Samsung Focus S first thoughts

Last year, AT&T was chosen as the premier carrier in the US for Windows Phone and what a rocky year it’s been. Arguably, one of the best devices on AT&T was the Samsung Focus due to its microsd slot, gorgeous Super Amoled display and 5 megapixel shooter with antishake making images comparably better than other Windows Phones. And then came Samsung’s first announcement of the Samsung Galaxy S II; leaving many Focus owner a bit frustrated. The only thought many could muster was why can’t Windows Phone have a Samsung Galaxy S II device? It would be a complete hit! Samsung may have been listening to our lofty wishes when the Samsung Focus S was announced on AT&T for a cool price tag of $199 on a two year contract and debuting November 6 (yes that’s today). So, now that the Samsung Focus S has landed, what are our first impressions of Samsung’s newest brother in the Windows Phone camp?

Out of the plethora of devices debuting worldwide, the Samsung Focus S had us intrigued for the amount of stories and presumed hardware specs that made the device a cross between a lion and a unicorn. Sadly, for those living in a world without unicorns and whimsy, you will be slightly disappointed with the hardware due to many rumors being unfulfilled. The phone is offering a 4.27 in. Super Amoled Plus display, a 1.4 GHz second generation Snapdragon single core processor, an 8 megapixel shooter on the back with 4x zoom and a 1.3 megapixel shooter on the front. Unlike other Windows Phone Mango devices, the device will be able to get HSPA+ speeds (yes, the faux 4G, but it should yield speedy data speeds of at max 14.4 MBPS. With the demystifying of the Samsung Focus S, should that detract a possible owner based on hardware? I don’t think so, just because the device lacks 32 gb NAND storage, the other specs are impressive enough to give this phone the ol’ college try.

After spending a bit of time on the device, I have to say the screen is gorgeous, colors are extremely bright and incredibly sharp given the size of the device. The blacks are extremely black, and for users thinking of switching from SLCD on HTC devices or even the Amoled display on the Dell Venue Pro, the screen is breathtaking. But for those holding on to their Samsung Focus, it may not be quite easy to discern the differences. Nevertheless, the screen is amazing to me and gives Windows Phone an extremely sharp impression. All of that said, the screen has one minor issue. In browsing white, the screen appears to be white-blue and not so bright white versus the SLCD screens that gives a really good white background. It could be important especially if users don’t want to stay on a completely dark themed screen and favor the light setting on Windows Phone themes. But it isn’t something that should detract users in the slightest. Just a minor issue I’ve noticed in testing the device. And it is one that plagues several amoled displays.

As with all Windows Phones, there lacks dual core processors, something that Andy Lees indicates will change in time, but for the moment, single core is for every Windows Phone debuting today. That said, the device is fast. And that’s expected running Windows Phone Mango. But the speed gains in using a second generation Snapdragon processor is astounding. Programs were fast and responsive with almost no lag in performing simple tasks that first gen devices would begin to lag miserably in Mango. However, that lagless glass house is shattered when running graphic intensive games, such as The Harvest or Orbitals which is strange. Another peculiarity is the device gets noticeably hot as well when running intensive tasks or games. It’s difficult to say why this occurs though, maybe a bad unit – it has been known to happen from time to time.

One nagging gripe that many users had with the original Focus was the build quality. While solid in hand, the device was so light it felt almost as if it was a toy and easy to break. That doesn’t necessarily change in the Samsung Focus S. The device is still light, and feels rather cheap. But if anyone has their Samsung Focus, then you realize that dropping the device several times will not break the devices. Nor will sitting awkwardly or even putting the device through some extreme circumstances. Now I’m not saying to drop the device to test for strength of the device, but to argue that while the device feels cheap, it is well constructed. The Samsung Focus S feels good in hand and generally the ergonomics aren’t sacrificed by the huge 4.27 in screen. The build quality of the device on initial impression is also very solid. Most likely, your mileage may vary, but on a personal level, the device felt cheap, but the build quality was solid.

All of that said, what are my initial impressions of the device? If I could make a comparison, I would say the device feels like that fruit OS iteration of the 3gS from the 2g. There are several improvements to report, but we’ll save that for the review. Stick with for the full review. But tell us what you think of the phone when you purchase it!