Camera, Music, Battery, Wrap-up

Camera

The Focus S carries the same 8 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash as the Galaxy S II. The camera is a significant upgrade over the 5 megapixel unit in the Focus and Focus Flash, and thankfully, the Focus S takes much better photos than the Focus Flash, which was surprisingly disappointing. Just like the images captured by the Galaxy S II, the Focus S' pictures have vibrant colors and lots of detail. The Focus S doesn't focus as quickly as the Galaxy S II, but it was accurate the vast majority of the time. The Focus S' two-stage camera key allows you to open the camera from anywhere, including the lockscreen, but since the button protrudes so far from the phone's body, I found that I accidentally opened the camera on occasion.

The 720p (1280 x 720 pixels) video recorded with the camera was not as impressive as the stills captured. The video camera does not have continuous autofocus or zoom controls, and the microphones captured a bit too much background noise. For the price, we would expect a bit better HD video performance than it currently offers.

The front-facing camera can be used for self-portraits and video within the camera app, or used for video calls with a third-party app such as Tango. Windows Phone 7.5 does not currently have native video calling features.

Music

The Samsung Focus S features Microsoft's Zune music player and desktop syncing software to load tunes onto the phone itself. The Zune player offers a very attractive interface, and the more I use it, the more I like it. Playback can be controlled from the lockscreen, and the app will search the web for relevant images to display while music is being played. Microsoft's Zune desktop software makes it easy to get music on the phone, and it supports syncing over Wi-Fi.

Additionally, the Focus S supports Zune's subscription music service that offers unlimited streaming of tunes for $10 per month. There is also a built-in FM radio that requires the use of headphones (the headphone wire acts as the antenna) and sure enough, Samsung has included a set with the Focus S. All in all, the music experience on the Focus S is quite good, but even with twice the internal storage of the Focus Flash at 16GB, those with large music libraries will likely pine for more space since Windows Phone devices do not support conventional microSD storage expansion.

Battery

Samsung has equipped the Focus S with a 1,650mAh battery that claims offers 6.5 hours of talk time or about 10.4 days of standby. In my usual battery of tests, including syncing multiple email and social networking accounts, the Focus S did not have any trouble lasting a full day, even with a fair amount of gaming and listening to music while streaming over Bluetooth to an external speaker. Those that aren't as hard on their phones might be able to get the Focus S to last into a second day, but most people will have to charge it every evening, as is all too common with today's smartphones.

Final Thoughts

The Samsung Focus S is an impressive and enjoyable smartphone to use. While it is not perfect by any means, and it suffers from Windows Phone's continuing growing pains, it has some really great qualities that make it worth a look for anybody in the market for a new smartphone. The only real negative might be its price ($199 on contract), since the Focus Flash offers a very similar user experience for significantly less money upfront. However, if you are able to get over the sticker shock, you will be rewarded with a larger, nicer screen and a much improved camera, not to mention a friendly user interface and decent battery life to boot.

80

Pros: Great display, snappy performance, thin design.

Cons: Unimpressive video recording, virtual keyboard lag, smaller app selection.