Samsung’s Focus Flash is the second Windows Phone 7.5 from the Korean handset maker. The Focus Flash joins its older brother, the Focus S, and HTC’s TITAN and Radar devices to make up the U.S. line of Windows Phone 7.5 devices this holiday season. Samsung’s Focus Flash is a surprising mid-range device at an extremely competitive price. Is the hardware cheap and tacky for the $49 price though? Read on to find out.
Samsung’s Focus Flash hardware is surprisingly good considering its cost and mid-range tag. The Flash offers a 3.7-inch AMOLED display combined with a 1.4GHz processor. The Focus Flash measures 4.57 x 2.31 x 0.43 inches and weighs just 4.1 ounces. In comparison, the iPhone 4S weighs 4.9 ounces and the HTC TITAN weighs in at 5.6 ounces. The device feels comfortable in the hand and the lightweight feel makes it easily pocketable. The device feels a little fatter than others on the market but it’s hardly noticeable and isn’t a concern during daily use.
The Focus Flash AMOLED display really makes this little device stand out. The gorgeous colors and bright display make pictures and videos feel crisp. The display also seems a lot better than the HTC Radar, a similar mid-range device. The Focus Flash screen appears a little too dim on automatic dimming, rather like the Samsung Focus S. The low brightness appears to be set too low and the screen appears dim a number of times using automatic brightness. To combat this you can set the screen brightness to medium, however this will obviously impact battery life.
The plastic and metal combination and rounded edges of the device make it easy and comfortable to use. The rear of the device is equipped with a 5-megapixel camera, speaker and metal battery cover. The majority of the device is plastic though. The battery cover feels sturdy and covers the majority of the rear of the device. The SIM slot and battery of the device are both accessible from underneath the battery cover. Samsung have not included a micro-SD card on the Focus Flash. The overall construction of the device makes it feel strong and there’s no annoying creaky sounds or flexibility.
Samsung has opted to include a VGA forward facing camera and gyroscope, two new Windows Phone 7.5 hardware features. The combination of a fast 1.4GHz processor, gyroscope and AMOLED display make this a more desirable offering than the HTC Radar, which includes a 1GHz processor and no gyroscope or AMOLED display. The downside to the Focus Flash is the 8GB storage inside, it’s not enough if you’re planning to capture video and photos on the device. On the upside, Samsung has placed a physical Windows button on the Flash which means you can use it to wake the device, something fairly unique in the Windows Phone world.
Samsung’s Focus Flash features Windows Phone 7.5 and the company has thrown in a few improvements of its own. The standard Now application is present and provides weather, news and stocks information in one handy application. AT&T has also installed its FamilyMap, myWireless, Navigator, Radio and U-verse Mobile apps. Yellow Pages mobile is also installed by default. The real changes come with the settings on the device. Samsung has provided some unique alert tones and two new setting menus. The “extra setting” menu allows Windows Phone users to enable auto display intensity, key vibration and echo cancellation. Auto display intensity allows the device to automatically adjust the white color theme to reduce power consumption. The key vibration feedback makes it easy to switch off the vibration feedback on the capacitive back, windows and search buttons. Finally, the echo cancellation improves phone voice quality on calls.
Samsung has also added in a high fidelity position option. Focus Flash users can enable sensor aiding to help with pedestrian positioning, especially where GPS signals are less accurate. The setting will use other sensors such as an accelerometer and compass to aid in navigation. Samsung has also included support for the GLONASS Satellite system. GLONASS is a navigation system operated by the Russian Space Forces for the Russian government. The system compliments the traditional U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS).
Samsung has largely left the rest of the device untouched. There’s no extra camera settings for panoramic or burst shots mode in the camera and no additional apps. Internet Sharing is enabled on the Focus Flash but requires activation from AT&T. Similarly, if you’re purchasing this device internationally (as the Omnia W) then the feature is dependent on your local carrier. Samsung appears to have done the bare minimum to support Windows Phone with the Focus Flash, unlike HTC’s offerings that include a number of useful attentive phone features and camera options.
