I've been a Windows Mobile user for years -- partially because it was necessary to interact with various workplace based e-mail and networking programs, and partly because I always found them to be "boring, but dependable". Windows Mobile never was the life of the party, but rather was always the responsible one that made sure that after the party was over that everything got cleaned up and everyone made it home safe. That was the past 10 years, but times, they are a changing... the Samsung Focus has taken the boring Windows Mobile interface, replaced it with the all new Windows Phone OS and turned a boring mobile smartphone into a serious player that all of a sudden may very well be the life of the party.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on a Samsung Focus early on, and I have to say that I've had a very hard time putting this phone down. It's absolutely nothing like I've used before when it comes to a Windows phone. The entire interface has changed, and the phone itself has went from business boring to social media connected powerhouse.
One of the first things you will want to do when you get a Samsung Focus is to pop in a memory card. The Focus is the only U.S. based Windows Phone that currently supports expanding its memory via a MicroSD card. You'll want to do this from the get go because otherwise you will need to do a master reset on the phone to get it to pick up later. This is because in the new Windows Phone OS the microSD is not removable -- it actually becomes part of the overall system memory and is a permanent addition to the phone (which is why its located behind the battery). I highly recommend you pop in a 32GB card to give you a 40GB phone out of the box -- it will let you really put the phone to use storing your media and other data while not having to worry about it down the road.
Next, get ready to be connected to your family, friends and social networks like never before. One of the absolutely coolest things about this phone is how good the AMOLED screen looks. With a 480x800 display size, the display is very crisp and the colors are almost -- well, almost true to life in many aspects. I really didn't appreciate how well the display looked at first but once I started using the phone I was just constantly blown away at how darn well this screen on this guy looked. The Windows Phone OS uses what I like to call "squares" or "slides" to display information, and they are constantly updating and even changing color and pictures. Your friend just post something to Facebook? You'll know in an instant without having to switch back and forth between a Facebook app. New email arrive from a friend? Boom - another square changes to reflect it. It's really cool and you have to experience it firsthand to understand how revolutionary this type of interface is. It let's you focus on the world around you, and not constantly have to be pecking away and fooling with the phone. On my old Samsung Jack I was constantly switching between apps and looking at the phone -- with the Focus it's like I'm just glancing to see whats going on in my social circles and at work. My only gripe? In direct sunlight the display is a bit bleached, but still holds its own. Much better than my old phone - though not as good as I think it could be or would like it to be.
One thing you will want to make sure you have setup (and many of us already do) is a Windows Live or Xbox Live account. When you first power on the phone you will be prompted for your Windows Live ID. You don't have to provide one, and the phone works just fine without it -- but if you do provide one you are going to really unleash the power of this device. It's what ties everything together -- your social networks, email, photos, etc. I would highly recommend that if you are going to go the Windows Phone route you make sure that before the phone arrives you get a Windows Live account up and running if you don't have one already.
Battery life is good -- not great -- and holds up comparable well to other smartphones. The phone does a lot of synchronization via the Windows Live ID and such, so it is hitting the network a lot. I noticed that I could get through about 1.5 days of normal usage without a recharge. My best was 2.5 days when I wasn't checking email or using apps too much. You'll probably want to go ahead and pick up a spare charger for the office or the car.
So this thing is a phone right? Let me tell you, the phone quality and sound through the earpiece was amazingly crisp and clear. I've struggled a lot with my old Samsung Jack find it difficult to hear, especially when outside. The Focus totally redefined for me what a good voice call is. I had no problems being outside with background noise and still being able to hear and hold a conversation over the phone. The speakerphone portion was equally crisp and loud without being tinny.
Of course nowadays no phone is complete without a camera -- and the 5MP camera with LED flash that comes with the Focus takes some surprisingly good pictures. I shot a lot of pictures of the changing fall scenery and uploaded the pictures from the phone to several photo sites. The pictures were very clear and even low light pictures were bearable (not great, but bearable). It is not going to replace a really good digital camera, but it can certainly hold its own in the photo world and is probably more than most folks need. I thought the LED flash was particularly nice, though don't expect it to provide a ton of light -- and it can drain the battery, so don't get too flash crazy.
