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Samsung Focus S Windows Phone Review

By Julio Franco
Dec 12, 2011
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  1. you can change the camera button settings so that it doesn't respond when locked.
    Settings>applications>pictures+camera>press and hold camera button to wake up phone or prevent accidental camera launch when phone is locked.
  2. I'm not against anything the reviewer said, but listing "smaller app selection" as a con is a bit off, don't you think?

    I mean, there are more on the App Store and Android Marketplace, but Marketplace is catching up and it already has almost all the high-profile apps. This wouldn't be a con for 99% of the people looking for a new smartphone.
  3. Not sure what the reviewer means about the web browser not supporting WebKit as WebKit is a different browser engine. Web sites should be built in HTML/CSS/JavaScript so perhaps the web sites are hard coded to look for a specific browser rather than using HTML and adapting to the client.
  4. lawfer

    lawfer TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,272   +91

    I don't get it. You disagree with his statement, but then you go on and support it on your second paragraph? All he said was "smaller app selection", which is, unequivocally, true. Whether it is catching up or not, WP7 is late in the game. And WP7 doesn't have almost all high-profile app; the platform is not even close, and probably will never be if the WP7 team doesn't implement a native SDK for C++ support.
  5. yukka

    yukka TechSpot Paladin Posts: 720   +30

    "Still, the Focus S is an impressive smartphone, with fast performance and the familiar Windows Phone interface ? flawed as it still may be."

    Thats a nice way to start an un-biased interview isn't it. How is the interface flawed exactly? Care to elaborate on that? Is that in the same way the iPhone or Android interface is flawed or does it have its own unique flaws?
  6. yukka

    yukka TechSpot Paladin Posts: 720   +30

    review. not interview.
  7. Chazz

    Chazz TS Enthusiast Posts: 633   +60

    I agree with this. State what your issues are instead of spouting underhanded jabs. Are you just following the opinion of the crowd or did you experience issues that disturbed you?
  8. dcseifert

    dcseifert Contributing Author

    This is true, but it doesn't solve the problem of the camera launching when the phone is unlocked or when you are using another app. I like the fact that the camera button exists, I just feel that it could have been improved by being more flush with the phone's body. It is a tough line to tread, as it can be difficult to use if the button is too flush, so a happy medium has to be found.

    -Dan
  9. dcseifert

    dcseifert Contributing Author

    To clarify, there are some usability issues with Windows Phone 7.5 that prevent it from being perfect. For instance, the hardware search key opens a Bing web search regardless of the app that the user is currently in. It would be more logical, and therefore easier to use if the hardware search key initiated a search within the specific app that the user is currently using (i.e. when I am browsing my email, the hardware key should open a search within the email app, not a Bing web search).

    Though the app list has been improved with Windows Phone 7.5/Mango, it is still tedious to navigate when you have a long list of apps installed. I think it could benefit greatly from a hierarchal structure that alows the users to organize things a bit better.

    The People Hub, which is one of Microsoft's signature features, is also incomplete in its current incarnation. The integration with Twitter and Facebook is nice, and appreciated, but since it lacks support for any sort of private messages in either service, users are still required to rely on third-party apps for a complete Twitter or Facebook experience. Also, it does not notify the user with a vibration, audible alert, or icon on the lock screen when there are new notifications in the Me tile. If Microsoft insists that the Windows Phone 7.5 operating system is supposed to let you know what is going on with your social networks quickly and without fuss, notifications should be a big part of that (The slow to update, and slow to flip live tile defeats the purpose if I have to unlock the phone and stare at it to see if I have any new notifications. Assuming I remember to check it frequently, of course.).

    Windows Phone 7.5 is a very solid operating system, in fact I like it a lot. But it is still a work in progress, and it doesn't quite make it as a daily driver for me. That isn't to say that iOS and Android aren't "flawed" in their own rights (something I point out in every Android or iOS device review), but they provide a more complete package between the apps available to the platform and the platform itself.

    Hope this was able to clarify things a bit for you.

    -Dan
  10. lawfer

    lawfer TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,272   +91

    Putting aside the fact that this "explanation" should have been included in your review, last time I checked WP7 never aspired to be perfect.

    Before Mango, the operating system was content-aware with the search key; like you said, if you pressed the search key in the People Hub, for instance, it would start searching for contacts. The same applied to pretty much every part of the OS. There were many reasons as to why this was removed. The most important one, perhaps, is that the WP7 Dev team wanted the OS to provide the information you wanted, when you wanted, and at the same time keep a consistency and predictability with how the software keys were used.

