Samsung Focus Review

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Introduction and Design
Introduction:

In the PC market, Microsoft seemingly rules with an iron fist that still does not stand to be tested to this day since their products, namely Office and Windows 7, have become engrained into the everyday repertoire for consumers. Plus, they've been in that space for quite some time, and with Windows 7, it undoubtedly erased all of the unflattering after-thoughts of what the Windows Vista operating system brought to the table. In fact, they were able to swiftly change the perception of consumers regarding their PC platform thanks to their indelible determination to do right after receiving so much heat with their last desktop operating system.

Coincidentally, they faced a similar situation with Windows Mobile in the last few years after the iPhone was introduced and exposed some of the flaws with its interactivity. Unfortunately, Windows Mobile was unable to translate the experience from the desktop to a mobile device since it didn't feel natural – plus they literally brought the desktop feel to mobile; something that doesn't quite mesh together. Although Windows Mobile was a prominent figure in the early years of the smartphone era, it quickly showed off its age and lack of change after the rash of recent smartphone platforms started to rise.

Casting aside old habits, Microsoft decided that it was time to start from scratch and build a mobile platform from the ground up that would encompass the wide array of features that consumers want with a mobile device. Enter Windows Phone 7, yet another major mobile platform with big dreams, which is bringing its game to the table this time around to show off to the world what the Redmond based company is capable of achieving with their talents. Officially unveiled back in February during MWC, the wild ride has been long and the fruits of all their hard labor is now here for consumers to experience – unadulterated, filtered, and precise

Samsung is one of the prominent manufacturers on board with this wild ride which yet has any solid path to follow, but as we've seen before, they're no stranger when it comes to crafting wonderful smartphones. The Samsung Focus, priced at $199.99 with a contract, will begin to go on sale starting November 8th through AT&T and will provide customers the first tasting for the new platform. So without further ado, let's take a look at what this pretty-looking handset (and platform) has to offer.

Design:

Similar to the line of Samsung Galaxy S smartphones, the Samsung Focus exhibits all of those refinements we expect out of a high-end smartphone with this kind of caliber. Although its design doesn't necessarily strike a chord, since it doesn't break boundaries, we still nonetheless adore the overall look and feel of the device. Constructed out of glossy black plastic, the handset is extremely thin (0.35” thick) thanks to the Super AMOLED panel it employs while still retaining a sense of elegance with its chrome accented trim around most of its outline. And thanks to the plastic casing, it makes the somewhat larger sized smartphone still light weight (4.07 oz) feeling when held in the hand. Conversely, it'll easily attract fingerprints like no other while also being somewhat prone to some scratching when you place it into the unknown environment of your pockets. With the rear cover, it's still that same plastic material, but there are some angular cutouts and line designs that supplements its overall charming exterior. Construction wise, there is no arguing that it's still quite durable despite the less than exciting choice of utilizing a plastic exterior.


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You can compare the Samsung Focus with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

If it ain't broke, then don't fix it right? Well, that's the wise saying that Samsung decided to approach the Focus with since it follows accordingly with its 4” Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen. We've said it once, we've said it many times before, but Super AMOLED is by far one of the best display technologies on the market right now. Not only does it radiate some astounding and deep color tones, but it's supplemented with WVGA (480 x 800 pixels) resolution which naturally provides stellar picture quality. When stacking it up with the LCD display in use with the HTC Surround, you can easily see the vast difference in color reproduction with the Focus and its pure black level. Again thanks to the Super AMOLED tech, viewing angles on the Samsung Focus are perfect, but visibility in direct sunlight is not that good when compared to traditional LCD panels. Regardless of that, the eye candy it's able to exude will make your eyes melt. At the same time, it's responsive to the touch and we didn't experience any unusual happenings while interacting with the display.

We've checked out numerous handsets, which resort to using capacitive buttons, but the ones found on the Focus are spaced far enough from the display and one another to eliminate altogether any accidental presses. You'll find the back/previous button, Start key, and search below the display – and as we've noted, we didn't experience any of those annoying mis-presses with them. All in all, you've got a clean looking surface which doesn't have any hindering obstructions jutting out of nowhere.


