Samsung Focus S review: Different kind of flagship

GSMArena team, 9 December 2011.
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The Samsung Focus S is the top dog in the Korean company’s Windows Phone lineup. It is the bigger brother of the Samsung Focus Flash in AT&T’s smartphone lineup.

The term “bigger” is almost entirely related to size here. Due to Microsoft’s tight hardware restrictions for their Windows Phone platform, the line between a flagship and a budget device is quite thin. Thus, the Focus S and Focus Flash share chipsets and CPUs. The differences between the two are in the screen size, built-in memory, and the camera units – here the Focus S is better equipped.

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Samsung Focus S press pics

The Samsung Focus S, despite being a new release, should look quite familiar to you. In a rather clever fashion, Samsung’s designers have decided to shape the device as a twin to the highly successful I9100 Galaxy S II – not a bad idea given the fact that the Android powered handset is still selling like hotcakes.

As always, we’ll kick the review off with the key features of the Samsung Focus S, followed by its main disadvantages.

Key Features

  • 4.3" 16M-color Super AMOLED Plus screen with WVGA resolution (480 x 800 pixels)
  • Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support
  • 3G with HSDPA (14.4 Mbps) and HSUPA (5.76Mbps)
  • Windows Phone 7.5 operating system
  • Ability to uninstall wireless provider’s proprietary apps out of the box
  • 1.4 GHz Scorpion CPU, 512MB RAM, Snapdragon chipset
  • 8 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash and geo-tagging; 1.3MP front unit
  • 720p video recording (the OS does not allow higher resolution yet)
  • A number of Samsung proprietary apps, including a capable photo editor
  • Bing Maps with free navigation
  • 16GB of built-in storage
  • Standard 3.5mm audio jack
  • Standard microUSB port (charging)
  • Wi-Fi b/g/n; DLNA support; Wi-Fi hotspot capable
  • Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP
  • Accelerometer for screen auto rotation
  • FM radio with RDS
  • Office document editor
  • Built-in A-GPS receiver
  • Voice-to-text functionality

Main disadvantages

  • No system-wide file manager
  • Non-expandable memory
  • No Bluetooth file transfers
  • No USB mass storage mode
  • Limited third-party apps availability
  • No Flash (nor Silverlight) support in the browser
  • Too dependent on Zune software for file management and syncing
  • No DivX/XviD video support (automatic transcoding provided by Zune software, but lowers quality)

We’ve already encountered Windows Phone 7.5 Mango on several occasions. The OS has significantly matured with the latest update – it is now a viable alternative for those, who don’t want to go down the iOS or Android road.

Sadly however, Microsoft’s creation leaves no room for customization. You get the same experience, regarding of the device you’re using it on. This means that it is up to the hardware of the respective devices to win the potential consumer over – a welcome news for the Samsung Focus S, given its Galaxy S II pedigree.

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Samsung Focus S live photos

Following next is unboxing of the Focus S, followed by an inspection of its design and build quality.

Editorial: You might notice that this review is shorter than usual and doesn't include all of our proprietary tests. The reason is it has been prepared and written far away from our office and test lab. The Samsung Focus S is a US-only phone, so it will probably never get to the shores of the Old Continent. Still, we think we've captured the essence of the phone in the same precise, informative and detailed way that's become our trademark. Enjoy the good read!
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