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Yesterday we mentioned about Samsung's unofficial/official response regarding the expansion card issue. Now today, Sandisk appears to be taking the lead in selling "certified" expansion cards for Windows Phone 7, ranging in sizes form 2 to 32GB.

While the whole certified business always seemed to be a part of the plan, it looks like Microsoft and partners were caught a little off guard by the whole situation, causing AT&T to revise their position many times and OEMs to scramble to offer up support. Things though finally look to be falling in place and considering we're only 1 week into the U.S. launch, it's not too bad.

However, buying these official cards will cost you. The 16GB version will set you back $115 with shipping and the 32GB will run you a jaw dropping $206.

Source: Sandisk; via wmpoweruser

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The tale of expandable storage on Windows Phone 7 is certainly convoluted. We know that they take them, but we also know it's very finicky. When we met with Samsung on October 11th, they told us it wa a permanent change to the device and that once you insert that card, that's it, there's no going back. We wrote back then:

Basically you can any size card you like, but you can't remove it without hard-resetting the phone and it's not clear that the card would be re-usable if you do remove it. So essentially, if you add a 16GB or 32GB card, that's it, you got your shot.

Engadget recently confirmed this, noting that the cards were unusable and cannot even be reformatted. Going further, AT&T changed their tune saying don't add any memory to the Focus, not yet at least. The problem is waiting on specific cards that were "certified" to be used on our devices, cards that met certain performance standards.

Today, Samsung moved very quickly (1 week, not bad) to the controversy and said that Sandisk 8GB Class 2 cards will work on our devices. The bad news is that their support doesn't seem to know that the Focus only has 8GB on board, not 16GB. Going further, this sounds kind of iffy at best. While we don't doubt the 8GB Class 2 cards will work, the whole "officially certified" thing sounds like it is still weeks away from happening.

Hi, actually the Samsung Focus has a 16GB internal memory and expandable up to 32GB. So you can insert a 32GB micro SD card on this device. However there are certain limitations when it comes to the micro SD card. Compatible micro SD cards will be branded as “Windows Phone 7 Compatible” on the packaging. Approved cards can be obtained from the manufacturer or carrier. (The SanDisk 8GB class 2 micro SD card has been certified.) Many commercially available retail micro SD cards are not approved for use in Windows Phone 7. Use of unapproved cards may cause performance degradation or device instability, including unexpected reset and loss of user data. A micro SD card class is not an indication of meeting Windows Phone 7 requirements.

If you want data based on user feedback, MobilityDigest did a whole list of cards that supposedly work and don't work, which we reprint after the break.

Sources: Samsung Support, Engadget, MobileTechWorld, MobilityDigest

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Choices: HTC Surround or Samsung Focus?

A discussion is going on over in the WPCentral Forums is going on that's trying to decide between the Samsung Focus and the HTC Surround. Which phone is better?

Both are quality phones and, honestly, niether one is a bad choice. It's more of an issue of finding which phone fits your personal tastes best.

That's a nice, safe position to take but we couldn't end things with that. In weighing the pros and cons, I see the Samsung Focus having an edge over the HTC Surround. To see why, follow the break.

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Review: Samsung Focus

One of the more anticipated Windows Phone 7 releases was the Samsung Focus. The black slab phone gained appeal with its 4" super-AMOLED screen and thin form factor making it one of the more anticipated Windows Phone 7 releases.

The tell of the tape has the Focus measuring in at 4.8" tall x 2.5" wide x .4" thick and weighing a meager 3.88 ounces. The Focus sports a glossy black and gray finish with chrome accents. It feels solid in the hand with just enough curves to eliminate a boxy feel.

Join us after the break for more on the Samsung Focus.

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Looks like a good morning for Samsung users! Taking that diagnostic menu one step further has allowed folks to figure out how to tether their Samsung WP7 devices, in addition to (the less exciting) MAC ID address.

The hack is pretty straightforward, though it will hose your Zune-over-3G sync option (leaving Wi-Fi sync intact). Overall it sounds like a good solution, so long as you don't run over your cap (2GB for most on AT&T).