On the left side of the phone, you'll just find the decently sized volume rocker which is also slightly raised and offering some modest feedback when pressed.

On the right edge, you've got the dedicated power button, which is still not as natural as most others that are found on the top side, and a two-level shutter key.

Checking out the top, the 3.5mm headset jack and microUSB port, which is hidden behind a sliding panel, are all snug and close to one another.




Flipping to its rear, the 5-megapixel auto-focus camera with LED flash are surrounded with a tasteful trim outline while the notches for the speakerphone are not too far from it. Removing the rear cover is accomplished by simply yanking it off from the bottom side – which then provides you access to the SIM card slot, battery, and microSD card slot.



Samsung Focus 360 Degrees View:





Interface:

So here we are finally witnessing the all encompassing reality of Microsoft's next-gen mobile platform, which, like most other big launches prior to this one, will be inspected from head to toe in an attempt to see how it compares or improves upon the current standing crop of competition. If there is one thing we have to say about Windows Phone 7 more than anything else, it has to be that it's extremely quick – and we mean exquisitely one of the most responsive platforms to date. The Samsung Focus itself is running a 1GHz Snapdragon processor under the hood as opposed to a customary Hummingbird chipset, but regardless of that, it's still able to fly without no problems. Windows Phone 7 relies heaving on using various transition effects and animations to provide the end user an experience that's consistently uplifting.

At its core, the Metro UI provides a standard look and feel for the entire platform – which obviously translates to a unified experience that doesn't change from handset to handset. Depending on your taste, you might build a liking for the Metro UI since it employs a custom made Microsoft font which purposely allows words to run off the screen – so you'll have to do some scrolling left/right to completely read it. Think of it more like a homescreen with 3 or 4 panels to move through; that's what the Metro UI feels like. By default, the Focus is set to a black color scheme, which we attribute to battery optimization, but thankfully you'll have your choice of colors to choose from. Again, the consistency is there when you choose a specific color theme since it'll echo throughout the various hubs and applications on the smartphone.

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When you first gaze at Windows Phone 7, you'll be looking straight at its homescreen which consists of various square and rectangular tiles (Live Tiles), whith some being dynamic, while others simply static. For example, the “People” tile will continuously loop various contact photos, which of course adds to the general appeal to the platform. Another, the “Me” tile will aggregate a variety of content, like status messages and recently uploaded photos to Facebook, which provides even more eye candy to the platform. Now the homescreen is only visible in portrait mode, and as you play around with other hubs and apps, you will quickly take note that it will only support portrait orientation. You can add additional tiles, like a contact or an app, by essentially “pinning” them – which can generally be done by long pressing a specific item in the Start menu or other applications (or bookmarks). Unfortunately, the system dictates the size of the tiles and there is no way to set it manually – so that means some hubs/apps will get more love with their rectangular size than others.


Social networking is undoubtedly going to be the heart and soul that enables us to personalize the device to our liking, while at the same time, allowing us to check up on the most important people in our lives. Similar to what we saw with the KIN platform, Windows Phone 7 ties in closely with Facebook and Windows Live, but unfortunately Twitter is out of the mix – for now. When you set up your social networking accounts, it'll automatically try its best to link existing contacts with the respective Facebook/Windows Live account. When you run the “People” Hub, it'll be the centralized area for you to get acquainted with the most up-to-date news surrounding your friends. You can view photos they've posted to their wall, see status messages, like something, and even reply with a comment. However, it still doesn't feel as tightly integrated as we'd like compared to other mobile platforms. Sure you can post your own status message directly in the “Me” hub, but it doesn't offer things like uploading a picture to a friend's wall or sharing web sites on your wall. Of course, this additional functionality will hopefully be integrated with future update, but for now, it does a decent job with it.


Notifications are accompanied by sound, and the different Live Tiles will let you know if there something new that you should be aware of. For example, an email inbox tile can display the number of unread messages that you have. With the lock-screen, the system continues to categorize a variety of notifications so you'll know exactly what they pertain to – like a Yahoo! email, text message, or Hotmail email.