AT&T of course has their bundled apps on the phone, but they haven't taken over the phone with them as they have tended to do in the past. On the main menu AT&T has been very conservative and only taken up 3 of the "slides" for their use and left the rest for you to go nuts with. I was very pleased with that, but do wish I could just get rid of AT&T branding altogether - but at least they tried to keep a small footprint.
Overall, this is a major step up in the Windows Phone world. It's not an iPhone, but I really do think that its a good alternative for folks who don't want an iPhone for whatever reason, or for those who want to try something different. Microsoft and Samsung have really raised the bar a bit and have created a device that is lightweight, crisp and clear, and has a darn good OS behind it. I think once people start to us the new OS and the social features of it you are going to see a lot of other phones start to copy it because after you use it for a while you really do get to like it. The phone is very speedy and I found that even with several apps running at once there was no noticeable lag or delay. In a nutshell, it's more organized than an Android (in my opinion) and runs circles around the iPhone in terms of multimedia capabilities (Zune integration, XBOX Live integration, etc.)
I'm very happy with this phone and look forward to getting to know it more in the coming months. I really think that if Microsoft keeps it up they could really give the iPhone a run for their money!
on January 8, 2011
What happened to Microsoft?
I took a chance and ordered the Samsung Focus Win7 phone from Amazon. My current phone was the HTC Fuze and I liked it. It had so many capabilities, but was very cumbersome to learn how to use and using it was never easy. I got used to it after a while and really grew to enjoy and to depend on the whole smartphone experience.
I had wanted to get the iPhone, but after trouble with a new iPod (160GB, Gen 7), iTunes and having my otherwise perfect, best ever computer experience with the Win 7 Asus ROG G73J laptop tainted, I was reluctant about Apple. With the new iPod, my computer freezes every time: restart and everything is perfect except iTunes and iPod. So, I couldn't get myself to order the iPhone.
After two days the Samsung Focus Win7 phone arrives. A few minutes later the phone lights up. Hundreds of contacts are in. A few more minutes: numerous mail accounts are set up and running; Facebook as well. I get to put my favorite contact in the upper left hand corner with shuffling beautiful pictures. I put my favorite photo on the beautiful (!!!) 4 inch welcome screen and start messaging. And phoning and mailing and web browsing. It is all so easy and I slowly realize I enjoy the phone's feedback (little vibrations) and super rapid response.
I get the free Netflix app and fire up a free streaming movie. It's amazing. I will seriously be watching movies on this thing! The sound is great. My photos are available and well organized and look stunning. I get the free IMBD app and my local theatres show up with show times and easily accessible reviews etc. I input my WIFI password and it's immediately accessible. Everything just works and it's so rapid and I'm slowly starting to realize I have something special on my hands. I shoot a couple of picts with the wonderful camera function and mail and message them so easily!
I take some photos of my phone's different screens to mail my girlfriend. It's so easy to arrange everything on the phone practically and beautifully and I really enjoy showing her my new phone arranged just for me with my favorite images everywhere. (<Helle3)
The next couple of days I use the navigation (just works!), get the Adobe Reader and Kindle app (I will read books on this!), get the local weather for a couple of places, YouTube is running. Everything just works so easily! I talk to my phone and without fail it understands my heavy Norwegian accent and Norwegian names in my contacts list. I ask for directions in the navi app and browse the web with my voice. It all just works!
This Win7 phone is so far ahead that I think it will take a while before the critics catch up and realize how good this is. Apple would have wanted to be behind this experience. How Microsoft came up with this new way of interacting with your phone is truly surprising.
The Win7 way of smart phoning is transformative. This phone is so good you don't even realize it in the beginning. The Win7 software and way of phoning is a truly stunning achievement. BTW I have a pittance of Microsoft stock, but they haven't paid me to write this review. Who would have thought Microsoft could bring a product as good as this to the market?
In conclusion I'd like to point out that I'm aware that this is a very emotional review and it leaves out a lot of technical details. But this phone is two steps into the future and I'd like to call attention to that. I leave it to the many other great reviews to cover technical details.
Get this phone and be prepared to be stunned!
