Hands on with the Samsung Ativ S, a Windows Phone that can go toe-to-toe with Android

Samsung has been a supporter of Windows Phone from the beginning, releasing half a dozen phones under the “Focus” brand in the last two years. What would a new Windows Phone launch be without a Samsung phone? We can only guess. With the Ativ S, the world’s largest handset manufacturer appears to have, yet again, provided a top-notch handset for launch. However, instead of supporting AT&T, Samsung has exclusively partnered with Verizon this time around.

Windows Phone 8 coverage

Next to the other Windows Phone 8 devices launching in November, Samsung’s Ativ S looks a little out of place. Unlike HTC and Nokia, Samsung doesn’t seem concerned with bright flashy colors or a bunch of custom apps. Instead, it’s made a plain looking silver handset. It’s also the only manufacturer to include a physical Home button on the face of its phone. If anything, the Ativ looks more like an Android phone than Windows. And that strategy might pay off. 

Like the Samsung Galaxy S3, the Ativ S has a completely polycarbonate shell, making it one of the lightest Windows Phones to enter the market. The similarities continue with a 4.8-inch 720p Super AMOLED screen (made of Gorilla Glass 2) and 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor. The RAM comes in a little light at 1GB, but opts for 16 or 32GB of internal file storage, so we have no problems there. The battery also appears to be impressively sized at 2300mAh, which should hopefully provide a full day of juice, even if you’re going crazy on your phone.

The internal hardware is solid, and so is Windows Phone 8. I still haven’t had a chance to truly dig into the nuts and bolts of the operating system, but everything I’ve seen has been impressive. Windows Phone has always looked good (perhaps better than iOS), but now it is beginning to compete with Google’s Android OS on features. New additions like Data Sense help you monitor your data speeds, and apps now have a lot more power to stay connected in the background and offer up live information via the Start screen, something the iPhone lacks. Other features like Kids Corner give parents the ability to create a special Start screen where their kids can go crazy without damaging the phone or messing something up. Camera lenses let you use installed apps with camera features directly from the main camera app and Microsoft’s Wallet app introduces some NFC payment features to Windows Phone, which I look forward to trying out.

Overall, the Samsung Ativ S appears to be a top-notch new Windows Phone with enough power to compete with the many Android phones already on the market. The big question will be if Verizon puts significant effort into pushing Windows Phone 8 over the holidays and if regular people give it enough of a chance to learn what the OS is all about. If you are interested in Windows Phone and are on Verizon, check out the Ativ S when it hits stores in November. 

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