Since there is a sense of linearity with Windows Phone 7, everything you do with the handset is recorded accordingly as you go – meaning that clicking the back/previous button will go to the previous thing you were doing. There is no full multi-tasking support available, but the back/previous button proves to come in handy in situations when you're trying to juggle a variety of things. For example, we found that while running the preview of the official Twitter client, clicking a link in a tweet will open up the web browser, but when you click the back/previous button, it'll essentially bring you back to the state you were in previously in the Twitter app.



Phonebook:

When settingup the phone for the very first time, it'll ask you to set up youremail and social networking accounts. The platform will be able to syncexisting contacts with Facebook, Windows Live, and Gmail. Although it'snot perfect, Windows Phone 7 does its best in linking all of yourcontacts together, but thankfully you can manually link items yourself.You can add additional contacts to the handset within the “People” Hub,and much like other competing platforms, it offers a wide array ofdetailed information that can be associated with each person. Fromphone numbers to email addresses, it'll offer the bare essentials aswell as unique ones like anniversary dates and significant others.Since there is no universal search, you can launch the “People” hub andhit the magnifying glass to look for a specific contact. You canessentially add as many contacts that the phone's memory can hold.


Youcan access voice dialing, which upon other things can perform a varietyof actions from opening apps or performing a web search, by simplyperforming a long press with the Start button. Surprisingly, the clientworks rather well in recognizing specific actions like “Call Joemobile” and we didn't find too many times that it faltered.

Sincethe Windows Phone 7 experience is going to be consistent with eachdevice, which is good in a way, there are no customizations to be foundlike the various skins we see employed on Android. However, the Focusincludes Samsung's very own “Now” hub which is quite similar to theDaily Briefing widget for their Samsung Galaxy S handsets. Afterlaunching it, you'll be presented with some pertinent information likethe weather, news, and stocks. Meanwhile, you can customize it furtherby setting up the hub to display what specific news category or stockquotes you want. It's nice of course, but it would've been even betterif it could somehow interact within the tile on the homescreen – likedisplaying the current temperature. Unfortunately, it's locked down toprovide a unified experience across all smartphones running theplatform.





Organizer:

Just like syncing contacts, you can sync your calendar from Gmail and Windows Live – but there is no love for other clients like Yahoo. The Calendar app, it'll allow you to see you daily agenda, which breaks down your schedule to an hour by hour basis. In addition, you can also jump to seeing the month view which will display in text some of your upcoming events, however, it's very tiny and difficult to make out – so clicking the specific date will get you to see it a bit better. When it comes down to adding a new appointment, it offers all the bare essentials like the location, time, and reminder. Plus, your appointments are color coded between your synced calendars to provide a little bit of organization when viewing your entire calendar. Although Windows Phone 7 might be more in line as a consumer end product right now, it still manages to retain some elements geared for business customers with its ability to setup Exchange Server on the device.



Messaging:

Following to the tooth with its overall responsive nature, we are happy to say that the messaging experience on the Focus is a fantastic one – even more when it's well endowed with some real estate for your fingers. You won't have to worry about getting confused with lengthy conversations when messaging someone because they are displayed in threaded view. We particularly adore the responsive and accurate feel of the on-screen keyboard – both portrait and landscape. However, buttons are all evenly sized and the landscape option doesn't take advantage of the extra room. Nevertheless, speedy typers will in fact jump for joy with its quick response as you begin typing – which even will present you some word options above the keyboard in its attempt to figure out what you're typing. Auto-correct is on board and we were more than amazed to find it working extremely well as we casually typed something up. When you think about some of the best on-screen keyboards out there, the one found with Windows Phone 7 is definitely up there as it'll perfectly adjust to the needs of any heavy users out there.


Email setup is pretty much a simple process nowadays with most modern mobile platforms since you'll only be required to provide an email address and password for it to set up. We were able to get some generic clients to load up without any problems, but others like our PhoneArena email, require additional information like server addresses to complete. For starters, there is no unified or universal inbox, but all your email accounts are placed in the homescreen with their tiles. If you happen to receive a message, it'll display the amount of unread messages in their respective tiles. Additionally, emails aren't displayed in threaded view, so that means you'll have to look through some long lists for any backtracking of conversations. When clicking to the left of an email, it initiates the process of selecting multiple emails, which can then be moved or deleted. Of course you can do the same thing when you actually click and read it, but this does present a good way of getting rid of multiple ones. Aside from those items, the experience is pretty much what you would expect it to be.



