Samsung Focus Review

The Samsung Focus was released late last year as one of the premiere Windows Phone 7 launch devices. While other phones in the launch line-up seemed to employ more gimmick driven features, the Samsung Focus seemed to be the basic everyman phone of the group, and for the most part, the most well received among the tech sphere.

The Samsung Focus, also known as the SGH-i917, features a 1.0 gigahertz Snapdragon™ processor, a 4.0-inch Super AMOLED screen, and 8GB of internal storage. These features, although impressive at launch, have pretty much become the standard these days. Still, these specs are pretty impressive. Who knew that a phone in 2010, would be much more powerful than my first computer in the last ninety’s.

Form factor is slim and sleek, and the device is very light-weight. Honestly, it’s almost seems to be too light at first. Upon initially holding the device in hand, I had the nagging feeling of, “Where’s the rest of it?” This feeling was quickly overcome, then highly appreciated. At 4.07 onces, it’s nearly 0.7 ounces lighter than the Apple iPhone 4.

The Super AMOLED screen on this device is beautiful. I have to say the Samsung Focus screen looks just as nice as that of the iPhone 4. Definitely a large jump from my former start phone, the iPhone 3GS. Blacks are so rich on this device that sometimes it’s honestly hard for me to notice if the device is on when momentarily switching to an all black screen. Simply superb.

Battery life is good, but not great. I can easily get through a full day of service as long as I’m not streaming WiFi or 3G media the entire time. Good simply means that it’s not as great as the iPhone. One thing you can truly say about Apple is that they have mastered the art of getting the most out the battery life on their devices. On the flip side, the Samsung focus has a removable battery, which is a huge plus if in fact you ever start have issues. Not only that, but the Samsung Focus has a Micro-USB charge/sync connector. I couldn’t begin to tell you how much this has come in handy thus far versus the proprietary Apple dock connector. I’ve gone on several trips and have simply been able to share a car or wall charger with others who own Android and Blackberry devices. Again, a huge plus.

Media support for imported content is great. The Zune software (on Windows) takes care of all the needed conversions of any media in your library when moving it to your device. That being said, that are some huge drawbacks to Windows Phone 7 in it’s current state when it comes to media support on the web. MP3 live streams (.m3u) are not supported, nor are any of the iPhone MP4 encoded live steams (.m3u8). PDF support, as well as YouTube support is also provided as part of a download from the Windows Phone Marketplace. There is definitely room for improvement.

With this device, I have dared to do the unthinkable by rocking it without a case or protective screen. Foolish? Maybe. But in the short time I’ve used it as such, I have learned something very valuable about the device. It is extremely durable. Of course, you’re going to have your minor scuffs and scraps, but the screen has remained unharmed. I’m not sure what Samsung is doing, but this device, which is strongly styled like the Galaxy S series Android devices, is very well made indeed.

Bumps in the Road

Although I have an exceptional time with this device, it does not come without a few setbacks. For one, the online media support mentioned above. Built in compatibility for the different formats is a must for Windows Phone 7 to thrive. I expect much of these issues to be worked out with its Mango release. Also, I’ve had a problem of being unable to hear anything on calls after longs periods of playing music. This could be signal strength, but I’m unsure at this point. This is something I’ll have to continue to monitor. Lastly, an issue that will only be improved with time is the Windows Phone ecosystem. As it stands, things are not horrible by any means, but the wealth of apps available on Apple iOS and Google Android are not to be overlooked. While this may not as big issue for the smartphone newcomer, this could be a deal breaker when migrating from the other platforms.

Final Thoughts

In closing, while the Samsung Focus, hardware wise, is about as solid as they come, the current state of Windows Phone 7 will definitely leave the taste palette of a seasoned iOS or Android user wanting more. But don’t count Windows Phone out just yet. With the aforementioned ‘Mango’ update later this year, along with the impending explosion of the Windows Phone Marketplace, Windows Phone 7 will be on par (if not better) than its smartphone counterparts. The OS is different enough to provide a fresh experience in the now overcrowded smartphone atmosphere. Yes, I expect big things from Samsung with the Windows Phone 7 OS in the future. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.