access certain apps and features, such as cameras and games. It's meant to prevent kids from wiping their parents' phone or emailing pictures to their entire inbox.
WP8 also has a Wallet app that can store credit/debit cards, loyalty cards, membership cards and so on, and works well with Bing to let you know what's around when it comes time to shop. These cards of course integrate with NFC and Isis. Right now, however, it is pretty limited to credit/debit cards, PayPal, and loyalty cards. It does not support boarding passess or Starbucks cards, for example.