In the smartphone race, everything is measured by market share. There's a constant battle between Android and iOS to see which one has the largest market share at any given moment. Microsoft used to be a big part of the market share competition, with Windows Mobile. Now Microsoft's OS is nearly at the bottom, with about one percent market share. One percent market share may not seem like a lot. Actually, to be honest, it's not a lot. But Microsoft is working to change that. We're seeing new devices with compelling hardware and features as well as software updates that continue to elevate the OS.
The Samsung Focus S is one of those pieces of compelling hardware. It features a large 4.3-inch touchscreen with a beautiful Super AMOLED Plus display, the 8-megapixel camera captures HD video, and it runs on AT&T's 4G HSPA+ network. The Focus S really is one of the best of the best when it comes to Windows Phone handsets. As you'll find out while reading this review, there's very little to complain about which makes this an easy device to recommend.
Design & Features
Physically speaking, the Focus S is nearly identical to the Galaxy S II, Samsung's flagship Android smartphone. The phone is very slender and lightweight, measuring only .33-inches thick and weighing 3.9 ounces. The back battery cover has a textured, rough feel. The shell is built entirely out of plastic, but it still feels solid in the hand. The front of the devices features the 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display. This display has a resolution of 480 x 800, which gives it a pixel density of 217 ppi. The display is gorgeous. The displayed colors are very rich and saturated well.
Below the display are three capacitive buttons for Back, Start (home), and Search. A long press on the Back button will open the multi-tasking interface and a long-press on the Start button starts the voice control app. As with all Windows Phone devices, there is a physical camera button on the right spine. Along this same spine is the Power/Screen Lock button. The 3.5mm headphone jack is on the top of the phone and the volume rocker button is on the left side of the phone. On the bottom is the microUSB port.
Windows Phone in its current state is not very friendly to external microSD cards so Samsung left out the slot entirely. You're given 16GB of internal memory though, and any apps that are pre-installed on the phone, even the AT&T apps, can be uninstalled. The phone also has 512 MB of RAM.
Usability & Performance
Microsoft does not allow manufacturers to make any design customizations to Windows Phone so your experience will be the same across all Windows Phone handsets. The Focus S ships with version 7.5 of the OS, also known by its codename, Mango. If you're new to Windows Phone, it's a very simple and straight-forward OS. There are live tiles (similar to widgets on Android); XBOX Live integration; the Zune Marketplace for music, videos, and more; direct integration of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn as well as any services or accounts through Google, Yahoo, and more; Bing Maps and Search; Microsoft Office; and the Marketplace with roughly 60,000 apps available. Microsoft may not allow any UI customizations, but Samsung has included a custom "hub" app called Now, a daily briefing app. This app includes weather information, stocks, news, and more. The app also comes with a live tile that shows the weather info. Along with this app, there is a special Samsung Zone in the Marketplace where you can download Samsung-made apps like Tango for video calling, Photo Studio, MiniDiary, and a few others.
The Focus S is powered by a 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Scorpion processor. Even with a single-core processor, Windows Phone runs smoothly and seamlessly. All tasks and activities can be carried out with little to no lag. Transitions are smooth and pinch-to-zoom is very responsive. Using the app WP Bench, the Focus S scored a 91.79 on a benchmark test. Currently, the highest score recorded is 105.19. Despite the phone's overall excellent performance, I did have some problems with the keyboard. For some unexplained reason, the keyboard lags when typing instead of instantly registering each key press. This can be irritating while typing since I constantly feel the need to stop and make sure it registered each keypress.
While testing the phone in the Dallas area, data speeds using AT&T's HSPA+ network have been great, though slightly inconsistent. I had highs of 4 Mbps but lows of 1-2 Mbps. Of course, data speeds and call quality will vary depending on coverage in your area.
I've been very impressed with the Focus S' camera. It's an 8-megapixel autofocus shooter with an LED flash. Still photos came out clear with excellent detail. Colors were captured well and the photos look bright and crisp. The camera captures 720p HD video. Video quality was excellent but the audio quality was disappointing. It had a "tin can" sound that took away from the overall quality of the video. Videos captured in low-light settings looked very good. The phone also has a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera that can be used for video calling or self-portraits.
The Focus S ships with a 1650 mAh battery. By Samsung's estimates, you should be able to get 6.5 hours of talk time and 10.4 days of standby time. I ran a battery stress test and the total test time was 2 hours and 24 minutes. With normal use consisting of checking email, web browsing, downloading apps, sending text messages, and social networking, I was able to get through a full day without the battery dying.
AT&T has the best line-up of Windows Phone devices so if that's your carrier of choice, you have a lot of options. The Focus S is easily one of the best Windows Phone handsets on the market due to its beautiful, large display, excellent camera, and 4G capabilities. It's definitely a great option for AT&T customers or for those looking for a GSM Windows Phone device.
The Good: Brilliant Super AMOLED Plus display; spacious 4.3-inch touchscreen; 4G HSPA+; excellent still picture quality; great HD video quality; sleek profile and design; great performance with little or no lag.
The Bad: Keyboard would hang when typing; disappointing audio quality when capturing HD video; non-expandable memory.
The Verdict: There's very little to not like about the Focus S, unless of course you don't like Windows Phone. Otherwise, the Focus S is a solid option.