Samsung Focus 2 Review

Advertisement

After having announced the (then-named) Windows Phone 7 Series platform at Mobile World Congress 2010, Microsoft planned a flashy New York City event in the fall of that same year to show off the first devices that would be bestowed with the Windows ecosystem’s answer to Apple and Google’s foray into mobile. There were a handful of devices, though one stood out to us in particular: the Samsung Focus, which seemed to have the best screen, the snappiest performance, and the most impressive thin-and-light form factor. The Focus went on to be one of the best-selling early Windows Phone 7 devices, and so it’s no wonder that AT&T and Samsung decided to continue the life of the brand with the Focus 2. This time we have a faster CPU, super-fast LTE connectivity, and a refreshed design. Does the Focus 2 live up the good name of the original? Read our full review to find out!

Video Review

Hardware

Let’s run through some specs. The Focus 2 has a second-generation Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8255T S2 CPU clocked at 1.4GHz, backed by 512MB of RAM. For storage you get a mere 8GB, of which only 6GB is user-accessible. There’s no microSD storage, either. The display is unchanged from the original Focus: it’s a 4.0-inch WVGA Super AMOLED pentile-matrix display. For imaging, there’s a 5MP camera on the back with a flash, and a front-facing VGA camera. You get the usual Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios, plus UMTS and LTE. Powering the entire unit is a nicely-sized 1750mAh battery. The phone is 11mm thick and weighs 122 grams, compared to the original Focus, which was just 10mm thick and weighed 115 grams.

 

Included in the box is a set of white headphones, and a charger.

The Focus 2 comes in white and white only. It has a much more rounded-design than the original Focus, lending to a more natural in-hand feel. The three black dots near the earpiece for the camera, light sensor, and proximity sensor, give the Focus 2 a high-tech look.

The Focus and Focus 2 look quite similar, despite a slightly smaller bezel on the Focus 2, and the color difference.

The Focus 2 is one millimeter thicker than the Focus, and you can really tell the difference. Eleven millimeters in thickness feels like a lot for a device with a smallish 4.0-inch display.

The white is actually a piano-white, meaning it is a flat color (not metallic), and it’s super shiny and slick. This is problematic if you have sweaty/oily hands, as the Focus 2 will quickly become slippery and difficult to hold. Notwithstanding in-hand feel, the Focus 2 is indeed handsome, with a chrome strip that runs around the edges of the phone and towards the back. Also back here is the 5MP camera sensor with flash, and the speaker.

In a few ways, we were reminded that the Focus 2 is a budget phone. Chief among them is that the phone is entirely plastic. Second, and less obvious, is an ugly back-light bleed that makes the three hardware buttons look pretty horrible when illuminated. Yuck!

On the left side of the device we have the volume rocker. A chrome strip that adorns the edge of the Focus 2 has an arc-shape to it, which actually makes the device look a little bit thicker than it is.

And on the right side we have the power button and the two-step camera key. As always, Windows Phone makes it fast and easy to take a photo without having to unlock the screen: just tap and hold the camera button while the phone is off, and the camera app launches.

Opening up the back battery door we see the 1750mAh battery, plus the slot for the microSIM. No microSD storage back here!

We were very much excited with Super AMOLED in 2010, but in 2012, we’re weary of its disadvantages, such as its poor viewing angles. Turning the Focus 2 to the side tints the screen green.

The combination of a relatively low 233ppi pixel density and a pentile-matrix array means that close up, the Focus 2’s screen looks pixelated.

Software

Windows Phone 7.5 is a pretty big improvement over the first release of Windows Phone, but it’s starting to feel a bit stale. For example, it’d be nice to have some sort of folder paradigm work on the homescreen. It’s easy to have an endlessly-long scrolling list of tiles in Windows Phone 7.5 once you put all of your internet favorites, people, and apps within reach. We’ve seen a glimpse at what to expect in Windows Phone 8, but it’s still too early to know what type of UI changes Microsoft will be making.

If you’re not bored of Windows Phone, you’ll have a very pleasant experience with the Focus 2 thanks to the snappy 1.4GHz CPU. It’s noticeably faster than the original Focus: apps open more quickly, web pages load faster, and everything just feels more responsive. That said, the Focus 2 can’t keep up with some of the multi-core Android handsets that are now on sale. For example, loading a complex webpage, while speedy, can become cumbersome to navigate if you don’t give the browser enough time to respond to your commands. We know that in Windows Phone 8, the platform will have multi-core processor support, so it’s not long until Windows Phone devices are on par with what Android and iOS can do when pushed to the edge.

Beyond a predictable Windows Phone experience, you get the typical AT&T bloatware apps, all of which are easily removable. These include CodeScanner, FamilyMap, Navigator, and U-verse Mobile, most of which require you to pay after a trial period.

Call Quality/Network Speed

The Focus 2 is an LTE-capable device, should you be lucky enough to have AT&T LTE in your area (which, at the time of this review, still isn’t likely). We tested the Focus 2 over HSPA+, and speeds were a reasonable 2-5Mbps down and 1-2Mbps up. Call quality was good, and the speakerphone volume was strong.

Camera

The original Focus had a very, very good camera. The Focus 2 takes just mediocre shots. In a lot of cases, colors are over-saturated, macro shots came out soft, and low-light pictures were noisy or, if the flash fired, too white.

Video, shot at the maximum 720p, was also unremarkable. Audio was crisp and clear, but color actually appeared un-saturated, and macro shots weren’t exactly clear.

Battery Life

With a power-sipping Super AMOLED display and a spacious 1750mAh battery, it’s no wonder the Focus 2 has great battery life. We were able to muster a near full two days with moderate use, and a full day with heavy use. As mentioned, we didn’t test the Focus 2 over LTE, which would have caused battery life to be worse and more in line with average smarpthone battery life — requiring you to plug in about once per day.

Purchasing and Availability

The Focus 2 is available from AT&T for $50 after a new two-year contract, or $399 outright.

Pros

  • + Inexpensive
  • + Snappy performance
  • + LTE-capable
  • + Good battery life

Cons

  • – Display is pentile; has poor viewing angles
  • – Device is slippery in-hand
  • – Only 6GB of user-accessible storage
  • – Camera performance is below-average

Conclusion

The Focus 2 is a nicely-priced Windows Phone 7.5 device that provides a fast and fluid experience and future-proof internet connectivity. The most discerning of smartphone buyers will want to consider the Lumia 900 or Titan II, which, while more expensive, provide a premium hardware experience with better screens and more storage.

Advertisement

What's your reaction?
Love It
0%
Like It
0%
Want It
0%
Had It
0%
Hated It
0%
About The Author
Brandon Miniman
Brandon is a graduate from the Villanova School of Business, located near Philadelphia, PA. He's been a technology writer since 2002, and, in 2005, became Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow, a then Windows Mobile-focused website. He has since helped to transition Pocketnow into a top-tier smartphone and tablet publication. He's so obsessed with technology that he once entered a candle store and asked if they had a "new electronics" scent. They didn't.