    You see, in usability terms, Windows Phones do not need the search key. It could all be implemented inside the GUI (as it already is). They could as well have a Bing or Search app that you could pin and use whenever you wanted to search for something (like Android/iOS). But the very reason as to why the role for the search key was changed to be that of a search function of its own, was to provide the user an always-on access to information from anywhere withing the phone. When Tango arrives in Q1 2012, this search function will not only search Bing, it will do a system-wide search. So the main reason why this might seem off to you is because the context of what the search key represents (especially if you are used to Android)--you know, that it is supposed to be content-aware--disparates with what you've been used to.

    Alternatively, all WP7 OEM's have released a firmware update that prevents the user from accidentally pressing the search key while using the touch sensors (e.g. playing Fruit Ninja or texting). Thus, the chances of hitting the search key accidentally are almost non-existent, and the true purpose of the search key becomes more prominent as you get used to the phone.


    While I agree there is an inherently bad thing about the app list, I find the implementation of its use more compelling than any drawback it may have. The only reason the app list is there is to let you know which apps you have installed. It is, conceptually, not meant for the user to use it as its means of launching an app. The methodology of the Metro UI is that the user pins an app, and launches (or doesn't) that app from the home screen. The app list is not there for you to unnecessarily navigate, its main reason of being is to provide a bridge between the installed apps and the home screen. It is the very reason why you can also "manage" your apps (by "manage" I actually mean deleting), because the app list in and of itself is not meant to be used as your sole source for app-launching. If you use it as that, then it does become cumbersome.

    Like I first mentioned, I do find the app list to lack in some areas, but when you stop thinking about what it should be, and realize what it is, its usefulness becomes more apparent. That is not to say it can't be improve, as all software improve progressively.

    The People hub was never, and I repeat, never meant to replace the Facebook or Twitter apps. The dev team has said this many times before. It is simply a OS feature made keep people up-to-date with whats going on, not replace their entire social experience. Besides, WP 7.5 includes the more private Facebook chat.

    Also, lack of third-party notification is literally non-existent, I admit, but at the end of this comment I'll tell why that is irrelevant here.

    It is definitively a work in progress. In no one's mind was there ever any doubt. The tendency I see among reviewers is that, while granted, WP7 came late to the party, and its devs seem a little too focused to "put people first" and not actually release much needed updates at faster rates (some of these update I want released address some of the quirks you've had with the OS), the truth is, this OS is being compared to much older, more established operating systems. Once you use the phone, you try to inadvertently emulate things you did with Android or iOS. While it has some serious problems, such as the lack of third-party communications support and lack of native C++ support, it still manages to outdo webOS, for example, as far as establishment in the mobile space goes. The reason for this is because it is intrinsically different, and most of its features are implemented well and better than the competition.

    No, this doesn't clear anything at all. Want to know why? Because everything you've said, has nothing to do with how "flawed" the interface is. All you pointed out were, roughly, about all the cons with the OS. What you dislike is not how the OS present things, but how it seems to do (or <i>not</i> do) certain things. It is not a problem of presentation, but execution. That distinction alone makes your argument invalid.
     
  11. Julio Franco

    Julio Franco TechSpot Editor Topic Starter Posts: 6,536   +318

    Oh my, lawfer. I believe Dan did a fine job at pointing out the strengths and drawbacks of this particular phone, and promptly responded to your feedback based on his observations with the Focus S and the Windows Phone platform. Whether you agree with him or not.

    To put it in your own words... last time I checked, our reviews and subjective, well-intentioned opinions never aspired to be perfect.
  12. lawfer

    lawfer TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,272   +91

    Nobody argued the actual quality of this review as a whole. Only an area is being criticized; an area in which the author seemed biased. Just as it is your job to give well-intentioned opinions in your reviews, it is, equally, the reader's job to give well-intentioned criticism, as I believe I did. (I apologize if the author felt offended.)

    Apropos, perfection in your writing was never the pursuit of your readers. Clarity and impartiality was.
  13. Chazz

    Chazz TS Enthusiast Posts: 633   +60

    Ya, I'd rather you point that out. Most of those are subjective, but It's better than nothing. We come here to read your opinion so it's nothing wrong with stating that.

    I don't get your people hub comment though. You are aware that you can talk to people via facebook chat right? It's just not in the people hub, it is in the messaging hub and that gives toast messages. Would you rather they relocate it into the people hub? Also I like that I'm not bothered everytime someone comments on a facebook toast or retweets me. But, that's also a user preference thing. I'd still be welcome to hear your perspective on it.

    Thanks for responding.
  14. dcseifert

    dcseifert Contributing Author

    Yes, you are correct, Facebook Chat messages are integrated into the Messaging Hub. But messages that are sent to your Inbox are not, and since the People Hub integrates Facebook notifications, it would make sense (to me, at least) to put private Inbox messages there as well. Same goes for Direct Messages on Twitter or whatever private messages are supported by the other social networks available in the People Hub. Facebook seems to leaning towards an integration of Chat messages and Inbox messages with its Messenger app for other platforms, so if Microsoft integrated Inbox messages into the Messaging Hub along with the Facebook Chat messages, that could be a viable solution.