If there is one item that's sorely missing with the platform, it has to be an integrated instant messaging client. In fact, there isn't even one for Windows Live Messenger, which is something that one would expect from a Microsoft-built platform. However, it's worth assuming for right now that some kind of third party one will most likely become available in the Windows Marketplace for Mobile. But from a stock experience point of view, it's almost hard to see an always connected platform like Windows Phone 7 to omit one.

Connectivity & Data:

The Samsung Focus won't disappoint world travelers since it's a quad-band GSM (850/900/1800/1900MHz) and tri-bands UMTS (850/1900/2100MHz) device – meaning that it'll work in a majority of locations around the globe. If you happen to find yourself in a sticky predicament where you're at a loss with connectivity, the Focus also features Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, and aGPS.

Pocket Internet Explorer was never a major hit in the Windows Mobile scene, and at the same time, its age was exposed thanks to the eclectic mix of feature that competing mobile browsers exhibited. However, this isn't your ordinary Internet Explorer since it offers one of the most satisfying experiences to date that we have witnessed. Although it might not have Flash support from the onset, Internet Explorer blows away most of the competition in terms of responsiveness, fluidity, and rendering. We are just utterly amazed at how quick it's able to load pages and execute kinetic scrolling without any hint of slowdown whatsoever. Multi-touch gestures are naturally in place to cap the experience so that you can zoom in or out via pinching motions. With WVGA resolution on board, the smallest of text is easily legible with its 4” display. At the same time, you can load up to 6 different tabs which will load content in the background in real time. It's hands down one of the most gratifying web experiences we've seen in a phone.





Camera:

When looking at the “Pictures” tile on the homescreen, you'll commonly find it changing photos every now and then – giving it that dynamic look each and every time. The “Pictures” hub is broken down to  your most recent shots, images posted by friends in their social networking account, and categories. Once you get into the gallery, it's further broken down to your camera roll and any albums found with your social networking account. For example, it'll compile all of your profile photos for Facebook conveniently within the “Pictures” hub. Meanwhile, you can view all of your photos by simply swiping – which we have to say is fluid of course. In addition, you can zoom in/out by using the all too obvious pinching gestures. Regrettably, Windows Phone 7 lacks any editing functions directly within the image gallery – so you'll most likely have to find an alternative app solution for that. However, there is a share function that will let you send a photo as a picture message, an attachment in an email, or upload it directly to SkyDrive or Facebook.


The camera interface on the Focus can be accessed instantly by either clicking the icon in the Start menu or more easily by pressing down the shutter key. As for the interface, it's very straightforward and uncluttered so you can get a solid view of what you're trying to take without any distraction. On the right side, you'll find a toggle switch for video/photo mode, the digital zoom control, and the settings icon. If you swipe over the left area of the camera interface, you'll essentially find yourself scrolling through the list of content you've taken with the phone – which is nice in quickly previewing your shots. Just like most other Samsung smartphones, there is a a decent mix of settings you can choose from to better adjust to the conditions you're shooting in. You'll have the pick of the litter in setting the white balance, image effect, contrast, saturation, sharpness, ISO, and even the option to turn on wide dynamic range. Without a doubt, these available options will of course satisfy any photo-centric individuals out there. But if there is one gripe we have with the interface, it has to be that it doesn't save the settings you've made. So that means it'll reset each time whenever you exit out of the applications – so you'll essentially have to manually set it to turn off the flash each and every time; annoying!


Shooting an image can be accomplished by slightly holding down the shutter key to allow it to focus, and then pressing it all the way down to take the shot. Since the photo settings are always reset when you exit the app, we decided to test it out simply as any point and shoot without messing with the options – so it's default to medium sharpness, contrast, and saturation. Outdoor shots in decent to good lighting dished up some great looking visuals with their fair amount of sharp details combined with natural color tones. However, it did exceptionally well with macro shots as it's able to capture plenty of detail with an object that's 4-inches away from its lens. Indoors though in good lighting conditions, it's capable to capturing some equally stunning shots with its spot on color tones and detail filled image quality – without any adulterated noise whatsoever, of course. Not ending there just yet, its LED flash brilliantly illuminates the scenery without sacrificing too much of its performance – which is evident in its neutral color tones. In the end, the Focus does a fine job in taking some much wanted photos worth saving on paper as opposed to simply viewing them on a display.



