Samsung Focus Review
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:
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.