With iOS and Android certainly leading the way when it comes to smartphones, Microsoft is taking aim at the marketplace with its Windows Phone platform. One of the newest devices on the market that utilizes the OS is the Samsung Focus 2, which comes in at a very affordable $50 with a 2-year contract with AT&T.
Running Windows Phone “Mango” (version 7.5), the phone measures up at 4.79 x 2.47 x 0.43 inches and weighs only 4.3 oz. Perhaps taking a page from the Samsung Galaxy S III’s design, the Focus 2 features soft rounded corners with smooth back case and is simply comfortable to hold. I would say however, that I would have preferred the back case to be made of a denser material and not light plastic. Users will find three backlit keys at the bottom of the handset: the Windows (home), Back and Search keys. Holding the Back (arrow) key can also pull up recently used apps, which was useful. If you utilize the search button, the Focus will put the Bing search engine to work, finding items either online or on the handset itself; much like you’d find on Xbox Live’s Bing search engine on the Xbox 360. The power button is on the upper right hand side of the handset, while the camera button is a few inches below that and the volume controls are on the left side of the phone. You’ll also find a micro USB port on the bottom and a headphone jack at the very top. I also dug the vibration it gives off when touching the keys or when typing.
The screen measure up at 4-inches and carries with it a 800 x 600 Super AMOLED screen, that I found to produce a very colorful picture. This is especially evident when navigating the OS as the tiles and app icons pop, especially with blue, red and green colors. Brightness, even at it’s highest setting is passable but I would have liked to see it be able to handle a higher setting. Having taken my fair share of photos, I’d call the 5-megapixel camera average, as images taken outdoors look relatively good, especially when tinkering with the settings, though they fail in comparison to what you’d find on the iPhone 4S or a higher-end Android device; even Nokia’s Lumia 900 (the flagship Windows Phone). Indoors, the camera’s capabilities, or flaws, were more evident with very noisy images; though again, with some fidgeting around with the settings, yielded better results. Video recording came off pretty well, as the handset’s camera can record in 720p, though unless I’m really blind, didn’t offer up any stabilizer functionality so recording could come out shaky at times.
The Focus 2 unfortunately does not allow for an SD card and the onboard memory is a paltry 8GB, which was a little disappointing. What I did find surprising however, was that although the device only has a 1.4GHz single-core processor, performance-wise, the phone stacked up quite well against other compatible and multi-core handsets. Moving around the menus, booting and running apps worked well and fast enough that I didn’t feel I had to wait much at all. As it relates to making and receiving calls, I also found the phone more than capable of producing clear audio, and while not exactly loud, was good enough for me. Also of note should the phone’s speakerphone which came off quite nicely.
I also can’t finish up without mentioning the OS itself. Simply put, it’s a joy to use, not only due to it’s quickness but the overall layout is nice to look at. There are tiles on the home screen that you can customize to display apps, contacts and more, while the use of the People app, combines contacts from your phonebook and social networks, assuming you’ve linked them up to your phone. Voice commands can also be prompted for creating messages and when using Bing. I also dug the Local Scout app, which serves like its own built-in Yelp-style app, for finding out what’s hot in your area. You can also scroll down to find the Daily Briefing app that gets you info on local weather, stocks, currency and even top tweets. You’ll also find other built-in apps such as a calculator, alarm clock, calendar or even AT&T’s navigation app.
Looking at the Focus 2’s overall features, the device is somewhat middle of the road of what you’d find with your average smartphone, but it’s relatively quick, easy to use, colorful and has an appealing design. Throw in the attractive Windows Phone OS, and you have low costing smartphone that deserves your attention.