Edit: With the Mango update, I enjoy the phone even more! :-)
on November 27, 2010
I had an iPhone 3G for two years and it was a decent phone for awhile. I was never happy with the way it handled calls. It had a weak speaker, dropped calls, and was very flaky. Some of the apps were good, but as a phone, I never thought it was very good.
I've since upgraded to the new Samsung Focus Windows Phone 7 and I love it. Just as a phone, it's significantly better than any cellphone I've ever had. Calls come through clearly and I've never lost a call in the middle. Granted it's only been a month so I haven't tested this with AT&T's suspect service in many places, but so far, the phone is great at phone calls.
The operating system is drop dead simple to use...in fact, it's so simple, people might get confused. They'll be done so quickly with checking things, they won't realize they can put the phone away within seconds. I have 4 e-mail account tiles and I see updates on the wallpaper instantly. I can click the power button and see if I have any e-mail or messages without even unlocking or digging into any apps.
The integrated People hub is awesome. I can check Facebook in a second and comment or Like posts instantly.
The one major complaint I have is the lack of syncing local Outlook contacts with the phone like I could do with the iPhone, but I just migrated my contacts to Live.Com (Hotmail) and now they're in my phone.
Overall, I love the phone and the new operating system.
on November 12, 2010
I have had my Windows Phone for 3 days now and it continues to rock. Previously, I have used a Blackberry Curve and a Samsung Android 2.1 device. The Blackberry has been my phone of choice for the past 9 months but while reliable, the integration with Exchange is marginal at best and requires an enterprise plan (which comes out of my pocket). The Android was poor all around. Things have hopefully changed but v2.1 wasn't ready for prime time., simply didn't work for me and I returned my phone after just a few days.
The Exchange integration with Windows Phone is fantastic. I have two ActiveSync accounts running. One to my personal (paid) Google Apps Premier account and the second to my employer's Exchange 2010 server. And just for fun, we even tried the "Wipe the Phone" functionality from within Exchange and it does work. (We also tried that with an Android v2.2 device with similar success.) My iPod Touch 4G email client has horrible Exchange support which eliminated the iPhone from consideration. I have read that gmail integration works identically using either IMAP or Active Sync. Most people will have to use IMAP since they don't have paid accounts. The big take away is that device does support multiple ActiveSync accounts and in fact I had a third one on there just for fun.
The People hub is beautiful. I can optionally "link" any contact with another and they become a single entry. You can also unlink contacts without affecting the original properties. I am able to selectively associate FB contacts with existing contacts while not overwhelming my contacts with the 300 FB contacts that I have. Simple. Affective. It just works. Contacts from my 2 ActiveSync accounts don't provide any issues.
The calendar is very clean and in my opinion far easier to navigate than on an iPhone. It nicely combines calendar items from multiple ActiveSync (and I would assume IMAP) accounts.
The dial by voice is very clean. I used this feature quite a bit on my Blackberry and it was the same era technology as was provided on my Verizon Motorola flip phone of 2-3 years ago. The Windows Phone is clearly an upgrade from that. It seems to have better comprehension of what I am speaking and it plays back contact names much more clearly than with my Blackberry. (I can't comment about anything on an Android 2.2 device but my experience with v2.1 was that dial by voice was pretty much useless assuming you could start the app while driving.) With Windows Phone, a single depression of my Bluetooth ear piece does the trick.
Things that I don't like:
The built in Facebook integration within the People hub is very clean and works well but the stand alone Facebook client is only ok. It appears form all I have read that this was a last minute addition and it needs a bit of cleanup. My biggest issue is that without multi-tasking, it takes 4 or so seconds to load the FB app and the app exits when you move to any of the other hubs on the phone. This is not a major issue but certainly an annoyance.
The twitter app is ok but I wish they removed the teal background and just used the default (black or gray) backgrounds that are standard throughout other apps on the phone. I have tried Seesmic and it is only ok. Hoping for improvements with that app in the near future.
All in all, a fantastic start. Time will well if Microsoft is successful and in my opinion, this will mostly be dictated by how quickly Microsoft is able to provide updates and additional features. A great start!
