Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Samsung Focus S

If the Samsung Galaxy S II is the king of all Android phones, then surely the Samsung Focus S is the king of all Windows Phones. At first glimpse it's nearly identical to the original Galaxy S II. It's plastic, it's the same shape and size, the cameras, speakers, chargers and headphone jacks are all in the same place. There's three soft keys at the bottom (compared to four on the U.S. version of the GSII) and the battery covers are almost identical as well. The buttons are even in the same place, save for the addition of a camera button on the bottom right side of the Focus S. So is it, truly, the king of all Windows Phones or is it just another one of the same? Find out what my thoughts are in my full review!

Windows Phone 7.5 Operating System
- 8 MP camera with single LED flash and 720 P video capture
- 1.4 GHz Snapdragon Processor
- 4.3" Super AMOLED Plus display
- Up to 6.5 hours of talk time
- 16 GB internal memory (no expandable memory)
- 4G HSPA+ enabled
- Samsung headphones with microphone included in box
- VERY slim profile (8.5 mm at it's thinnest point!)

The front top of the phone showing the front-facing camera and
the speaker
The Samsung Focus S was almost enough to win me over to Windows Phone 7 (WP7). The unfortunate truth is that I asked a WP7 expert who visited our store if there was going to be support for WiFi Hotspot on WP7 and his answer was no and he didn't know when there would be. This was a deal-breaker for me and I immediately ordered my Samsung Galaxy S II. Then, we released our first three WP7 phones and all three of them have WiFi Hotspot as a feature. Now, I have a Samsung Galaxy S II and have a severe case of, "The grass is always greener." I'm currently still using my Samsung Focus S because my experience thus far has been very positive.

There were some issues with the original Samsung Focus that were addressed with software updates, but until those software updates were installed it was a piece of junk. It was sad, really, because I liked the idea of WP7, I liked the setup and look of it, and I liked it when it worked, but it just didn't work all that well right away and was lacking some basic features (copy & paste, WiFi Hotspot, combined inbox, etc...) that made it a deal-breaker for me at the time. The Samsung Focus S seems like it had some more time in the oven, so to speak.

The typical three soft keys at the bottom of every Windows
Phone so far: "back" "home" and "search"
The first positive thing about it is that it carries the same series letter as the most loved Android phone of all time... the "S". That "S" is Samsung's special branding that tells you it's something special. To become part of Samsung's "S" series it takes more than good looks. A phone needs to perform exceedingly well and be at the top of it's class. It needs the best features, specifications, and hardware that Samsung has to offer. I know it may be a small letter at the end of the name, but to Samsung it's more than just a name, it's a brand. That's exactly what Samsung has created with it's "S" series of phones... a recognizable brand that it distinguished and set apart from all other phones, even it's own "other" phones.

If you were to remove the soft buttons at the bottom of the phone, the "Windows Phone" banner on the back, and the camera button, it would be almost as indistinguishable from the Galaxy S II as the iPhone 4 is from the 4S. I suppose Samsung took the, "If it works, don't fix it," approach and it seems it's paid off.

The phone performs exceeding well too. The 1.4 GHz single core processor switches smoothly between screens and opens apps with the greatest of ease. The only thing it had some problems with was my Slacker Radio application and that is the biggest data/processor hog I've come across on WP7 so far so it's understandable and even though it took a bit to load the application initially, it never tripped up once it was up and running. Windows must be doing a darn good job controlling the memory used by its operating system.

Battery, cover, and phone
The battery performed better than any other WP7 device I've used so far, including the much smaller Samsung Focus Flash. It was comparable to the Galaxy S II. Other WP7's I've used, like the HTC HD7S, were not very impressive when it came to battery life. This is important because Microsoft is wanting consumers to see their phones as "gaming" phones but since gaming using a very significant amount of battery life they must have a larger (or at least comparable) battery to support it. This is the first Windows Phone I've seen that lives up to that expectation. Making calls usually uses a significant amount of battery as well, and the Focus S was on par with other phones when it came to this as well. I was easily able to get a days worth of battery out of this phone with normal use and some light gaming. I, admittedly, had to plug it in part of the way through the day if I used it heavily for gaming, but this is no different with any other phone I've used.

