Samsung Focus S hands-on impressions

Samsung Focus S front

It’s a year old, but the Samsung Focus remains one of our favorite smartphones on the market. Samsung’s Super AMOLED Plus screens really show off the best qualities of Microsoft’s young smartphone operating system. Though Windows Phone hasn’t quite taken off yet for a number of reasons, its user interface is no longer one of them. The Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) update has put the OS on a more level playing field with iOS and Android and the new Focus S takes advantage. We got a chance to spend some time with both of Samsung’s Focus phones. Though they are single core, we couldn’t help but walk away impressed. 

While the shape of the Focus S is a lot more generic than its predecessor–a square frame with rounded edges–it manages to pack in a larger screen at 4.3 inches (Focus was 4.0 inches) and measures 8.5 mm thick–thin enough to start competing with the Droid Razr and that whole crowd. The processor clocks in at 1.4GHz and is noticeably faster than previous Windows Phones, but still hiccups a bit when performing complex tasks. The Windows Phone OS does seem a lot better at managing resources than Android and iOS though, so a single-core processor seems to go a bit further. When it comes to intense games, however, Android and iOS now have a leg up. 

Samsung Focus S side

The Focus S has an 8MP rear camera with LED flash and a 1.3MP front camera. Both appear to be a bit of an upgrade from the original Focus, but not by a ton. Luckily, the Focus had a pretty good camera to begin with. Pictures usually come out clear and vibrant. The shutter speed and autofocus aren’t quite as fast as some of the newest HTC phones, or the iPhone 4S, but the picture quality appears to be up there.  

Samsung Focus S back

There is one other downside to the phone. It appears that it will only have 16GB of internal storage and the screen resolution is only 480×800. We could not verify either of these claims, but several outlets have reported on them. Also, it would be great if Windows Phone better adapted itself to larger screens. With 4.3 inches of space, it would be cool to have a third row of Live Tiles to work with, or maybe a slightly smaller keyboard that shows more of the screen you’re typing on. Hopefully Microsoft will improve WP7’s flexibility in time. And that includes LTE. This AT&T device supports HSPA+ 21, which is the best AT&T has to offer, but we hope Microsoft and Samsung will keep up with the times as AT&T upgrades its network.  

Overall, we like the phone a lot. At $200, it’s a bit pricey, but we’re growing more and more fond of Microsoft’s operating system. The only unfortunate trait of Windows Phone is that it takes a trial period to really start to appreciate the new type of UI Microsoft has introduced. If you are feeling adventurous, give it a go. We don’t think you’ll regret it. 


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