PS: The display on the Samsung is out of this world and this should be everyone's first choice for a Windows Phone. I hear good things about the LG and that might be something to consider if you need a physical keyboard but I haven't seen one so I can't compare or comment. I don't miss "copy and paste" as their constant popping up all over my iPod provides me with never ending frustration. It really isn't that big of a deal. Multi tasking will be nice.
on December 14, 2010
This review comes from a previous iPhone owner and as this is a good phone I was like most of the people bored with its UI and plus with Apple style, examples here are iTunes which sucks compared to Zune and list goes on...Well so saying that I wanted to give it shoot; here I am after 4 weeks using it. The first thing is...nothing is perfect and especially a very first release of this OS. However, for a first release the phone deserves definitely 5 stars and one extra for Microsoft having enough balls of risking and releasing its original perception of UI - not copying iPhone, Android or Blackberry. It was risky but Uncle "Steve" Ballmer deserves this one!
Things that I Like:
-Awesome, beautiful display (4" perfect size)
-Blazing speed of the OS
-phone doesn't drop calls unlike iPhones (not even one drop for full 4 weeks so far)
-feels solid not plastic like some people think
-Bing voice recognition search, maps etc,
-Seamless Exchange integration as well as regular local Outlook accounts
-Can open my Corporate email attachments seamlessly(pptx, xlsx, docx, pdfs)
-The best phone on the market if you are serious gamer
-Xbox apps are awesome
-Can take battery out/replace it/full access to the guts of it.
Things I don't like:
-no copy, paste (but it is coming early next year)
-no multitasking (coming early next year)
-no flash for IE (coming next year, read Adobe is working on it)
-not many apps only 4000 (but apps growing fast)
-wireless sync is lacking on demand sync and the phone has to be connected to the charger (I read this is also coming as a next year's update)
-Why Microsoft didn't release this phone 2-3 years ago!!!
Bottom line is, I love this phone. For the first early release it is a success for Microsoft, the things that are missing would be quickly added with the new software update, at least we don't have to wait 3 years....right Apple funboys....? Some WP7 haters would pinpoint on the sales numbers as compared to iPhone and Android, well I thing we have to give it time so the phone market for WP7 can go with full speed. Also, no matter how great this phone is it has to compete with already established market of OSX and Android. So, whoever is on the market for new phone forget about "OLD" Windows Mobile and at least try it out(Samsung Focus)...you won't be disappointed.
UPDATE (August 21)
Nothing much to say about the headset itself as my good opinion didn't change, but there is whole lot new things about the OS!
Yes, people i have the newest MANGO update OS version 7.10.7712.60
All I can say is that it rocks!!! So many little features, and few big onces. Here is the list:
-Now my focus has IE9 which nothing compared to the previous browser, it is fast and screen bigger, MS moved the URL bar on the bottom leaving more browsing space. I also thought to gain even more space they should add auto-hide option to the URL bar, if not in use it would disappear also, leaving 100% of your screen to browsing!! Nothing like iPhone or Android.
-The whole OS is faster and smoother even more, old installed apps run faster, load even faster.
-Finally full multitasking! YES!! Just hold the back button and here you go. Being on the call you can open anything you want, let's say MS Word doc with the information that you want to give to the caller, etc.
-Tap on the search botton, it will take you to BING. Now MS added scout, which finds everything in your area, eat+drink, see+do, shop, highlights.
- the music icon on the bing page is equivelent to Shazam app that can listen to the music and give you title, etc.
- the vision icon is awesome, it will scan your book barcode, tex, CD, DVDs. Usuful? Hell yea...This weekend i went to the mall and found great suitcase for $250, i scanned with the bing-vision and bing found one for $151. I ordered and just received two days ago!!
- the list goes on, MS in total add 500 new features!!!
I Hope this will help pick a great headset which is Samsung Focus and its great freshly improved OS!!
on January 21, 2011
My wife got one of these, and now that I have had plenty of time with the phone exploring all the different aspects I can weigh in on it. Overall, the software is very impressive. The touchscreen is very reactive and the screen quality is incredible. The iPhone4 may have higher resolution, but this display is simply more impressive due to the amazing contrast which allows true black to be achieved. The tiles on the main screen work well. There is a list of apps on the second screen and you just pin ones you use the most to the main tile screen. This part I like since it looks unique and the tiles can give information right on the screen like weather and what appointments you have coming up on your calendar. All games go in the Xbox Live hub, so that is all in one place. Docs go in the Office hub, and you can open and edit word and excel sheets if you really needed to.
