Samsung Focus Review| By Sandy Fitzgerald
The Samsung Focus, one of the first smartphones using Windows Phone 7, is a solid device that provides an interesting alternative to Android phones and is worth considering if you're not an iPhone fan.
Offered through AT&T, the Focus measures just 4.9-by-2.5-by-0.4 inches and weighs 4.2 ounces, making it slim enough to easily handle while still packing a lot of great features. Unfortunately, the device is made from rather cheap-feeling materials, so it won't have the sleek look of other devices. That's not to say it'll break easily, but it won't draw you any longing stares.
The Korean handset maker has always been on the forefront of display panel technology, either in its flat screen TVs or its mobile devices, and the Focus is no different. The 4-inch touch screen is splendid, due to Samsung's Super AMOLED technology, so you'll enjoy simple functions like texting and browsing webpages to more complex tasks like watching streaming videos -- it all looks sharp and clear. However, an issue with the accelerometer prevents the screen from shifting from vertical to horizontal at times -- most likely due to the gyroscope or software. Aside from that, the display is responsive and menu navigation is smooth and effortless.
Below the display, three touch-sensitive buttons for "back," "start" and "search" let you navigate the Windows platform -- a nice upgrade from a few devices that use physical keys. Meanwhile, a 5-megapixel lens
The Focus comes equipped with a fantastic 5-megapixel lens that captures exceptional photos -- both crisp and vibrant. There's also a flash, as well as several adjustments for contrast and saturation, and you can record high-definition videos without any of the tint and blurriness you normally find on camera phones.
If you're bored on the road, the Focus also gives you a great way to listen to music. Windows includes full Zune integration, which has easy-to-use controls and album art. If you're using the phone while listening to music, you won't be able to see what tracks are playing. It's a small gripe, but nothing to get worked up about.
But the hardware can't define the Focus: this is a Windows phone through and through, and the software is its most distinctive feature. Windows is based on simplicity, motion and relevance, and as a result, the Focus is radically different than similar high-end Android phones and even the iPhone.
For instance, the Start screen consists of "live tiles," or widgets, for apps, contacts and e-mails. Beyond the first menu, you'll find the Windows "hub" system, which brings together related content into a single place. The Focus has six hubs, for pictures, games, people, music and video, office and marketplace. Each hub has a panoramic interface that helps you perform specific tasks.
The idea is to make everything easier to use and reach using these tiles. By moving, removing and pinning the tiles you want, you can perform several tasks without having to launch multiple apps, in addition to making navigation more simplified and pleasant. Microsoft also lets you filter contacts, by including or excluding details -- making it much easier to manage than before.
The Focus also includes all the e-mail and messaging features you'd expect -- Office and Hotmail integration, as well as Windows Live and ActiveSync. You'll want to set up a Windows Live ID, if you don't have one, which will back up the data to online storage. Not only does it keep your contacts and photos safe, but it also lets you hunt down your phone if it gets lost or stolen.
The Focus is a great phone, but there are a few drawbacks. For instance, the landscape mode is limited: it'll work in the Web browser, games, messages and videos, but oddly, you can't use certain features, including maps, which is awful in portrait mode. If you can get over those issues, you'll have a great time browsing the Web and using the Focus to communicate.
But the biggest flaw is what's not on the phone -- namely the lack of apps. If you're used to Android or iPhone, with their hundreds of thousands of apps, you'll be sorely disappointed by Windows's lack of third-party software. Microsoft is courting developers to create more programs, but Windows Marketplace is a long way behind Android and iOS.
Still, the Focus is a decent effort at a Windows Phone 7 device. Aside from the lack of apps and a few bugs, the touch screen, camera and simplified interface make it a worthy alternative to better-known platforms.
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Categories: Windows | Fun
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