Samsung Focus SGH-i917

This review is a work in progress. I just got the phone a couple of days ago, so I’m gonna jot down points till I can find time to write something more bloggy.

Samsung Focus SGH-i917

Feel

The Focus is very thin, light and feels great to hold in the hand. It slides in and out of your jeans pockets smoothly. It’s not abnormally big like the Galaxy S II, so you don’t feel like you’re holding up a mousetrap next to your ear. The tapering, sloped edges on the rear don’t make it look like a boring block either.

Display

Fabulous colors, bright, crisp. Very readable in sunlight. The UI is beautiful and the display does justice to it and vice versa. However, it seems like this is just regular monkey display and not Gorilla glass, because I’ve managed to get a scratch on the screen in two days of use.

Windows Phone 7

Amazing, pleasant user interface. I like how all apps have to use the Metro UI and hence allow the experience to be consistent across everything. However, the UI is absolute, minimalist design, so you’ll find that the actions available in any app are extremely limited.

Update: The phone came with the original software, which I upgraded to NoDo and finally to Mango. Integration of social networks has been extended with Twitter and LinkedIn support and the whole social experience lives inside the “Me” tile, complete with Facebook Like notifications, Twitter @ mentions and the ability to reply. This almost makes it redundant to use the Facebook and Twitter apps, unless you’re looking at something specific such as direct messaging and lists. Mango is awesome!

Apps

I’ve only used Twitter, Facebook and IM+ yet, and they all work as expected. More on this later. And yeah, the Marketplace works fine for me because my Live id address is somewhere in the US. There’s no Windows 8 ‘charm’ like functionality, so I can’t take a picture from the camera and share it using a third-party app such as Twitter or Facebook.

Update: Just installed a fuckload of free apps from the Marketplace. The process of installing apps is much faster than it is on Android or iOS. Editing this from the WordPress app!

Update: There are loads of apps. A lot of them are very feature rich, such as RunKeeper, which also offers a live tile with weekly/monthly stats. However, it doesn’t seem to support multitasking even on Mango.

Sound and Music

The Focus speaker is amazingly clear and sufficiently loud. All of my electronic music sounds fantastic on the speaker as well as my Klipsch Image S2s.

The music player seems to do everything from browsing artists, albums and all the usual stuff, but the biggest fuck up is that it ignores disc numbers stored using iTunes, so all my 2CD compilations (which make up for 80% of my music collection) alternate between tracks on either CD. This is the worst problem I’ve encountered in WP7 yet. I doubt Microsoft is working on a fix for this, so I’m going to have to listen to single CD albums only. Even BlackBerry supports multi-disc albums!

Camera

This has the same-ish 5 megapixel auto-focus camera with LED light as the Nexus S, but for some reason, this one is shit. Even with anti-shake enabled, it can’t focus right. Yes, the camera on the Samsung Focus can’t fucking focus right.

Network

Great sound quality, but very poor reception. I’m unreachable most of the time because the phone can’t get a signal. The iPhone 2G can get a decent signal on the same SIM. When there’s a signal, however, the internet browsing is pretty fast. It’s too bad there’s no switch to turn off 3G, because it’s fucking eating up my prepaid balance, man.

Internet and e-mail:

I feel ridiculous saying this, but the Internet Explorer experience on this phone is way better than using the Android Browser on my Nexus S. Gmail works out-of-the-box and even supports labels (as folders), but no search. Android’s Gmail experience remains numero uno.

Hardware

The Focus hardware is almost identical to the Nexus S, but WP7 seems to run more smoothly on the Focus than Android on the Nexus S. There’s practically no lag and the touch response is excessively smooth.

Verdict

I picked this up on eBay for Rs. 13,290. It’s a US AT&T piece unlocked for use anywhere. At this price, I think it’s a steal. Samsung has no Windows Phone 7 handsets in India, so the closest competition is the HTC Mozart, which sells for around Rs. 16,000. It’s got a better 8 megapixel camera, but the Focus screen is 4″. And I hate HTC, so even if they sell the Mozart for Rs. 8,000, I still won’t buy or recommend it.

More to come…

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