Internet Explorer is good and fast, but I prefer how Safari renders pages so far. CNN for example, shows a large picture in Safari, in IE it is much smaller. Speed-wise there is no difference surfing the web that I saw on WiFi or over 3G. Bing Maps is amazing. It is noticeably better than Google maps as the maps load fast, scroll, and zoom in and out quickly. I have always preferred Google for a search engine, but I am starting to change my stance on that as they have upped their game since Bing was first released. The Bing integration on this phone is excellent. I love how you can do 1 search and choose between News, Web, and Local results. The Local option is great for finding stores and restaurants. I wish they would add one more results screen for images though. In order to get Bing image results you have to go into IE and pull up mobile Bing. The Bing voice search works okay, but it's not up to Google's recognition abilities which are the best. The keyboard text input on the WP7 is excellent and on par with iPhone.
The Zune marketplace which has both apps and music, works well and has one feature I love. Each app has a "try it" button for the trial version, so you don't need to search separately for a "lite" version like in the Apple app store. The only issue with the marketplace is the freezing. Many times the phone will freeze while in the marketplace and require a reboot. The upcoming update is slated to have marketplace enhancements so I assume this will be addressed.
Inside the apps, they all have to follow the WP7 design language and flow, and I have to say it works very well. It makes it very familiar when you go into an app to know to swipe to see the next screen. It makes getting around extremely fast with everything you use. In general, the iPhone's apps have an icon/button-based navigation approach, whereas WP7 has a swipe screen approach with a top screen navigation bar that shows what screen you are on.
Overall, this OS is extremely slick. That is the best word I can use to describe it. The thing is just plain beautiful and elegant with how it looks and navigates. As cool as the iPhone once looked, after using WP7 for a while then going back to the iPhone, I have to say it looks a little stale. However, the iPhone allows a ton of flexibility in how you organize things and the number of apps just blows away wp7, as to be expected. I did see a promising statistic on that front though: WP7 has hit 6000 apps in just 3 months, a number which took Android 6 months to accomplish, so apparently developers are excited about WP7s future in apps.
on November 10, 2010
Walked into an ATT store and was surprised to see that there was no specific area displaying WinPho7. Such a big store and no real place to display these phones. Somehow, my wife and I located this phone sitting in a corner. The store was just opening up and a salesman said that they were sold out of the focus but had the HTC in stock. The LG was expected in the next week or so. He said he'd go in and check to see if they received any and came back saying there were 2. ITMW, we were seeing another salesperson explain to a 1st time smartphone buyer how good iphones and androids were. He then also demoed the Focus and said it was ok (pretty ok) but that it was slightly heavier than its android counterpart. The newbie ended up buying the focus as he was really kicked by the live Facebook feed. This was the about most low key push sale I can imagine for a phone that they should be pushing hard.
We finally got a salesperson's attention and he said he'd go back to the store to get the last of the Focus's. He came out with it and it was the most gorgeous piece of glass I laid my hands on. He told us that he had to fight with a couple more sales people who wanted it also. Side by side the HTC pales in comparison, and nothing else comes close. Wonderful live tiles combined with the screen make this come totally alive and the ultra responsive software made browsing a pleasure. I've had it for 5 hrs now, just about set-up stuff and have nothing to complain about yet. I have my Xbox live avatar and am already playing games.
I will post another detailed review in a day or 2 but I think MS has a winner here especially with this phone. I think they need to fix the supply issue along with more incentives/education to the staff, although the salesperson who sold us the focus was very well versed with the phone and said he expected sales to pick up once they received phones in large numbers. They want to sell but have no stock. They will also have to have a large area in each store that says window phone 7 all over...