The bottom of the phone, showing the Micro-USB charging and
syncing port, as well as the music/speakerphone speaker
With Windows 7.5 "Mango" coming pre-loaded on the phone it was a breeze to pull it out of the box and just start using it without having to perform updates. One thing that all WP7 phones are lacking is in the syncing feature. Every new phone you use has to be plugged into the computer and then you have to go through Microsoft's "Zune" application to sync music, video, and pictures. With Apple, when you switch to a new iPhone you plug in your new one and then it automatically pops up and asks you if you want to start it as a new phone or assign the new sync options to the new phone. This is nice because it saves a lot of time when syncing a new phone for the first time (about an hour or more, to be exact).

Storing this phone in your pocket is amazing! It's lightweight build and super skinny profile make it all but unnoticeable. It's one of those Samsung phones that you could easily forget is in your pocket until it rings... and that's just the way I like it.

The top of the phone, showing the 3.55 mm headphone jack
The 4.3" display is brilliant. There's no other way to put it. Samsung has been making some awesome displays with their Super AMOLED Plus technology and they continue to impress me with this phone. All the colors are accurate. Whites are white, blacks are black, and colors pop off the screen. This is the first Windows phone to include a Super AMOLED Plus screen so it's quite a treat for me to use. The closest thing Windows has had so far is the Focus Flash and that is only a Super AMOLED (no plus here) but still brilliant. Watching videos, viewing pictures, and playing high resolution games like Assassin's Creed HD and Earthworm Jim HD on the Focus S are very fun and look great too. It may seem like a small thing to some, but it definitely adds to the over-all experience and it does make a difference with the way you end up feeling about the phone.

The 8 MP Camera with LED flash
This is the best camera I've seen on a Windows Phone so far. I've been a fan of Samsung's 8 MP cameras that they've been including on their Android phones, and this is the same quality. A lot of the newer posts I've been doing have been taken with Samsung camera phones like the Samsung Galaxy S II and the Focus S. They end up being very good quality. While blowing them up isn't going to yield as good of results as with a normal digital camera with a higher megapixel count, it's still an amazing shot for everyday photos.

The keyborad gets some special attention here too because Windows Phone 7 has the best touch keyboard I've ever used on a phone. Sure, I prefer SWYPE and there's no SWYPE keyboard to be found on these phones, but it isn't a big deal with Windows Phones, especially the Samsung Focus S. The keyboard is intuitive it's hard to screw up words. If you do screw one up, it's easy to go back and highlight it with one tap and simply tap one of the recommended words instead. I recommend this phone for people who are going to be getting used to a touchscreen phone with a touchscreen keypad for the first time.

The right side of the phone, showing the camera button near the
bottom, and the power/lock button near the top.
Windows Phone has really stepped up their game with their new line of handsets they just released. The Samsung Focus Flash, the HTC Titan, and the Samsung Focus S are leading the way with larger screen, front facing cameras, higher megapixel cameras, and faster processors. Microsoft has done a very good job with necessary software enhancments for a better over-all user experience. Combined, I think these phones are going to go a long way.

With the snappiness of the operating system running with a Snapdragon processor, a good camera, and some solid social network integration, the Samsung Focus S is a great choice for kids who love gaming (XBox Live), professional buisness people (REAL Microsoft Office capabilities), teenagers (social network integration), and people who want something that is simple, straight-forward, and easy-to-use. It's a great pick for the holidays for just about anyone!

P.S. Don't tell my Samsung Galaxy S II this, but I've been carrying this thing around for a week and I may not be giving it back.

Volume buttons
The back cover on the phone, showing how thin it is

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