Saturday, December 10, 2011

Samsung Focus Flash

Windows has finally made a bit of an imprint on the smartphone market. They released Windows Phone 7 in November 2010 and now that it's been a year they've come out with some major updates to the operating system that have drastically improved the experience. Now, they've come out with hardware to support the software they've vested so much time into. The smallest of these is the Samsung Focus Flash, a low-end smartphone that comes pre-loaded with Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango). It's pocket-sized body, brilliant screen, and quick processor make it a very approachable phone for those who are short on cash and still want a smartphone experience. So how does it compare to other lower-end smartphones on the market? Find out in the full review after the break.

- Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) operating system
- 5 MP camera with LED flash and 720p video recording, VGA front-facing camera
- 1.4 GHz Qualcomm processor
- 3.7" Super AMOLED display
- Up to 6.5 hours of talk time
- 8 GB of internal memory (not expandable)
- 4G HSPA+ enabled

- Low price doesn't equate to "cheap" in this case. Solid hardware and specs for what you pay for it.
- Comes pre-loaded with the latest version of WP7, so there's no updates necessary.
- Brilliant display. Because of the smaller screen size, the Super AMOLED screen gives the same experience as a Super AMOLED Plus screen does on a bigger phone.
- Pocket-sized (and I mean it actually fits into those "pockets" of the jeans that girls wear and it's comfortable to use for people who don't have bear paws like I do)

- WP7 is still very much an "early adopters" market, i.e. the marketplace doesn't have nearly as many apps as the Android market or the Apple Appstore. Words with Friends won't work here...
- No expandable memory. This is a downfall because it's one of the few tools companies can use to lure people away from the iPhone and WP7 hasn't taken advantage of it yet.
- Software updates, just like the iPhone, have not gone wireless yet. Again, something that Android has over iPhone is the fact that you don't have to constantly hook it up to a computer to get updates and WP7 hasn't taken advantage of this yet either.

The power/lock button on the top right of the phone
Well, let's get started shall we? The Focus Flash... a 2nd generation Samsung Windows phone, sharing the same name as the best-selling Windows phone to date, the original Samsung Focus. Although the phone comes bearing the same name as the original the similarities stop there. Physical attributes are more reminiscent of the Samsung Captivate, an Android phone also known as the original Samsung Galaxy S. The tapered edges and metal cover on the back (or at least, partially metal) are more similar to that phone than the original Focus, although the screen size is nothing like either. The buttons are in the same place that Samsung has decided to put all their buttons in - lock/power button on the right top of the phone and volume rocket on the left top. It has a physical "start" button whereas most other Windows phones have a soft key in place of that. The back button and the search button are still soft keys, however. The phone is light, and although it's fatter than the Samsung Focus or the Samsung Focus S, it's smaller over-all size makes it less noticeable in the bottom of your purse or pocket.

Samsung has become known for their brilliant displays on their smartphones. This display is no exception. While watching videos, the small display does them justice where color and light are concerned. The small size is less attractive than the bigger Galaxy S phones or the Focus S, but it quality is never lacking. It seems to "focus" in on videos and pictures very well. :-)

The physical start button in the middle and the back and search
soft keys
Apps ran smoothly with the 1.4 GHz processor powering them. Multi-tasking and switching between screens and apps was smooth and I was rarely able to trip the phone up. I've noticed that although none of the Windows Phones released to-date have a dual-core processor inside them, this phone, as well as the HTC Titan and the Samsung Focus S runs every bit as smooth as Android phones that do sport a dual-core processor. It would seem that all those years of Microsoft programming experience pays off with a more efficient operating system that requires less computing power to perform the same tasks... but this is just me speaking, of course... If this is true, however, Microsoft would have a very big advantage: they would be able to use smaller processors that require less battery power while still using more powerful batteries - extending the battery life considerably. Now, however, it seems this has not been taken advantage of because the battery life in the phone is mediocre.

The camera next to the speaker and the LED flash
The camera is a standard 5 MP phone camera but, like every other Windows 7 phone, it has a physical camera button that allows the user to go straight to the camera and easily take a one-handed picture.Quality is on-par with the likes of the Blackberry Bold 9900, the HTC Status and the iPhone 4. I did see some problems when trying to take pictures of moving objects and the camera flash tended to leave people looking like they'd never seen the sun before, rather than actually showing the object better. In short, it won't be winning any picture contests, but it gets the job done.

Battery life is comparable to many other smartphones on the market. I was easily able to get a day's use out of it, but you'll want to be plugging it in every night if you plan on making it through the next day.

The volume rocker on the top left of the phone
Windows 7.5 integrates with the phone nicely. I can picture a younger audience liking the phone for the XBox Live gaming capabilities, the small size, and the social network integration. It's tempting to talk more about that here, but my Windows Phone 7.5 review covers it well. The phones smaller size will make it more appealing to a female audience, although there should be no shame in a man taking this smaller sized phone if there's budget problems or if bigger ones are a little too much. For me, the screen size is a deal-breaker and so is the camera so I would opt for the more expensive Samsung Focus S or HTC Titan. Over-all, it's a good little phone with a lot to offer for a very affordable price-point.

Front-facing camera and talk speaker bar


Battery, batter cover, phone without a battery (pictured in that order)

Battery cover

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