    As far as notifications go, as you mentioned, it is a user preference situation. Unfortunately, if you want the notifications, you can't turn them on. I would just like to see the option for them, so the user can decide whether or not to be audibly and visually notified for Facebook or Twitter activity.
  15. dcseifert

    dcseifert Contributing Author

    You make some very valid points, and I appreciate your perspective on the OS as a whole.

    However, the reason it is compared to other platforms, regardless of how much longer the others have been on the market, is because when a consumer is entering a store to purchase a device, they will be comparing it to others that are also on the shelf at the same time. Taking a look at the Samsung Focus S, it is available from AT&T in the U.S., so it shares shelf space with the iPhone 4S, Samsung Galaxy S II and other high-end Android smartphones. When a customer is cross-shopping the devices, they will invariably compare the operating systems, and will likely not care that one has not been on the market for as long as the others. Customers don't want to pay hundreds of dollars for a device that has the promise of things to come. They want it to work for their needs now, meaning they want it to have the apps they need or are looking for, and for it to do the tasks that they are looking for from a smartphone without much fuss or hassle.

    Frankly, some of the behaviors that are exhibited in Windows Phone are not exactly intuitive at first, and I have seen others that I have let use the phone have some trouble figuring things out when they first pick it up. Whether or not that is due to a conditioning by other operating systems' idioms doesn't really matter, because if a user can't figure out something quickly and easily when they first get it, they are less likely to enjoy the device (note that Android is frequently criticized for being too complex for new users as well, and that is something that I agree with more often than not).

    When we are reviewing devices, we most certainly are ranking execution over presentation. Execution is all that matters in the long run - if something works in an easy, unobtrusive way or it doesn't is what matters to the end user. Obviously, it comes down to personal preference whether or not someone will like a particular interface or smartphone over another, and readers are more than welcome to disagree with my opinion (and share their opinion, as you have done). All I can provide is my educated recommendation on a particular device, taking in all factors (performance, hardware, possible bugs, etc.) of course, and then give a rating on it. No review you will ever read is purely scientific, since all reviewers have a subjective opinion on certain things (whether they will admit it or not). I provide my opinion based on the fact that I have used all of the major smartphone operating systems (and the vast majority of the smartphones to hit the market) and can compare their pros and cons for the end-user. I have that privilege to do that, which a customer who is shopping for a new smartphone does not necessarily have. Therefore, my opinion on the matter does have some weight to it, but it is merely a guideline for other people to make their own decisions, not the be-all, end-all of matters.

    -Dan
  16. yukka

    yukka TechSpot Paladin Posts: 720   +30

    Thanks for clearing that up Dan but most of your points are completely personal and subjective. The search used to work the way you point out is wrong and a reason why it now works the way it does has been given by Lawler. The People hub updates my friends status updates so when I go to call someone I see their phone number and a status update. Its a nice touch but not meant to replace dedicated apps. Personally I use the m.facebook webpage as it loads very quickly and I can see and reply to any private messages. I used the same site on my iPhone 3G.

    Anyway before I start writing a massive wall of text I just want to say that for all the positives and negatives relating to the OS what really annoys is a review on a non-biased site that starts by calling the operating system flawed (without backing it up) before making it out of the introduction. Not exactly a great advertisement for anyone to read any further.
  17. If you really want to be bothered with every little thing that happens on fb wih a toast notification, you can register your mobile number wih the website like you probably did with your old feature phone. I realize it's a little low-tech for a smartphone user, but it works. As a WP7.5 user (HTC HD7 on Bell Mobility in Canada) and a huge fan of the OS (as its users tend to be) I do agree with your criticism about the lack of integration of private messaging on fb & twitter. I would love to never again have to open a browser for either social networking service. As far as other's criticism of your seeming bias, it does seem as though the "flaws" you describe are more like wishes that the OS behaved more like the one you're used to, which kind of defeats the purpose of MS designing their own mobile platform, IMHO. Apart from that, a well-written and informative hardware review. Sadly, if I want a Focus S I'll probably have to import one at considerable personal expense, as none of the current 2nd Gen devices are offered on any of the Canadian carriers, and nothing has been announced. :'(
  18. Font size is too small to see and not adjustable. No contrast adjustment. No way to file store documents. Scrolling lists are too long because there is no file system. This makes it hard to get work done.

    The separation of video and photos from other files is a waste of time when trying to build documents or send consolidated information.

    I thought the purpose of a Windows phone was to get work done. This new version has turned a tool into a toy. It is almost an iphone.


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