Samsung Focus Windows Smartphone

Microsoft software shines in this phone, though fewer apps available.

November 14, 2011, 5:50 PM

Nov. 15, 2011 — -- I'll admit it. I have a Windows phone, and I love it.

My experience with the Samsung Focus has been nothing short of extraordinary. Every second I use the phone is a joy. Samsung has earned a reputation for delivering great mobile devices, including the recently released Galaxy S II and Galaxy Nexus, but with the Focus, Microsoft is the one that shines.

Power up the phone and you're greeted with a series of "Live Tiles." Each tile updates in real time, adding new information to the home screen, like your number of unread emails and text messages.

The best use of this feature is the People tile, which continuously flips through photos from your social networks in a 3X3 square. No more waiting for new Facebook photos to load -- you can scroll through your friends' latest snapshots with the flick of a finger.

But say you did click on the People tile. What you'd get is an integrated timeline of your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn feeds. Liking, retweeting, and sharing are a breeze. Likewise, clicking the "Me" tile shows you all the social activity directed at you -- @ tweets, Facebook tags, etc. -- in one consolidated screen. And from this tile, you can update all of your accounts in a single status update.

The built-in applications work beautifully with transitions and animations that make even the most seasoned iPhone addict go "Ooh!" (Try it, I have, it works.) The browser is easy to use. Bing Maps, while a departure for those accustomed to Google Maps, work well and the GPS determines location instantly. Downloading music, podcasts, and videos are a snap with Microsoft's Zune system.

Microsoft even offers some basic voice technology to dictate texts, make calls and search the web. No, it's no Siri, yet, but Microsoft has indicated that it will release a much more advanced technology in the near future.

Which brings us to this phone, and every Windows phone's borderline-fatal flaw -- lack of apps. While the Windows Phone Marketplace is easy to navigate and search, there are simply not that many apps to choose from. As of July, the Windows Marketplace hovers around 25,000 apps. By comparison iPhone and Android have 350,000 and 150,000 apps. But the most popular ones are there -- Foursquare, Twitter, Evernote, GroupMe, Soundhound, Tripit and, of course, Angry Birds. Absent major players include Dropbox, Google Voice, Instapaper and Instagram.

For business users looking to make the leap, the phone offers Exchange support and Office Live. Office Live lets you view, edit and sync Word, Excel and other files directly from your phone. Another great feature is the Battery Saver mode, which automatically shuts down power hogs like push email and live updates when the phone's battery is below a certain level. This feature becomes really useful when you do not have a charger nearby.

Samsung included the necessary hardware to make this phone a multifunction tool. The 5MP camera, with a dedicated exterior camera button, takes crisp photos and videos and has a built-in flash. In addition to using the camera button, you can simply tap the screen to take a photo when in camera mode, which is great for one-handed shooting. The device feels solid in your palm, and the speaker and microphone deliver great sound.

The idea of falling in love with a Windows anything is still something I have issues with. But I can't deny my affection for this phone, and if you're looking to make a break with your current device, the Windows Phone 7 could very likely win you over too.

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