He actually said, wow this is a first, "you are moving from an iphone to a winpho7".
on November 22, 2010
I'm going to make this short and simple. I have little regret over the switch. The most notable knock against the Focus when compared to the iPhone4 is the display. While bright and vibrant, it can't hold a candle to that of the iPhone's retina display. After adjusting to that negative aspect, I can safely say I am not disappointed at all with this phone. One major plus is Zune vs iTunes. The Zune software is much lighter on my PC, and thus this phone actually increases home PC performance thanks to Apple's system bloating software that runs on PC startup. Xbox live integrations is AWESOME. Facebook and social features are great! I also love the os compared to blocky old iOS. If you are looking for something different than iPhone, and more controlled that Droid - this phone will not disappoint.
on March 8, 2011
I have had the Samsung Focus for well over a month now and I absolutely love it. Let me preface that statement by saying I owned a Samsung Blackjack II prior to it, so I had not been spoiled by any touchscreen phones. The Focus is so easy to use and beautiful to look at. Microsoft has created an OS that is at the same time aesthetically pleasing and extremely efficient at the same time. Its 4 inch Super AMOLED screen is gorgeous and perfect for watching videos and playing games on. The phone is fast and responds quickly to selections. Nearly everything is intuitive and user-friendly. GPS is accurate and works wonderfully when used by the apps.
1) Marketplace crashes often ***FIXED WITH RECENT NODO UPDATE***
2) Micro-SD card issues - upgrade memory at your own risk for now
3) Internet Explorer works great but does not support flash right now, this should be rectified in the fall of 2011 (hopefully) with IE9
4) Slick phone, you will want to protect it with a cover/case
Here are some apps that I have downloaded from the marketplace that I find useful (all are free and well-reviewed):
BigOven - recipes
Craigslist deLUXE Lite
GasBuddy - find the cheapest gas prices near you
IGN - video game site w/reviews, videos, etc.
Netflix - works wonderfully, videos look amazing on phone, fast streaming
Pro Sports Scores - live tile feature, keep track of a game on the tile
LazyWorm Youtube - bar-none the best YouTube app, HD videos show up as HD
Shazam - ever wonder what the name of that song is and who performed it?
ShopSavvy - scan barcodes w/camera for price comparisons and reviews
TuneIn Radio - this is an AMAZING free radio app, all streaming, no need for antenna...includes stations all around the country, as well as podcasts!
Windows Phone 7 News - keep up w/all the recent announcements and news for WP7, believe me you'll check it every day.
Closing comments - I am still excited about this phone after having it over a month. I find myself spending more time on it than the computer and HDTV/PS3. It's that much fun! If you are new to the touchscreen phone scene, you will NOT be disappointed.
04/24/2011 UPDATE - finally received the NoDo update which brought a few extra features which probably should have been there from the get-go such as copy/paste function and better Marketplace search. Downloading and installing the updates were a pain I must admit. Took 5 hours of error messages and update freezes, but once I downloaded the Windows Phone Support Tool as Microsoft's suggested last resort I was able to properly update. I hope Microsoft learned from this. I would like to reiterate the phone was perfectly usable before this and still love it 3 months after purchase!
on December 19, 2010
I have been toying the idea of getting a WP7 device since the operating system was announced, and so when the news came out that they werent going to come out with a CDMA device till 2011 I was really disappointed, being a Sprint customer. Then my wife and I stopped by an AT&T store nearby and she started playing with the Focus and fell in love with it...so needless to say, we terminated our Sprint contract and bought 2 Focus' on Amazon Wireless for a penny, which saves us alot compared to having to buy two CDMA phones off contract, when they eventually come out (my guess is February but who knows for sure.)
Anyways to make a long story somewhat shorter, as I predicted we are both in love with our phones. They are fast, the Snapdragon is a wonderful processor, they carry a charge well enough for us to get through the day, and they make 2 of our friends with Epics jealous as they still poke along with android 2.1. As for WP7 it's ease of use is so great, you can be in it and have it set up in less than 5 minutes. I love how the tiles let you tie everything together, like the Peoples tile, so everything is handy.
I have 2 regrets, one on the phone and one on the operating system but neither one affects our love...on the phone I wish it had a notification light for messages and calls, its the one thing I miss from my HTC Hero. On the OP, I wish there was a tile titled MAIL and when I clicked on it it would take me to a screen with all my mail accounts, instead of having to have a different tile on the front page for each. Like I said minor things! I'm also looking forward to cut and paste!
If you are in the market for a smartphone, my recommendation is to run out and get one of these. You will be impressed and so will your friends...oh and the other nice thing...this OP is only going to get better from here!