Samsung’s Focus Flash features a 5-megapixel rear camera. The camera features an LED flash to help with nighttime shots. Samsung’s camera support is fairly basic with the Focus Flash. The camera allows users to change the white balance, sharpness, ISO, contrast, saturation, quality and metering modes. Samsung has not opted to include an anti-shaking mode which can be found on the Focus S device. The camera shoots 5-megapixel images and the results are comparable with similar devices such as the HTC Radar. Daylight images came out well in our tests and the LED flash more than made up for the lack of light during nighttime snaps.
Samsung’s lack of extra camera features puts it behind the rival HTC Radar device. HTC’s Radar device features face tracking, panorama shot and burst shot modes. The features improve the ability to capture a range of different images and the face tracking in HTC’s devices is key for a well focused head shot. Samsung’s Focus Flash also captures HD 720p video and the output is decent in daylight or low light conditions. Microsoft’s own Windows Phone 7.5 improvements also allow users to tap to auto-focus and take a picture instead of using the dedicated hardware button. The zoom provides average quality images but like any digital zoom, it’s often better not to use it if possible.
The results of the Samsung Focus Flash camera can be found below using default settings on the image side and 720p for video capture. We’ve also included some comparison shots between the HTC Radar and the Focus Flash. Click on them all to see the original image.
Performance and battery life
The performance of the Samsung Focus Flash is impressive. The company has opted to include a 1.4GHz processor instead of the under-clocked 1GHz offering in the rival HTC Radar device. Samsung has packed in a 1.4GHz Qualcomm MSM8255 processor alongside 512MB RAM. The same processor can be found on the HTC TITAN, Samsung Focus S and Nokia Lumia 800 devices. The processor in the Samsung Focus Flash is single core but it handles tasks and Windows Phone very well. We tested a number of applications and games and the majority performed identical to the Samsung Focus S.
Battery life is the key part of any smartphone review and we found that the Focus Flash battery life was capable of handling nearly a days use. The 1500 mAh battery is an average size for this particular device. The Samsung Focus Flash is capable of an average talk time of up to 6.5 hours and standby of 250 hours. In our tests the battery life is slightly less than the Samsung Focus S. During an average days use the battery lasts nearly a full day. Microsoft has also included a battery life saver feature inside Windows Phone 7.5 that helps preserve battery life when the device reaches the low threshold. We ran the WP bench battery drain test and it took 2 hours and 45 mins to fully drain the battery at full stress. Comparatively, the Samsung Focus S took 2 hours and 55 mins to fully drain the battery at full stress and the Nokia Lumia 800 took 3 hours and 10 mins. All devices were running at medium screen display during the tests.
WP Bench results, lower ms on CPU/Data tests better. Higher F/s on GPU tests better:
Samsung Focus Flash:
CPU – 14,940 ms
Data – 16,707 ms
GPU – 1179 frames, avg: 39 F/s
Samsung Focus S:
CPU – 14,937 ms
Data – 20,251 ms
GPU – 1255 frames, avg: 41 F/s
CPU – 20,179 ms
Data – 22,357 ms
GPU – 1098 frames, avg: 36 F/s
Overview and conclusion
Overall the Samsung Focus Flash is one of the cheapest U.S. Windows Phone 7.5 devices available today. The AMOLED display, gyroscope, slightly faster processor and gyroscope support put this device in front of rival offerings. Those outside the U.S. will be pleased to learn that Samsung will make a Omnia W variant available which includes identical specifications. If you’re an original Samsung Focus owner but you don’t want to splash out extra for a Focus S then the Flash is more than capable. The screen size is average but Samsung has made sure this mid-range device is the best of its kind.
The look and solid feel of the device is also a bonus for the price. The physical Windows button and great performance (see WP Bench results) show that the Focus Flash packs a punch. If you’re looking for a Windows Phone for a friend or loved one this Christmas then look no further, this is one hell of a bargain for a solid Windows Phone 7.5 device.