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Samsung Focus 2 Review: Budget-Price, LTE-Enabled
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Date: Jul 20, 2012
Section:Mobile
Author: Jennifer Johnson
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Introduction And Specifications

Samsung and AT&T are hoping to attract customers who want a sleek Windows Phone at an affordable price with the Samsung Focus 2. The Focus 2 is Samsung's first 4G LTE Windows Phone. It's also the third Windows Phone from AT&T that connects to the carrier's 4G LTE network. AT&T's 4G LTE network is currently available in 47 markets which covers over 74 million Americans.

Running on Windows Phone 7.5 (codenamed Mango), the Focus 2 features a 4-inch Super AMOLED screen, 1.4GHz Qualcomm processor, and a 5-megapixel camera. With Windows Phone 7.5, you'll get Live Tiles which gives you real time updates directly from the Start Screen; you can see calendar appointments, emails, social media updates, and more with a quick glance thanks to Live Tiles.

 

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Samsung Focus 2
Specifications & Features
Processor and memory
1.4GHz single-core Qualcomm (Snapdragon S2)
512MB RAM
8GB internal storage (non-expandable)
Operating System
Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango)
Connectivity
GSM Quad-band: 850/900/1800/1900MHz
UMTS Tri-band: 850/1900/2100MHz
LTE Dual band 4 & 17
Data Speed: EDGE/GPRS/HSPA+/LTE
Bluetooth
Wi-Fi
GPS
microUSB
Display
4-inch WVGA Super AMOLED (480 x 800 Pixel)
Size and weight
4.79 "x 2.47" x 0.43"
4.3 Ounces
Cameras and multimedia
5.0 Megapixel Rear-facing Camera
VGA front-facing web camera
3.5mm headset jack
Battery
1750mAh
Standby Time: Up to 10.4 Days (3G), Up to 6.5 Days (4G LTE)
Continuous Usage Time: Up to 6 hours
Availability
AT&T ($49.99 with two-year contract)

The Focus 2 is thin and lightweight, measuring 10.98mm thick and weighing 4.3 ounces. When you compare the footprint of the Focus 2 to many of today's popular Android handsets, you'll immediately notice the Focus 2 is smaller, enabling it to fit very easily in your pocket or purse and making it comfortable to hold in your hand.

The Focus 2 is currently available from AT&T for $49.99 with a two-year contract. Given its budget-friendly price, the Focus 2 isn't designed to compete with the high-end $200+ handsets on the market. Instead, it's designed to give Windows Phone users 4G LTE connectivity and reasonable performance without breaking the bank.

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Design and Build Quality

The Focus 2 has a white casing with a silver band on the edges of the phone. Above the 4-inch WVGA Super AMOLED  (480 x 800) display, you'll find the VGA camera in the upper left corner. Between the camera and speaker at the top of the phone, you'll see proximity and light sensors. Below the display are three buttons: Back, Start / Windows , and Bing search.

On the left edge of the phone in the silver band, you'll find the volume rocker. The microUSB port is located on the bottom edge of the phone. On the right edge, you'll find the Power/Lock key as well as a dedicated camera button. The Focus 2's 3.5mm headphone jack is located on the top edge.

 

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Upon pressing the dedicated camera button from any screen on the phone, the camera application will open. Similar to using a standalone point-and-shoot camera, pressing this button halfway down provides a focus lock and pressing the button completely down will snap a photo. It's a nice touch, and it makes the Focus 2's camera feel much more like a standalone point-and-shoot camera than most smartphone cameras. 

You'll find the Focus 2's 5 megapixel camera and LED flash on the back of the phone near the top. The back battery cover is removable and provides access to the phone's SIM card. The Focus 2 does not have a microSD card slot.

 

The Focus 2 measures 4.79 x 2.47 x 0.43 inches and weighs 4.3 ounces, making it one of the lightest phones we've looked at recently.

Samsung Galaxy S 4G
4.2 ounces
Samsung Focus 2
4.3 ounces
Motorola Droid Razr
4.48 ounces
Nexus S
4.55 ounces
HTC One X
4.58 ounces
HTC Droid Incredible
4.6 ounces
Samsung Galaxy S III
4.7 ounces
HTC EVO 4G LTE
4.73 ounces
Apple iPhone 4
4.8 ounces
Apple iPhone 4S
4.9 ounces
LG Spectrum
4.99 ounces
Samsung Droid Charge
5.04 ounces
Motorola Droid Razr Maxx
5.1 ounces
Motorola Droid Bionic
5.57 ounces
Motorola Photon 4G
5.6 ounces
HTC EVO 3D
6 ounces
HTC Thunderbolt
6.23 ounces

 
Although the phone has a smaller footprint than many of the large-screen Android handsets we've seen recently, we didn't feel as if we were making a huge sacrifice in terms of screen real estate when using the Focus 2. In fact, the fact that the Focus 2 is a little smaller was nice when we slipped the phone in our pocket, since it is somewhat more svelte than larger offerings.

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Software and User Experience

As we said in our review of the Nokia Lumia 900 smartphone, Windows Phone 7.5 has made great strides and now feels much more refined and elegant than previous versions of Windows Phone. This OS is finally at a state that can compete with Android and iOS.

Thanks to Windows Phone 7.5, the Focus 2 is able to offer a threaded email inbox, Office Mobile, and Microsoft SharePoint support. In addition to searching the web, Bing Search lets you search for music by having the phone "listen" to a playing track; scan barcodes, QR Codes, Microsoft Tags, and more; and dictate searches using the voice controls.

