Samsung Focus Review: WP7 Smartphone

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Samsung focus performance 1

Samsung and Microsoft, from the ashes of Windows Mobile, have conjured up the Windows Phone 7 OS with the AT&T Samsung Focus. This smartphone shows off the new eye-candy mobile OS. The new Samsung Focus, thin like the iPhone 4 and built-in with powerful hardware, does Windows Phone 7 proud. It is the standalone handset for AT&T that has a brighter, thinner and more colorful 4-inch Super AMOLED display. But, do all these eye-catching attributes and eye-catching design perform well with WP7 in tow? Let’s find out.

Design (4 out of 5)

Samsung focus for design

Design wise, the Samsung Focus looks a lot like the Samsung Galaxy S smartphones. The handset, sporting an all touchscreen design like the Fascinate, weighs 4.2oz and is 0.4 inches thick. It measures 4.9 x 2.6 x 0.4 inches. It feels lighter and slimmer as compared to the HTC Surround, but is also a bit more slick and plastic feeling, at the same time. That means that the smartphone is not only cheap or fragile, but is very robust as well.

The super AMOLED WVGA display of the Samsung Focus measures 4 inches, and offers up to 480 x 800 pixels resolution. With a typical WP7 button configuration, the Samsung Focus sports a dedicated Windows button and the back and Search buttons. Plus, there is a volume rocker, a power button and the camera shutter along the edges of the phone. Moreover, the metal strip running along the phone’s edges adds an elegant touch.

So, on the design front, the Samsung Focus deserves 4 out of 5.

User Interface (3 out of 5)

Samsung Focus Interface

Windows Phone 7 doesn’t just bring a whole new dimension, it proves to be a headache as well owing to its new way of handling navigation. Though the lock screen (with date and time shown on it), future appointments on the calendar, missed calls as well as message notifications are usual; the home screen or start screen is the point where users might get confused.

Either a rectangular tile or two square-shaped WP7 tiles beautify the start screen. Further there are rows that are filled up by these tiles and can be scrolled in an up-down direction. These live tiles display status updates, images and messages. All that users have to do is find the stuff, such as people, places and functions on the main menu which they want and hold them to get started. However, despite the uniqueness of the tiles, WP7 fails to wow us the way Symbian^3 or the Android OS configuration do.

Besides that the Samsung Focus has an arrow on the top portion of the start screen. Just tap on that or swipe it to the left to get to the main menu. Small icons and alphabetized lists characterize the main menu. Well, alphabetized it may be, but it doesn’t allow for indexing, meaning you may have to scroll a long way to reach the specific application. The phone offers smooth scrolling. Also, only the tiled start screen displays the status, not the main menu.

Further, the Samsung Focus also boasts of a People application that not only stores all of your contacts from a range of social networks but keeps you updated with your friend’s status as well. With a superb indexing system and immediate result-yielding search button, the phone addresses the issues of being connected to friends and family.

So, the smooth interface of the Focus gets it 3.5 out of 5.

Features (4 out of 5)

Samsung focus

Features wise, the WP7-based Samsung Focus doesn’t disappoint its owners. Powered by a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the phone sports a 5MP camera with 720p video recording capability and LED Flash. The camera too has ISO settings adjustment, anti-shake and a number of metering modes. The phone also boasts of RAM of 512MB, and an internal storage capacity of 8GB, which can additionally be expanded to 40GB by adding a 32GB MicroSD card. Plus, the superb connectivity is ensured by Bluetooth, Wi-Fi b/g/n and GPS.

Besides that, compatibility with Microsoft’s Zune Pass makes the handset the most-wanted among music buffs. The AT&T Radio application allows access to a wide number of genres. Users can easily organize their music by downloading the Zune client on their PC. The phone also supports threaded messaging, picture messages and insertion of pictures into regular texts.

Browsing on Internet Explorer is great with fast loading of pages and full interaction even before the pages are fully loaded. Plus, the Multi-touch zoom, clicking on links and opening multiple windows (up to 6) is wonderful.

For its features, Samsung Focus earns 4 out of 5.

Performance (3 out of 5)

Focus performance

The Samsung Focus is a great phone as far as its calling capacity is concerned. Apart from the clear, crisp and loud call reception, the mobile phone offers the invincible support and reception of AT&T’s 3G network. The speakerphone works decently, but there is a little distraction in the case of a remote caller.

For an entry-level user, switching over to the start screen helps sometimes, but for those who smoothly operate smartphones, it’ll be quite annoying. The phone also disappoints the social-networking freaks as it does not send any alert for new updates. The phone supports Facebook and Windows Live, but not Twitter, and the Slacker Radio stops working if a new notification is opened.

Wi-Fi status, battery status and 3G connectivity are displayed only when the time-displaying status bar is tapped on. Though 1400Kbps for downloading data isn’t enough to compete with the other models in the market, the mobile phone registers faster Wi-Fi.

In terms of messaging, the Focus is pretty decent and the best part of it is the email app that keeps users notified about any new message in the inbox. However, a quick view on all the folders would have been much better here. The virtual keyboard is quite accurate in performance. Had there been support for Skype or any such third-party application, it would have been great.

The Samsung Focus allows access for quite a good number of Microsoft Marketplace apps and the Xbox Live integration is great for gamers but the numbers are not as good as in Android-enabled phones or the iPhone. So far as the camera is concerned, it is not as good as the one in the Nokia N8, but is considerable with accurate focus, flash and recording of 720p videos. The Samsung Focus offers a talktime of 3 hours and standby time of 10 days.

Thus, performance-wise, the phone deserves 3.5 out of 5.

Verdict (4 out of 5)

All said and done, the Samsung Focus is a good enough handset, especially for those entry-level players who like to flaunt their devices. With a slim look, elegant appeal and unique ways of handling functions, the phone wins the hearts. Besides, the price tag of just $199.99 does give you a reason to think about it.

On the whole, the phone scores 4 out of 5.

Check out the Top Five Windows Phone 7 Handsets for a few alternatives.