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Samsung Focus Flash hands-on impressions – a great phone for $50

We spent some time with the Samsung Focus Flash and will have a full review on Monday, but our initial impressions of the device are fairly positive. This is the smaller, cheaper version of the Focus S, but Samsung has only cut corners in areas where it’s okay to cut corners. Namely, the camera and screen size are both slightly smaller than the norm. But hey, who said bigger was better?

The Focus Flash packs the same 1.4GHz processor and 480×800 resolution as the Focus S, so the overall experience is quite similar. It also runs Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango), the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system, which we really like. Here’s where it’s different: it has half the storage (8GB), a weaker camera (5MP), a smaller screen (3.7 inches), a slightly fatter frame, and can only connect to AT&T’s HSPA+ 14.4 network (slightly slower than the top speed phones, but faster than 3G). With that said, we think it looks more distinct and interesting than the Focus S, so it wins on the style front. 

Using a 3.7-inch phone isn’t bad, but the keyboard does get a bit cramped at times. Luckily, Windows Phone has the best onscreen keyboard of any smartphone and adapts better than most. We also like how you can see where you’re typing (and scrolling) while you’re composing a message. On Android, you cannot see the page you’re writing on as you compose a message–a small detail that goes a long way. Like previous Samsung Windows Phones, this is mostly a pure WP7.5 experience. There is a Samsung Hub app and some AT&T apps, but that’s about it. 

The front and rear cameras appear to be the last generation model, so they are just about the same as the one you’d see on the original Samsung Focus. What does that mean? Well, it’s not a terrible camera. Certainly, it’s not the best one on the market, but it can take decent pictures, probably better than any Motorola device.

While, at times, we wish it had a slightly larger screen–4 inches seems to be the sweet spot–it’s hard to knock the Focus Flash. It seems to deliver an experience far outside its $50 price. Stay tuned for our full review Monday.