The Samsung Focus

I spent more time with the Samsung Focus than any other Windows Phone prior to launch. It was the thinnest, it had the most eye catching screen and felt the most like a modern smartphone. It should, after all it’s lineage comes from the Galaxy S sans the Hummingbird SoC. Like the rest of the WP7 devices the Focus is based on Qualcomm’s first generation 65nm Snapdragon SoC.

The Focus is very thin but by virtue of its 4-inch Super AMOLED display has a larger surface area than the iPhone 4.

A cellular sandwich: LG Optimus 7, Samsung Focus, Apple iPhone 4 (from top to bottom)

Externally the Focus is made almost entirely of plastic with very carbon-fiberesque stripes on the back. The plastic construction makes the WP7 flagship very light, although some may find it too cheap feeling. The screen and the OS are what stand out about the Focus, not the physical construction of the phone itself.

Underneath the back cover you’ve got a microSD slot to expand beyond the integrated 8GB of NAND.

Along the top edge you’ve got a micro USB port with retractable cover, similar to what we’ve seen on the Epic 4G. This is much preferred to the cheap feeling dangling cover from the Optimus 7.

The three WP7 buttons are activated via capacitive touch. The buttons are clearly etched in the plastic and light up when touched. There’s a tasteful amount of haptic feedback when you tap them as well.

One issue that I’ve always had with the Focus is that it takes a ridiculous amount of time to fully charge. Over 7 hours. A quick Google search reveals that other Focus owners have had this problem, but not all. Microsoft indicated that the problem might appear with certain USB cables or wall charger combinations, but regardless of what I tried I had the problem. Buyer beware.

The LG Optimus 7 The Screen, oh the Screen
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  • sprockkets - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    Or maybe you can comprehend that light that is picked up from an LCD in their measurements is the LCD trying to mask the BACKLIGHT and why they can never be as black as an OLED screen?
  • popej_ - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    Do you know what is transflective LCD? That kind of screen can be perfectly visible in full sunlight without any backlight at all. You can get the same useless black measurement as for AMOLED :)
  • strikeback03 - Monday, December 6, 2010 - link

    My understanding was that transflective screens generally are worse on battery due to the need to power the backlight through the additional transflective layer. For a phone that was going to be used extensively outside it might be worth it, for a lot it wouldn't.

    Also I don't think most users are confusing reflections on a glossy screen with bad black levels.
  • banvetor - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    Hi Anand, thanks for the great review, as always. These 2 phones are exactly the ones I was setting my eyes on, and I feel I'm leaning towards Optimus 7 (since I live in Italy).

    Anyway, I posted this on Brian's HTC Surround review, but I figure I should ask the same to you also... could you give some details on the usability of each mobile OS when you DO NOT have a data plan?

    I currently don't own a data plan, and actually don't plan on owning one... my main uses for my smartphone are music, taking photos, and some more occasional web browsing and e-mail checking when there is wi-fi or when I really need to (in which case I pay for the KB of data).

    My main issue when switching from my current Nokia N96 to WP7 (I think I sit exactly with the people you mentioned on the first page, not really sold on Android and not wanting to jump into the Apple ecosystem) is how dependent this modern mobile OSes are on a always-on data connection. For instance, I'm guessing that Zune Pass will not be so useful to me, but maybe you can store some songs on the phone to listen to while offline... On Nokia even the maps are offline stored, but I guess this is too much to ask to these new OSes ;)

    Anyway, it would be great if you could post some of your findings about this on your next reviews...

    Many thanks!
  • tipoo - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    I'm surprised that even the BB Torch and the Dell Streak running 1.6 beat these phones on the benchmark page, despite their faster hardware. Since this is a new product for Microsoft I won't rag on them for this, but it does look like some browser performance optimization is needed.
  • JimmiG - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    The poor battery life of the Focus makes it very hard for me to recommend it to anyone. I know how frustrating it can be, since I have an HTC Desire, probably comparable to the Nexus One... Not being able to use the phone for what you want because you need to take a call in the afternoon and need to make sure there's some battery left, or having the phone die on you after 3/4ths of the commute home in the afternoon...that can be very annoying.. and the Focus is even worse. If I were buying a WP7 phone right now, I'd go with the LG for the battery life.
  • Enrox - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    3 are the apps preinstalled but there are 7 more available in the dedicated LG app store in the markatplace.
  • ltcommanderdata - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    I'm just curious whether your performance benchmarks for Apple's devices have been updated to use the latest iOS 4.2.1? I was interested in seeing if iOS 4.2.1 improves performance and/or battery life compared to iOS 4.1. iOS 4.1 used a Safari based on Safari 4's WebKit while iOS 4.2.1 comes with Safari 5 so it should offer much improved JavaScript performance. It would be useful if you included the iOS version number in brackets for your charts as you do for Android phones.
  • VashHT - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    I was wondering what brightness levels you guys used for the browsing test. On the focus I found that the low brightness level was a lot brighter than low on the HD7 and very usable for daily use (unless you're in the sun). I'd be interested to see how the the brightness level affects the battery life of the focus.
  • Esteban2 - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    Anand, nice job with review. I think it is one of the best I've seen and I've seen just about every one.

    I think you left out one important missing feature--Visual Voicemail. I was about to buy a Samsung Focus (who cares about cut and paste??) when I realized there was no Visual Voicemail. Honestly after almost 3 years with an iPhone I had forgotten about voicemail was like but this brought back the horrors very quickly. Another important missing feature--a favorites list. When you want to make a phone to someone you frequently call you don't want to go to contact list and all the mess of facebook postings, etc that you're forced to with WP7.

    Anyway, I'm hanging on to my iPhone 3G for now and waiting to see when Microsoft updates and brings Visual voicemail. Honestly, I can't understand why this feature is missing it seems so basic but I actually like the OS so will keep watching and waiting for now. If not there in 6 months I may have to bite the bullet and go with iPhone 4.

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