As with other high-end devices, the Focus has the ability to shoot 720p for all your high definition needs. Sure it's annoying to always find it default to shooting VGA videos upon starting up the application, but after a couple of button presses, you can start shooting in high definition. Naturally there is plenty of detail to be seen with its videos, but you can tell there is a slight jerky movement to it – which is probably due to its capture rate of 23fps - which stays consistent in all lighting conditions. However, capturing video in environments with poor lighting doesn't do justice with its muddy looking quality. But if there is something that we truly adore, and is rarely found with other phones, it has to be the fact that it employs continuous auto-focus throughout your shooting. Meaning, it'll automatically focus in on an object at any distance from the camera – so that everything will always look clear and in focus; something that's rarely seen in any phone thus far. All in all, you can't go wrong with the video recording prowess with the Samsung Focus, but as its name implies, it does well in keeping all your wonderful creations in tip-top focused shape.

Samsung Focus Sample Video 1:



Samsung Focus Sample Video 2:



Multimedia:

If music is your forte, you'll find Windows Phone 7's integration of Zune to be exquisitely joyful since it offers one of the best presentations we've seen on any music player. When running the “Music + Videos” hub, which is Zune in all of its glory, you can select music and it will further break down your library by artists, albums, songs, playlists, and genres. After making a song selection, it'll display the associated album cover, track information, and a few on-screen controls. However, we like how the whole presentation is further complemented with the background image being downloaded of the respective artist. Also, the background image within the “Zune” hub, as well as the tile on the homescreen, will change to the downloaded image. It's this kind of slick elements that makes the overall presentation of the music player so intricately different from everything else out there in the market.


When going back to the homescreen, the song will naturally continue to play in the background, but you can access the mini player by pressing the volume rocker. If you happen to turn off the display and turn it back on, it'll still show the mini player at the lock screen – so you'll always have full control of your tunes. In terms of audio quality from its speaker, it's able to muster up some strong tones that thankfully didn't crackle at the highest levels. Some of the supported formats include MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, WAV, and AMR.


If you're looking to purchase additional tunes onto your handset, you can get your fix with the Zune Marketplace which holds a cornucopia of songs. Ranging in pricing, you can instantly purchase a song and download it right away over the air – which is then charged directly to your phone bill. We adore the fact that Zune encompasses every aspect with their songs since you can search for various albums from a specific artist and even read their accompanying bio – all without navigating away from the hub. Though, we're saddened to find that Zune Pass is not offered with the device, but hopefully will become a staple down the road with some future update. If you're not familiar with Zune Pass, it's basically a monthly streaming service that enables subscribers to listen to as many tunes as they please in their vast catalog.


With some high flying specs in tow with the Samsung Focus, it seemingly would be a great candidate in the video playback experience. Without much effort, the smartphone is able to to play a movie trailer encoded in MPEG-4 1280 x 720 resolution. And thanks to its stunning looking Super AMOLED display, it's probably one of the most conducive devices to watch videos as they casually run without any hint of slowdown, while still throwing out some deep and lush colors for your eyes to drool over. Finally, the handset is equipped in dealing with videos encoded in MPEG4, H.263, H.264, and WMV.


Seeing that the Samsung Focus is one rich media centric smartphone, it manages to pack 8GB on internal storage for all your needs. However, it does come with an open microSD card slot, which isn't exactly hot swappable. In fact, it's basically used as an extension of the phone's internal memory. Specifically, you can essentially shove a 32GB microSD card into the slot and will offer a tally of 40GB of total phone storage – not 8GB of internal and 32GB on the microSD card itself; it just sees it as one whole.