Microsoft is also focusing on providing information that's relevant to your location with Local Scout. Once the phone finds your location (it didn’t take long on our test model), you can page through nearby restaurants, activities, shopping, and highlights. This app is easy to use and visually very appealing.

Like the Nokia Lumia 900, the Focus 2 also comes with Internet Sharing enabled, which lets you share the phone's Internet connection with up to five other devices. As far as browsing on the phone is concerned, the latest version of Internet Explorer is a definite improvement over previous editions. The browser felt smooth and responsive during our testing.

 

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The Microsoft Marketplace app store is growing, but the number of titles available is still relatively small in comparison to what you'll see on iOS or Android. First time smartphone buyers will likely be happy with the Marketplace offerings, but long-time Android and iOS users will likely find some missing apps in comparison to these larger app stores.

Windows Phone 7.5 also supports multitasking. Just press and hold the Back button and you'll see a card-like interface that lets you quickly switch between apps.

 

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Performance, Camera, And Battery Life

Even though the Focus 2 has a single-core CPU, it feels quite responsive. The user interface is responsive and we didn't feel as if we were waiting on the phone to react to our demands. Multitouch controls work well and are quick to respond when pinching to zoom in the browser or when viewing photos.

Microsoft caps Windows Phone device screens to 800 x 480. As a result, the Focus 2's screen isn't quite as dense as other screens we've seen. Overall, the Focus 2's 4-inch WVGA Super AMOLED looks good. Viewing the screen outdoors under direct sunlight was no worse than on other phones with a Super AMOLED screen. In some instances, viewing the screen outdoors was a bit easier thanks to Microsoft's clean user interface and dark backgrounds on some screens. Viewing angles are excellent.

   

   

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The Focus 2 has a 5 megapixel camera on the back of the phone. Some indoor images were occasionally washed out by the LED flash, but that's pretty common when taking a close-up shot indoors with any smartphone camera. Our biggest complaint is that some outdoor images didn't always display the best color. While we appreciate the implementation of the camera app and camera button, image quality is of greatest importance. The Focus 2's camera captured a number of respectable images, but since some of our images didn't really show the true coloration of the setting, we wouldn't recommend trading your point-and-shoot for this on-board camera.

The Focus 2 comes with a 1750mAh battery. Samsung says you should be able to get up to 10.4 days of standby time with 3G service or up to 6.5 days of standby time with 4G LTE service. Samsung rates the continuous usage of this phone at up to 6 hours. To put these numbers to the test and give a better feel for how the Focus 2 compares to other Windows Phone devices we've seen, we ran the WP Bench Battery benchmark. This benchmark keeps the screen on and loops a CPU-intensive task in the background.

In this test, the Focus 2 lasted for four hours and 36 minutes – just a few minutes longer than the Nokia Lumia 900. During the test, the Focus 2 was connected to AT&T's 4G HSPA network, not an LTE network. To be fair, we must point out that the Lumia 900 was connected to AT&T's LTE network during the test. Although the radio isn't exercised during the test, having it active and available in the background will make a difference. Still, this test shows you should be able to enjoy respectable battery life with the Focus 2.
 

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Performance Benchmarks

In addition to using the Focus 2 in a variety of everyday usage scenarios, we also conducted some formal performance testing to see how well the handset compares to other smartphones. WP Bench is a performance-oriented benchmarking application within the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace. To date, it's one of the only ways to test the small-but-growing stable of WP7 handsets.

Similar to the Nokia Lumia 900, the Focus 2 has a single-core 1.4GHz Qualcomm processor and 512MB of RAM. In comparison to today's hottest Android smartphones, the Focus 2 may appear under powered. Despite the hardware, the Windows Phone operating system functions quite well--it simply doens't need multi-core processors to feel quick. As you can see from the WP Bench scores above, the Focus 2 performs very well in comparison to a few other Windows Phone handsets we've seen recently. In fact, the Focus 2 always came in first or second place in all of the benchmarks.

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Conclusion

The Samsung Focus 2 offers good performance using hardware that's not exactly top-of-the line in comparison to Android phones of today (the Focus 2 has a 4-inch Super AMOLED screen, a single-core 1.4GHz Qualcomm processor, and 512MB of RAM). Windows Phone 7 dictates some of the hardware requirements for the Focus 2 which may seem to hold it back on paper, but real-world usage shows the phone is very responsive and proves the OS / hardware combination really has a lot to offer.

The Focus 2 is also thin and lightweight, taking up less space in your pocket or purse than many of today's hot Android phones. As we pointed out, the Focus 2 is actually one of the lightest smartphones we've seen in recent months.

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We definitely appreciate that the Focus 2 has 4G LTE connectivity. However, considering AT&T currently offers 4G LTE service in only 47 markets, there are still a number of Americans who won't be able to use this phone's full speed capabilities on a regular basis.

The Focus 2 isn't designed to be one of AT&T's high-end phones. Instead, it's designed to be a budget-friendly and feature-rich smartphone. If you're looking for a good Windows Phone smartphone or if you're new to the smartphone market and want something that's not going to break the bank but that will provide access to AT&T's 4G LTE network, the Focus 2 is definitely a smartphone to consider. Keep in mind though, that no current Windows Phone will be upgraded to Windows Phone 8. The Focus 2 is likely to receive an update to 7.8, which will make the interface and other visual elements looks like WP8, but the full blown version of Microsoft's next mobile OS will only arrive on new hardware, which may be worth waiting for.

  

 

     
  • Reasonable price
  • Respectable performance
  • 4G LTE connectivity
  • Limited 4G LTE coverage areas
  • No storage expansion option
  • Limited Marketplace

 



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