Registering may fail on the first attempt, but try a second time and it should succeed.

    1. Open your phone and dial “##634#” then press call. You’ll go into the Diagnosis Menu (going forward this icon appears in your programs so you don’t need to dal that again). This is just a phone dialer with a little icon and note on top.
    2. In diagnosis mode (phone dialer) dial “*#7284#” and a dialogue will pop up letting you change the settings from Zune to modem or “Modem, USB dialog.”. You want to go with “Modem, Tethered Call”. It will restart you phone after a few seconds. Once it restarts, connect to your PC over USB and drivers will be installed on your computer. Now go to your connections on your PC and you’ll see that a Samsung modem was added.
    3. On your PC you need to change the setting for the Samsung modem. If you set it to prompt for user name you’ll be able to put in the login info. This is all it is:

      number: *99***1#

      user name: WAP@CINGULARGPRS.COM

      password: CINGULAR1

      Source: Mobility Digest

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      One complaint we've seen in regards to Windows Phone 7 is when people have tried to set up Wi-Fi on their secured home network. In short, there is no easy easy way to grab your MAC address for configurations that require it.

      Luckily in this case, the Samsung Focus is different from the others by having a diagnostic screen that reveals this info. The directions are easy enough, as described by Mobility Minded, reminiscent of older tricks from Windows Mobile:

      • Go to the Phone section (as if you were going to make a call)
      • Enter ##634# and select “Call“
      • It did not call anything. There should now be a “Diagnosis” option on the top of your screen;
      • Go to Diagnosis and a keypad comes up and enter *#1234# –It should bring up a menu that includes the WiFi Mac Address

      Source: Mobility Minded; via wmpoweruser

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      The Samsung Focus comes with 8GB NAND memory whereas the HTC HD7 comes with 8GB NAND (presumably) and an 8GB microSD card. Of course the Focus can be upgraded by adding a microSD card, but it does not come with one. The theory has it that the HD7 will probably perform slower due to the memory card and indeed, in our tests, this is the case.

      Overall, the Focus feels faster in everyday tasks, navigating the UI and of course loading Need for Speed Undercover, in comparison to the HD7. But, that may be due to the Focus not having an SD card. Either way, the difference is obvious in this video.

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      Looks like AT&T and Microsoft aren't reading from the same playbook, but are now.

      While ample evidence suggests AT&T had no problem with the end user adding extra memory (see here and here), it looks like the giant is now back stepping a bit. In a post yesterday from Paul Thurrott and confirmed by one of our readers at an AT&T store, the employees are now telling customers do not upgrade the microSD card on the device.

      In short, there appears to be a problem with reliability when using non-approved memory. Microsoft is fixing this and it will come out in some OTA update, presumably that one in January that is rumored. The good news is this whole use it/don't use it approach to memory may end once Microsoft sorts out the problem on their end.

      For now, we say: take the risk if you know the implications. If your device starts crashing, or having performance issues, well...take out the card and start anew. You're adults, you can figure this out.

      Source: Windows Phone Secrets, reader Gregory from MA

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      Well that was fast. For awhile, the Samsung Focus wasn't even listed on Amazon's Wireless site for actual purchase. Then it was. Briefly.

      And at  7pm EST, the site is now listing the phone as "Out of Stock" even though the HTC Surround is still available (for $99 no less).

      With reports of stores only have as many as 12 and as little as 2 devices on hand, we guess it's no surprise that they sold out so quick. Not to mention, 43% of you said the Focus was going to be your phone today, blowing away the the HD7 (16%) and the Venue Pro with a whopping 26%, not bad considering how hard it's to find that one.

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      We've known for sometime now that the Samsung Focus has an easily accessible microSD card slot. While Microsoft has been cautious, AT&T has voiced no opposition to using an expansion card and even Samsung points it out in the packaging material. But this expansion slot acts differently than what we are used to with Windows Phones.