Software:

Like we witness on many occasions, AT&T manages to pack in a healthy amount of carrier branded apps with the Samsung Focus. Although we love seeing AT&T Navigator on board, which offers the striking figure of voice guided turn-by-turn directions, it's hard to say the same for some of the others. Some of them include AT&T FamilyMap, AT&T myWireless, AT&T Radio, and AT&T U-verse Mobile – the latter of which allows subscribers to browse U-verse TV content on the handset. So if you're big on watching television, AT&T U-verse mobile will provide you that satisfaction of scheduling and managing DVR recordings. Aside from that, all of the other AT&T branded apps are just like the what you find on other handsets.



Not as close close to the level of innovation seen with mature map applications like Ovi Maps or Google Maps, Bing Maps for Windows Phone 7 offers the most basic of functions – which can be seen as a turn off for some that are used to the intricate dealings with the competition. There's no arguing that browsing the map is a quick and responsive experience; and we especially like the cloud-like animation as it renders the map to reveal more detail. You'll have the ability to find your exact location, search for points of interests, and even get some directions. Naturally, you'll also be treated to things like aerial and traffic view, but it still pales in comparison to the wealth of features found with rival map applications – like street view. As we've noted earlier, Bing Maps does not offer voice guided turn-by-turn directions, so that means you'll have to rely on a third party source like AT&T Navigator for that. Directions though, you're only limited to driving and walking – so that means no mass transit or bicycle directions just yet. When you perform a search on the map, the result will enable you to obtain pertinent information regarding it, reviews (if applicable), and also some nearby businesses to it. Yes, Bing Maps does show off its relatively new offering, but as with most things, it will most likely be refined with each installment.

Upon clicking the "me" icon, the map instantly pans out to a zoomed out view and eventually zooms into our general location which is displayed as a yellow dot on the map surrounded by a larger gray circle. It surely didn't take long for it to get a fix onto our location; like 5 seconds which is surprisingly good since it was the first thing we did after doing a cold boot with the handset. Mind you that when we did this indoors, it inevitably obtained our exact coordinates in a matter of less than 15 seconds.



One brand value proposition that Windows Phone 7 clearly has riding on its back is the fact that it integrates with XBOX Live – providing that missing link when you're not tearing it up on the console side. Since the Samsung Focus is one armed handset with some strong hardware under its hood, it didn't flinch one bit as we downloaded and played a game. With the “Games” hub, it'll enable you to sign in with your XBOX Live account and see your very own avatar on the phone, see any friend requests, and view all the latest collection of games. Now the great thing about downloading games is that you'll have the option of “trying” it out before making that sometimes difficult purchase – which can lead to buyers remorse. Although a majority of the titles right off the bat might not exude the high flying action games seen with the standalone console, we'll slowly begin to see some games fitting for both platforms which will allow you to start playing it on the XBOX 360, and then continue the fun on the go with the Samsung Focus.



When you press on the search button, it'll launch Bing Search which acts as it should in obtaining relevant searches. The background with it will change occasionally and will add some insightful concepts to the mix. Specifically, there are some squares that you can see which will provide a relevant search to the associated background image with Bing Search. So if you're ever bored and wanted to read about something random, you can tap on any of the boxes for some time killing. Meanwhile, specific search queries are broken down to the web, local, and news.

What's a smartphone without a centralized area for apps? Well, the Windows Phone 7 powered Samsung Focus has the “Marketplace” hub which will provide owners the opportunity to download apps onto the handset. General to all Windows Phone 7 devices, the categories are broken down to apps, games, and music. However, there is a section specific to the Focus aptly named the “Samsung Zone” which will allow you to download apps exclusive to Samsung. The main panel within the “Marketplace” hub will also display any updates required for existing apps on the handset – most of which are downloaded over the air, while larger sized ones require a Wi-Fi connection. The general Marketplace categorizes apps into specific things like games, entertainment, music & video, lifestyle, news & weather, sports, health & fitness, finance, travel, navigation, social, productivity, tools, business, and books & reference. When you select a specific title, it'll provide details regarding it – like screenshots, overview, and reviews.



