Samsung Focus: Well-Designed Windows Phone 7 Device
Monday, October 25, 2010; 12:19 AM
Samsung's Windows Phone 7 offering, the Focus ($200 with a two-year contract from AT&T), showcases the brand-new Microsoft mobile OS nicely with a gorgeous display, slim design and fast performance. Windows Phone 7 is still missing some key features, however, like copy and paste and third-party multitasking, which makes it a tough sell against the Samsung Captivate, an identically-priced Android phone also on AT&T.
When I first heard that Microsoft would be placing hardware restrictions on manufacturers, I imagined boring, uniform designs. Fortunately, the Samsung Focus is undoubtedly a Samsung phone with its glossy piano-black face and rounded edges.
Measuring 4.8-by-2.5-by-0.4-inches, the Focus is the thinnest of the Windows Phone 7 devices. Weighing 4.2 ounces, the Focus is lighter than the iPhone 4. The front-face of the phone is dominated by its 4-inch Super AMOLED display with three touch-sensitive buttons below it: back, home and search. These three buttons are part of Microsoft's hardware requirements for manufacturers.
On the right side of the phone, you'll find the power button and the dedicated camera key. This camera key is another hardware requirement and I'm actually really excited about this small feature. Shooting a decent photo on a smartphone can be tricky, especially when you have to hold the phone and hit an on-screen shutter button. The inclusion of a hardware shutter button is something that all smartphones with high quality cameras (including the iPhone) should have. The shutter button also has another unique feature: When your phone is in sleep mode, pressing the shutter button wakes it up and brings you directly to camera mode.
On the phone's left spine, you'll find the volume rocker. The USB port (with that annoying sliding cover that Samsung seems to be fond of) and a 3.5-mm headphone jack sits at the top of the phone.
Back to the display: Samsung's Super AMOLED display technology is one of the best when it comes to color saturation, clarity and performance outdoors. Samsung's Super AMOLED technology puts touch sensors on the display itself, as opposed to creating a separate layer (which Samsung's old AMOLED displays had), making it the thinnest display technology on the market.
Super AMOLED is fantastic--you really have to see it up close to appreciate it fully. Colors burst out of the display, and animations appear lively and smooth. Some reviewers have noted that colors look oversaturated, but I don't really mind the effect. While the display also does quite well in bright outdoor light, the phone's glossy hardware sometimes throws off a blinding glare.
By now, you probably know that Microsoft has created Windows Phone 7 from scratch. Now is the time to forget any preconceived notions you may have about Microsoft's mobile products. Windows Phone 7 is light, fast and user-friendly. It isn't perfect, however. Missing features like copy/paste and true multitasking are big oversights. (Microsoft says copy/paste will come in an update in January). I also don't find the OS all that aesthetically-pleasing or visually consistent, and navigating through the OS requires a lot of scrolling. For an in-depth look at the Windows Phone 7 OS, check out our hands-on here.
Microsoft required handset manufacturers to ship with a 5-megapixel camera or higher, which is another welcome standard. All of the phones launched last week, including the Focus, sport 5-megapixel cameras. Microsoft has allowed manufacturers to throw in their own custom settings and features for the camera in addition to the standard settings. The Focus has a wide range of settings and controls including white balance, image effects (mono, sepia, antique to name a few), saturation, wide dynamic range and anti-shaking. The camera also has an LED flash, autofocus and 4x digital zoom.