      Simply sliding in the microSD card into the expansion slot won't do the trick and apparently not all microSD cards will work.  If you are going to use microSD card, we highly recommend you install it early. The reason being is that in order for the Focus to recognize the extra memory, you have to perform a hard reset on the phone.

      Read more after the break on changing your microSD card!

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      Hands-on with the Samsung Focus

      It was nothing short of an adventure this morning tracking down a Samsung Focus. Apparently a few of the AT&T retail stores in my area missed the memo and started selling them yesterday.  This made finding a Samsung Focus in stock a little bit of a challenge.  Regardless, I was able to track one down and after using it for a little over half the day, I have to say it is an impressive phone.

      It's thinner and lighter than the HTC Surround and feels really good in the hand.  I'm looking forward to setting up the Windows Phone to see how it performs.  Stay tuned and we'll have a full review of the Focus up shortly.

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      As these new WP7 devices become more and more available, slight differences are starting to become evident. One of those differences appears to be load times for video games, with the Samsung clearly beating the HTC 7 Trophy out in a head-to-head.

      Much speculation has been circulating that the reason for the difference is the memory: the Omnia 7 uses Samsung's NAND chips while HTC uses internal memory with expandable microSD, causing slower performance. While this was "theory" a few days ago, it appears now to be accurate and we agree with that this is the culprit (but are open to other ideas).

      So that may be the trade off folks: expandable memory vs. faster speeds. Which do you prefer? It is worth noting for U.S. customers that the HD7, Samsung Focus and Surround all have microSD cards (and probably Dell Venue Pro), so there's really not much choice. Only the LG Optimus is unconfirmed for its memory configuration.

      Source: YouTube; via wmpoweruser

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      Someone had some extra time at XDA and went the extra mile, tearing down their Omnia 7 to its barest parts. Pretty amazing to see it all stripped down.

      Unfortunately, it looks like Samsung opted for soldered NAND memory instead of an replaceable microSD card, meaning the Omnia 7 is stuck at just 8GB (or 16GB on some models) for eternity. Of course, this makes us wonder about the decision process in regards to memory and it being user-replaceable or not. It seems that if Samsung never wanted you to touch it, they would just use NAND, which we now know they have access to and no problem using.

      Source: XDA; via Windows Phone Hacker

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      PDC attendees get free Windows Phone 7s

      Looks like those lucky developers at PDC10 (see earlier mention) all received free phones today from Microsoft. At last count, that's nearly 1000 people who recived the Samsung Omnia 7--one of the most well received phones yet (other, non-paying attendees received the pre-production Taylor). While Microsoft skipped reporters in NYC a few weeks ago, it looks like MS knows where their bread and butter is: developers!

      Source: IStartedSomething

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      We've mentioned before, the one big reason to consider the Samsung Focus (here on AT&T) or the Omnia 7 (rest of world) is the screen, featuring Samsung's Super AMOLED technology. It's hard to see in pictures at times, but in person, it really is outstanding and yes, a reason to possibly choose it over other devices.

      In the picture above, you can see how the screen fairs in direct sunlight. There has been debate about whether or not Super AMOLED is superior in the sun compared to a traditional LCD, but at least in the case, the Omnia 7 appears to hold up pretty well.

      Source: Twitter (@stefanvicentic);

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      Microsoft Windows Phone 7 devices are already landing in stores overseas and are just around the corner from hitting the store shelves in the U.S. We are now seeing reviews surface across the web on the Samsung Focus, HTC Mozart, HTC Surround, and HTC HD7.

      We will soon add our own reviews to the growing list but in the meantime, we thought we would offer up a little roundup of what others are saying about these new phones.

      Ease on past the break to see what others are saying about the new Windows Phones.

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      Staff Choices: Windows Phone 7 Devices

      One nice thing about not being an Apple Fanboy is that I actually get some options when it comes to new phones. With Microsoft’s official announcement of Windows Phone 7 and the associated hardware announcements out of the way, I can get down to the business of choosing my hardware.

