Samsung Focus With Windows Phone 7 Review: Make Room For Microsoft

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Some people will never give up their iPhones. Or their Android phones. Or their BlackBerry phones. Or whatever. Windows Phone 7 will appeal to those people as much as any other platform that competes with the one they love.

Those people constitute a tiny sliver of fiercely loyal customers, though. For anyone else either considering a smart phone for the first time or looking to jump ship from an existing smart phone platform, there’s a whole lot to like about Windows Phone 7.

My contention is that Windows Phone 7 will split the difference between the iPhone and Android because it’s got the polish of the iPhone with the carrier and handset selection of Android.

So this review is basically a two-part review. I’ll cover the Samsung Focus hardware, and seeing that Windows Phone 7 is a new mobile operating system, I’ll cover that as well. Let’s start with the hardware.

Samsung Focus

The Samsung Focus will be the first Windows Phone 7 handset available in the United States. It’ll be priced at $200 with a two-year contract through AT&T, available November 8th. As a flagship device for showing off the new platform, the Focus is about as appealing a handset as anyone could hope for. It’s incredibly thin at less than half an inch and its 3.88-ounce body weight is remarkable. There’s also 8GB of storage onboard with a microSD expansion slot available, GPS, Bluetooth, and b/g/n Wi-Fi.

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The phone shares the same family tree as the recently-released Galaxy S Android phones available from all four major carriers; the Epic 4G on Sprint, the Fascinate on Verizon, the Vibrant on T-Mobile, and the Captivate on AT&T. The main difference is that there are three main buttons on the Focus, as opposed to four, and they’re bigger and spaced further apart

What really makes the Focus stand out from other smart phones, in general, are the 4-inch 800×480 Super AMOLED screen that Samsung’s developed and the 1GHz Snapdragon processor powering everything. The screen’s colors are insanely rich, the fonts are super sharp, and everything—everything, everything, everything—from the menus to the programs to the web browser moves like silk.

There’s no way that someone who’s used either an iPhone or an Android phone can pick up this combination of hardware and software without being impressed. I’ve owned or reviewed plenty of iPhones and Android phones alike, and this thing is just different. It doesn’t feel light years beyond those phones, but it does feel a few steps ahead at the very least.

The phone’s 5-megapixel camera takes great looking photos and videos provided there’s ample light, but stumbles a bit in low light situations. My wife and I recently went to an outdoor wedding and the photos from the ceremony looked outstanding, while the photos from the dimly-lit indoor reception do not. But that’s kind of par for the course when it comes to phone cameras.

Battery life is very impressive, given the phone’s dimensions. I’ve been consistently able to squeeze full days of rather heavy usage out of the Focus without worrying about finding an outlet.

My main complaint about the phone is the same one I have about the Samsung Epic 4G. The buttons on the bottom of the phone aren’t actual, tactile buttons, so you have to wake the phone with the awkwardly placed power button found on the upper-right corner of the device.

That being said, I don’t mind the buttons on the Focus nearly as much because there are only three of them, instead of four, and they’re spaced further apart. The fact that the phone is so thin, too, makes it easier to find the power button. This is not a beefy phone at all. It feels sturdy, yet I really wouldn’t want to drop it for fear of what might happen.

Voice calls are crisp and clear from both ends, and while I experience the same weak coverage spots in my house that I do with my iPhone, I haven’t dropped nearly as many calls.

Overall, I’m sufficiently impressed by the Samsung Focus. It handles all the big stuff well, and the little stuff either won’t bother some people (the buttons) or isn’t anomalous to other phones (poor low light photos). As always, it’s a good idea to try any phone out yourself if possible, but I can pretty safely say that this one doesn’t bring with it any major disappointments.

Now let’s talk about the software…

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