The Samsung Focus SGH-I917 from AT&T is one of the first Samsung smartphones to come out that runs on the newish Windows Phone 7 operating system. The first ever Windows Phone 7 device that we tested was the HTC HD7 back in November. The HD7 was a fine introduction to Windows Phone 7, but to cut to the chase, we’re enjoying Windows Phone 7 even more so on the the Samsung Focus.
The Samsung Focus measures 4.84” x 2.56” x 0.39” and weighs just a bit over 4 ounces. The device feels very nice and light in your hands. In comparison to the HD7 which weighs 5.7 ounces, the Samsung Focus is significantly lighter. Overall, we find this form-factor to be more enjoyable to use, although some may prefer the HD7′s heft and the fact that it does seem hardier than the Focus.
The Focus features Samsung’s incredible 4.0″ Super AMOLED display. We’re talking about super sharp, vivid colors on a display that gets plenty bright. This vivid display helps bring out the bold colors of the Windows Phone 7′s color schemes and helps make them pop. The display is also easier on the eyes then that of the HD7. That said, the display isn’t quite perfect either. If you observe it closely you’ll notice some graininess, which is especially noticeable on a white background. The Google Nexus S actually sports a similar artifact, but it’s something that most users wont notice at all.
Like with most other Windows Phone 7 handsets, the onscreen keyboard experience is excellent. The size of the keyboard is also just right on a 4″ display – roomy, but not too spread out. As a matter of fact the onscreen keyboard so good, that we challenge those who prefer dedicated hardware keyboards not to try it and end up liking it.
The device is running on a 1GHz processor which is standard for most current Windows Phone 7 devices and it features8GB of built-in memory. The memory can be expanded via a microSD expansion slot. Overall, the system handles the WIndows Phone 7 OS with aplomb. Navigating the system is fluid, fast and responsive. Apps and even multimedia intensive games run well too.
Some non-standard apps that are bundled on the device include AT&T Navigator, AT&T Radio, and AT&T U-verse Mobile. Also, most of the important apps are available in the marketplace like Slacker, Twitter, and Facebook. That said, while the marketplace does have a healthy 10,000+ selection, is still lacks a large selection of quality apps the way iOS has. To sum up Windows Phone 7, we’d describe it as slick, very polished for such a new operating system, and very easy to use, once you get the hang of it’s non traditional user interface. For a more in-depth review of the Windows Phone 7 operating system, check out our HTC HD7 review. Since we reviewed the HD7, an update to Windows Phone 7 had brought important features like Copy and Paste, performance tune ups, faster start and resume times for apps, and improved category search in marketplace. To update the Samsung Focus, you’ll have to connect it to your computer and use either Zune software or the Windows Phone 7 Connector for Mac. But the major updates to Windows Phone 7 will come in the fall, courtesy of the Mango update. We’re talking about multitasking for third party apps and the major improvements to the OS. The upcoming Mango Update will really bring Windows Phone 7 to the next level.
Windows Phone 7 uses Internet Explorer. The browser supports pinch to zoom and multiple windows. It’s a fine browsing experience, but definitely not the best out there. Browsing speeds are also slow by today’s 4G standards.
Call quality on the Samsung Focus is very good. Callers said they could hear me clearly and I could hear them loud and clear too. The volume on the Focus can get nice and loud too. The speakerphone on the other hand performs just ok
The 5MP camera on the Samsung Focus sports a 4X digital zoom and an LED Flash. Photos come out very good on the Samsung Focus. The camera tends to produce sharp colors with pretty vivid colors. The flash doesn’t wash out images too badly either, the way so many others flashes do. Recorded videos also look sharp with vivid color. The camera also offers a nice amount of settings, including settings for saturation, contrast and metering.
Battery life on the Focus is healthy. We got about a full day of use from it before having to recharge, this is better than many competing smartphones, especially most Android smartphones.
We dare say that the Samsung Focus feels like a very female-friendly phone with strong “girl” appeal, while the HTC HD7 just looks and feels more masculine to us. Unfortunately, the Samsung Focus lacks 4G and some premium features like a front-facing camera for video calling. Yet, overall, I have found that using the Samsung Focus has made Windows Phone 7 an even more enjoyable experience for me than it was initially with the HTC HD7. Its great display and well rounded form-factor, combined with its great call quality and solid performance make it a quality device to use. The Focus also makes me more excited and anxious for the Mango update in the Fall. Windows Phone 7 is a very viable alternative to iOS and Android, you just need to give it a chance. That said, it’s a shame that there is no Focus variant available for T-Mobile as well, just like there is an HD7 available for T-Mobile and a HD7S available for AT&T. The Samsung Focus can be picked up for as little as $0.01 with a two year AT&T contract on Amazon.
The Good: Excellent Display and form-factor, Great camera, Solid performance
The Bad: Not a 4G device, lacks multitasking capabilities and other features – at-least until Mango update in the fall, no front-facing camera