      First of all, as we’ve said many times here, which carrier you will use is the priority decision here. Because of my work location, my choices are really limited to AT&T and Verizon. The fact that I have been an AT&T customer for some time, combined with the news that Verizon is going to be late to the party, make that an easy choice. My real complaint here is that my two favorite form factors, the HTC 7 Pro and the Dell Venue Pro, are not available on AT&T.

      Since I’m sticking with AT&T, my choices are limited to the Samsung Focus, LG Quantum, and HTC Surround. Some of the things on my wishlist for a new device would be a hardware keyboard (I currently use an HTC Tilt 2), a large screen, and a front facing camera. Something like the Sprint Epic 4G with Windows Phone 7 would be perfect. Unfortunately, I appear to have set my sights too high.

      Since the Quantum is the only device with a hardware keyboard that would seem to be the best choice, but I’m not entirely sold on LG as a Smartphone manufacturer just yet, and I’m not entirely sure I like the keyboard layout or even the way that the three buttons on the front are arranged. I’m also a big fan of what HTC does with their hardware, and the innovative design of the Surround is definitely tempting, but I would like a little more screen real-estate. I’m also a heavy Bluetooth Headphones user, so I don’t know how much use I’d get out of those speakers.

      At this point I’m fairly certain that I will be picking up a Samsung Focus on November 9. The things that sold me on the Focus are the 4 inch Super AMOLED screen, the sleek and slim form factor, and the Samsung brand in general. I’m a former Samsung BlackJack user, and just knowing how solid that device was makes me very comfortable with the Focus. The other thing that has me excited about the Focus is the potential for expanding the storage capacity. Even though it is limited to 8gb of internal storage (compared to 16gb for the other two AT&T phones), the ability to add a microSD card to the mix makes the Focus a very attractive option.  I’m a little nervous about giving up my hardware keyboard, but I’m hoping that I won’t even notice.

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      Unfortunately the Samsung Omnia 7 won't be heading to the U.S. anytime soon (but it is going to Mexico, according to SPK), instead we'll have the similar and somewhat better Samsung Focus on AT&T (brief hands on). We say that the Focus is better now because it features removable/expandable storage, whereas the Omnia 7 does not. In fact, the Omnia 7 is basically the same phone in a lot of ways.

      Still, the Omnia 7 is a quad-band GSM and tri-band 3G phone, so technically you can import one if you really want its squareness over the more svelte Focus. And in our conversation with Samsung yesterday, they said they are in talks with all U.S. carriers, so hope is in the air for some CDMA love in the spring.

      In the meantime, take a look at GSM Arena's comprehensive review of the I8700 Omnia 7. They "...walk away impressed" with the hardware, reserving any criticism for the now familiar "limitations-of-the-OS" arguments. Getting back to the hardware they say this:

      To summarize the review in one sentence – the hardware is perfect, it’s the software that lets the phone down on occasion.

      Like all current Samsung devices (Galaxy S series), their strength is simply their screens featuring Super AMOLED, which really is quite impressive with it's "wet" blacks and rich contrast. That's the take away message of why Samsung's WP7 offerings may be a better choice for some of you.

      Source: GSM Arena; Thanks, Olaf M, for the tip!

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      Removable storage & Windows Phone 7 [Samsung Focus]

      Okay, lets get some of this confusing stuff out of the way: the Samsung Focus has "only" 8GB of storage available. In talking with Samsung, their position was basically so much of this phone is "cloud based" that 8GB may be sufficient for most people. However, they're more than glad to suggest that 16GB and higher are probably on the horizon.

      Having said that, the Focus does have removal storage (see the above shot), but it's tricky. Basically you can any size card you like, but you can't remove it without hard-resetting the phone and it's not clear that the card would be re-usable if you do remove it. So essentially, if you add a 16GB or 32GB card, that's it, you got your shot. This has to do with how WP7 uses memory--basically it mirrors/spreads it across any added memory.

      But hey, our EVO came with a 16GB card and we've never removed it either. Seems like once you go that huge (or larger), you have little need to keep swapping. So to us, this sounds like a win-win situation, at least for what we're working with here.

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