Samsung Focus 2 4G LTE Mobile Phone Review

The Samsung Focus 2 is Samsung's first Windows Phone with 4G LTE. It's a follow-up to the Samsung Focus S and the smaller Focus Flash, two of the more popular handsets to grace Microsoft's latest mobile platform. But rather than advance the design in any way, Samsung appears to have fused the two together, rounded the edges off, and called it a day. It's a fine choice, but there are certainly more tempting options.

Design, Screen, and Call Quality

The Focus 2 is essentially a piece of white glossy plastic, albeit with a chrome accent band around the edges and a glass screen. It's just 11mm inch thick, and it weighs 122grams, which is on the thin and light side for a phone with these specs. It feels pretty good in hand, considering it's made of plastic and not a classier substance. The bundled black USB cable and power adapter look a bit odd, when plugged into an all-white phone.

The 4in, 800 x 480-pixel Super AMOLED screen is standard fare for Windows Phones. It looks sharp and colourful, with deep blacks, good brightness, and decent-if-not-spectacular viewing angles. Three brightly lit touch buttons sit beneath the screen. Typing on the on-screen QWERTY keyboard is easy and fast, and I still love the little key click sound on Windows Phones.

The Focus 2 is a quad-band EDGE (850/900/1800/1900 MHz), tri-band HSPA+ 21 (850/1900/2100 MHz), and single-band LTE (700MHz) device with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. In New York City, LTE speeds were on the low side of good in our tests, averaging 8 to 10Mbps down and 1.3 to 1.6Mbps up.

Call quality was mixed. Voices sounded fine in the earpiece, with plenty of available gain and a sharp, bright tone. Transmissions through the mic were less clear, though, and sounded excessively computerised. That said, the phone did a nice job of suppressing external sounds on a noisy street. Reception was solid. Calls sounded fine through a Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset and voice dialling worked perfectly. The speakerphone is quite loud and easily usable outdoors, although it sounds a tad harsh. Battery life was fine, at 6 hours and 10 minutes of talk time.

Hardware, Apps, and Multimedia

Underneath the hood, you'll find a single-core 1.4GHz Qualcomm MSM8255 processor and 512MB RAM. As a proper Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) handset, the Focus 2 should have no problem running any of the 80,000+ third-party apps in the Windows Marketplace. Unfortunately, Microsoft has left it unclear whether all phones will get upgrades to Windows Phone 8 (Apollo), later this year.

Like all Windows Phones, the Focus 2 is fun to use, with its sliding tile interface, smooth animations, and clearly labelled icons. Desktop webpages looked sharp in Internet Explorer in our tests, but there's no way to force WebKit pages to appear the way they do automatically on Android phones and iPhones-you either get archaic WAP or the full desktop site.

There's 6.18GB of free internal storage and no memory card slot. That could get a little cramped after a while. A standard-size 3.5mm headphone jack sits on the top edge of the phone. Music tracks sounded clear through Plantronics BackBeat Go Bluetooth headphones , and the stock Windows Phone music player is a pleasure to use. MP4 and DivX videos played smoothly in full screen mode, but one H.264 test file I use stuttered more often than usual. There's no Xvid support. I had no problem transferring music and videos between the phone and my Lenovo laptop using Zune software, aside from a slight driver hiccup during the initial installation.

Camera and Verdict

The five-megapixel camera offers 720p audio recording, and includes an LED flash. There's also a front-facing VGA camera for video chats. Test photos looked fine for this class of camera. Outdoor test shots were colourful, but the sky became all white. Indoor shots lacked sharpness, though. Recorded 1,280 x 720 pixel (720p) and 640 x 480-pixel (VGA) videos looked sharp and smooth at 30 frames per second. There's no image stabilization, but the Focus 2 adjusts to changing lighting more smoothly than some other phones I've tested.

The Focus 2's biggest problem is Nokia-specifically, the stellar Lumia 900, a Windows Phone with a larger and more vibrant screen, 16GB of internal storage, and a slimmer and classier design, all for the same price as the Focus 2. We're also more confident Microsoft will deliver an Apollo update to the Lumia 900, given the company's tight relationship with Nokia.

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Pros: Pleasing mix of features and performance; Windows Phone OS is fun to use; Loud speakerphone.

Cons: Voice quality isn't the greatest; Doesn't stand out from other Windows Phones in any way.

Score: 6/10

Manufacturer: Samsung

Benchmarks

Continuous talk time: 6 hours 10 minutesSpec Data

Operating System: Windows Phone 7

Screen Size: 4in

Screen Details: 480 x 800-pixel, 16M color, TFT capacitive touch screen

Camera: Yes

Megapixels: five-megapixel

Camera Flash: Yes

802.11x: Yes

Bluetooth: Yes

Web Browser: Yes

Form Factor: Candy Bar

Network: GSM, UMTS

Bands: 850, 900, 1800, 1900, 2100, 700

High-Speed Data: EDGE, LTE, HSPA+ 21

Storage Capacity (as Tested): 6.18 GB

Processor Speed: 1.4GHz

Keyboard: No

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