Considered to be one of the better Windows Phone 7 handsets, the Samsung Focus (available from Rogers for $49.99 on a three-year-plan) brings many of the best features of Samsung's popular Galaxy S line to Microsoft's new mobile operating system.
Thinnest WP7 Device
With a large and bright 4" inch Super AMOLED screen that's protected by durable Gorilla Glass, powered by a 1Ghz Snapdragon processor and 512MB of RAM as well as 8GB of storage (expandable to 40GB), the Samsung Focus is a fast, responsive and capable smartphone.
The large screen is something to behold, offering stunning colour and clarity, even at the lowest brightness settings.
Despite having a larger screen, the Focus is the thinnest Windows Phone on the market today with 0.39" inches thickness. I found it to be extremely light; at 110 grams, it feels almost as if it doesn't have a battery.
The Focus also features a full assortment of sensors, including a digital compass, proximity and ambient light sensors, and a three-axis accelerometer that makes the smartphone a superb gaming device for motion controlled Xbox Live mini-games.
Connectivity options are abundant with Bluetooth 2.1, Wi-Fi b/g/n, aGPS, and an FM radio. The Samsung Focus, like all Windows Phone 7 devices, can sync with Windows PCs as well as Macs, and even accept iTunes playlists and songs.
The rounded design is reminiscent of the Samsung Nexus S, but the Focus beats the Android super-smartphone in that it has a microSD card slot and a dedicated camera button.
This smartphone is clearly slanted towards mobile multimedia. The 5 MP camera takes decent photos and 720p video in most conditions. Sharing photos and videos using the free Windows SkyDrive cloud service, and on sites like Flickr and Facebook, is easy.
Coming from Android or iPhone and their multitude of apps, Windows Phone 7 seems almost Zen-like in its glance-and-go simplicity. While there aren't nearly as many apps available in the Windows Marketplace as there are for the aforementioned two platforms, we found many of our favourite social media, messaging, eBook and productivity apps available.
It is refreshing to not have to worry about quitting apps that are running in the background and sucking up valuable system resources. With Windows Phone, leaving most applications shuts them down and brings the flying and folding Live Tiles of the home screen back.
Microsoft services like Bing (now featuring voice-enabled search), Internet Explorer, Microsoft Exchange and Mobile Office all work seamlessly with little lag. But you need to have an active Windows Live account to take full advantage of the features, which might be considered a downside for those who don't already have one.
Pinching and zooming Web pages on Internet Explorer is fast and responsive, although there is no Adobe Flash support for Windows Phone, which makes some legacy Websites completely inaccessible.
Early OS Issues
The lack of multitasking and cut-and-paste (the latter a heavily requested feature
that is coming soon) does pose some limitation to functionality.
To view signal strength, you need to tap the screen to activate the indicator.
The menu system is also tedious; there is no quick way to enable Airplane Mode or turn WiFi or Bluetooth on and off.
Another point worth noting: once you use a microSD card with any Windows Phone, it can't be used on any other device, and it becomes part of the phone's core operating system. However, given dropping prices for flash memory, this might not be a major issue for those who have gathered up a collection of cards.
System upgrade issues with the Samsung Focus have also been documented, and some devices have been bricked or rendered useless by applying the update.
As a phone, I found The Samsung Focus to be above average in call quality, thanks to dual-microphones. It also intuitively manages features. I was surprised to find that the device held a strong signal in some of the familiar dead spots in and around Toronto, ON.
Battery life is decent: I was able to make an average of 5-7 relatively lengthy calls with WiFi and 3G data enabled, and constant e-mail use on three accounts.
The Samsung Focus is an elegant and full-featured smartphone that handles the Windows Phone 7 OS extremely well, and has great potential to grow with users needs as better features and applications are added in time.