Without any question, it's only fitting to find Microsoft Office integration with the Samsung Focus. It's not something new, especially when it's the a common staple among Windows Mobile Professional devices, but of course will be looked on more intently now that it's making an appearance on a new platform. You'll be able to read Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files on the go, plus the added benefit of editing them as well (except for PowerPoint). Seeing that it's always a nice feature to quickly write up a new Word document or Excel workbook, there are some basic formatting options you can enable. But when you compare them to the offering seen with Windows Mobile, it doesn't exactly include all of the formatting options you'd expect. Sure you can highlight, bold, italicize, and change the font color, but it's missing things like bulleting and manual indentation alignment. However, it still retains some of those basic elements that will allow users to start off a new document – while saving the rest for later use with a desktop. If you happen to use SharePoint Workspace, you can even have the ability to view, edit, and download stored documents on Microsoft SharePoint Sever 2010.






Performance:

Calling quality is pretty decent with the Samsung Focus despite voices heard through the earpiece sounding hissy in tone towards the end of sentences, but thankfully, its near deafening tone makes it relatively adjustable in comprehending conversations without much fault. On the other side of the line, our callers did say that our voice sounded mute, but still manageable in hearing our words. Finally, the speakerphone is able to produce some loud tones, which can sometimes sound strained, but still handles well in providing distinguishable conversations. 

During our testing, the handset performed admirably in maintaining a solid connection to the handset with no evidence of extreme fluctuations in signal strength in the greater Philadelphia region.

It surely has to be attributed to Super AMOLED technology because the Samsung Focus is a champ in the battery life department after putting out over 18 hours of life after a single full charge – and that's 18 hours of heavy usage. Naturally, we had brightness set to automatic and consistently used the handset to do a heavy amount of web browsing and text messaging in that span. It'll easily obtain the standard one day mark for users who are a little bit more lax with usage, but nonetheless, the Focus obtains some high marks over the competition. The manufacturer has it rated for 6.5 hours of talk and 300 hours of standby time.

Conclusion: 

It's rather difficult to say whether or not this is indeed a make or break opportunity for the Redmond based company – especially when they're sitting on huge amounts of money taken in from their PC venture. Placing that to the side, it's a sobering fact that Microsoft has been steadily losing visibility in the mobile space in just the course of the last 3 years. Sure Windows Mobile had some humbling beginnings in the early days of the smartphone era, but things change almost in a heartbeat. And unfortunately for them, they were unable to adapt to the rapid changes in the industry to keep the light shining down upon them – thus giving up precious market share to the likes of Apple's iOS, Google's Android, and RIM's BlackBerry.

Casting off all of their previous reputations, we're happy to say that Microsoft has done an impeccable job in becoming a relevant figure in the mobile space once again with Windows Phone 7. Naturally, there are a lot of expectations on their shoulders, but for something that's running on first-generation devices, the mobile platform quickly captures some noteworthy attention thanks to its dynamic presentation which is tastefully supplemented with some ridiculously fast speeds. There's no arguing that they have a hit on their hands, but it's going to take some serious refinements in getting the platform on par with the diverse offerings seen with other mature platforms. Of course it's not quite as complete in all key areas, but its level of presentation finally sheds that whole notion of using a stylus for navigation as it seamlessly adapts to an all touch figure.

Ultimately, the Samsung Focus might not be the biggest and baddest device we've seen to date, but it shouldn't be this time around, because the attention is best reserved for Windows Phone 7. Granted though it does offer some pretty decent hardware, such as the 1GHz Snapdragon chipset and gorgeous 4” Super AMOLED display, which does well in showing off all of the glitzy eye candy that WP7 has to offer the end user. This well rounded device might not steal the show with its hardware showcasing, but it's undoubtedly Microsoft's wonderful looking and adaptive mobile platform that places the spotlight on them. Well done indeed.

Software version of the reviewed unit: 7.0.7004.0

Samsung Focus Video Review:





Pros

  • Brilliant Super AMOLED display
  • Long battery life for such a smartphone
  • Great responsiveness with WP7
  • Dynamic aspects of the homescreen
  • Zune integration
  • Accurate on-screen keyboard

Cons

  • Not yet a fully mature platform
  • Plastic casing that scratches easily

PhoneArena Rating:

8.5

User Rating:

9.2
25 Reviews

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