AT&T Samsung Focus S - Review

On November 6th AT&T released the Samsung Focus Flash and Focus S to their Windows Phone line up. We've already taken a look at the Focus Flash and now turn our attention to Focus S.

Similar in design to the Samsung Galaxy Android devices, the Focus S sports a 4.3" Super AMOLED Plus screen. While the surface area of the S is large, it's size is diminished by being only .33" thin. The Focus S feels comfortable in the hand, has a very nice screen and comes with all the bells and whistles Windows Phone Mango has to offer.

The Focus S's pricing point and features will make it a high-end Windows Phone when compared to the Samsung Focus Flash or HTC Radar. The S is a solid performer and if you're a fan of large screen, well built Windows Phones the Focus S a very good option to pursue. To find out all the details on the Samsung Focus S, just make the jump past the break.

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Design: Comfortably designed.  Thin form factor, large screen, light weight, just an all out well designed phone.Feel:  Not too big, not too small, just right.  Not as pocketable as other Windows Phones but manageable.
Performance:  With the 1.4ghz processor and Windows Phone 7.5 the Samsung Focus S is a solid performer that zips along nicely.Quality:  Overall quality from screen to camera to build is very good.   

Note: The HTC HD7S has a Super LCD, not a Super WVGA screen.

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 Nice looking screen, 16gb of storage, thin form factor, large (but not too large) Super AMOLED Plus screen, and a really nice 8mp camera. While the screen is nice, it can come across as dim at times when compared to other Windows Phones.
 The Samsung Focus S is a feature rich, well constructed, solid performer.  The Windows Phone uses a thin, light weight form factor to balance the larger screen to avoid becoming too large.  The Focus S gives Windows Phone users a big screen alternative without feeling uncomfortable.  It's really difficult to find anything too critical with the Focus S.


I had mixed thoughts when I first took the Samsung Focus S out of the box. First, I thought "WOW, what a big phone!" then almost immediately I thought, "But it's so thin!".

The Samsung Focus S measures 4.96 x 2.63 x .33 inches and weighs only 3.90 ounces. The Focus S is almost half an inch taller than the Flash but .2 ounces lighter. Samsung has done a good job of minimizing the large 4.3" screen by making the Focus S so thin. The end result is a large screen Windows Phone that has no bulk and feels really comfortable in the hand.

Going around the Focus S you have the power button and camera button down the right side, micro-USB slot is at the bottom of the phone, on the left side you will find the volume rocker and up top is the 3.5mm headphone jack.

I didn't mention this in the Focus Flash's review but I liked how Samsung has spread out the ports on these new phones. The original Focus at times felt cramped having the 3.5mm jack and micro-USB port at the top of the phone.  Placing the headphone jack up top and micro-USB to the bottom gives users a little more elbow room.

The Focus S has the traditional trio of capacitive touch buttons at the bottom of the screen, an 8mp camera with LED light to the back of the phone and a 1.3mp front facing camera in the upper left corner of the phones face.

The Focus S fits really nice in the hand. The curved sides, light weight and thin form factor helps a large phone not feel so big in the hand.

The only weakness in design may rest with the battery cover. To be blunt, it feels cheap and flimsy. Have you every purchased something in a plastic blister pack that has the back of the package perforated? To open the package you just peal back the perforated section?  In an nutshell that is what removing the Focus S's battery cover reminds me of.

The batter cover is a paper thin sheet of plastic that attaches snugly to the frame of the Focus S by a series of plastic tabs. I realize plastic technology has come a long way and I'm sure the plastic battery cover on the Focus S is more durable than it appears. It does sit flush with the Focus S frame and I really like the texture (nice grippable surface).  I just wish it didn't bend so easily when off the phone.

Samsung Focus S

All in all, the Focus S is a well designed, nicely constructed Windows Phone. It will take you a little while to get used to the battery cover but how it contributes to the thin form and its textured surface negates any reservations its appearance may have.

The Screen

The Focus S is fitted with a 4.3" 480x800 Super AMOLED Plus screen. The screen has rich colors, nice contrast and provides a nice amount of "pop" to images.

What's the Plus? Super AMOLED Plus increases the number of sub-pixels by 50 percent which means twelve sub-pixels instead of eight. This makes the screen more visible in bright light, and should help make text and the edges of images crisper. Super AMOLED Plus also claims to be more energy efficient. Compared to the plain old Super AMOLED screens of the Focus and Flash, the "Plus" isn't that noticeable but outdoors the "Plus" does give the Focus S an edge.

Unfortunately, the Focus S screen shares the same quirky nature as the Focus Flash in that at times it appears dimmer than it should. The issue seems to be associated with the light sensor when the screens are set to auto-brightness. There are times I can leave the Focus S on and with no change in room lighting, the screen will dim or brighten. Thankfully, even with this quirk the screen still looks good, just dimmer. As with the Flash, this issue seems to have improved. We're just not sure if a recent update to the Extra Settings did the trick or if it's just a case of our eyes getting used to things.

Outdoors, the Focus S screen performed really well. The higher contrast of the Super AMOLED Plus screen helps keep the screen viewable outdoors.

No complaints with regards to the screen's touch responsiveness. All in all, the 4.3" screen gives you plenty of real estate for typing, viewing, and gaming. While it does have the quirky auto-brightness, the dimness isn't constant or at the level of being a deal breaker.  Everyone should be pleased with the Samsung Focus S's screen.

Under the Hood

The Samsung Focus S is powered by a single core, 1.4Ghz processor that gives the phone a little bit of giddy-up. Apps loaded promptly and ran smoothly. The Samsung Focus S is also a 4G phone from AT&T giving the Focus S an added boost as well.

The Focus S memory consists of 512mb of RAM and 16GB of storage. After loading Windows Phone 7.5 the storage drops down to 14.07GB of storage remaining.

AT&T does have it's software suite (MyWireless, FamilyMap, Radio, Navigator, Code Scanner and U-Verse Mobile) and YPMobile preloaded that drops your storage down around 13.5GB. The nice thing about the pre-loaded software is that it all can be uninstalled.

The Focus S, as with the Focus Flash, is fitted with a gyroscope and digital compass. Settings are identical and includes Internet Sharing (gotta sign up with AT&T to use it), Extra Settings and High Fidelity Positioning (improves your GPS performance).

You've got a 1650mah battery under the hood that provides ample power to the Focus S to get it easily through the day. On a typical day, I'm using the Windows Phone to make calls, check emails, update apps, download apps, test apps, play a little Trines Hangman (currently ranked 150th) and surf the internet. I'm ending the day with about 25-30% battery life remaining on the Focus S.

All in all, the Samsung Focus S is a solid performer under the hood. While many had hoped for 32GB's of storage, the 16GBs will do just nice. It would be nice to see an expansion card slot on the Focus S but with all the headaches experienced with the original Focus's expansion slot I can understand the reluctance to give it another try.


The Samsung Focus S is equipped with an 8mp camera that has a f2.8 lens. The lens is a little slower than what we've seen with the Flash (f2.6) and HTC Radar (f2.2) which gives the Focus S a slight disadvantage with indoor shots.  Slight... not significant.  The 8mp camera is a very nice performer indoors or out.

Software driving the camera is your standard Windows Phone camera software. You have standard settings that include AF Mode, Image Effects (Outline is neat), Wide Dynamic Range and Anti-shaking. Settings can be saved and offers your a decent amount of control over the camera.

Image quality was nice but a little disappointing given that this is an 8mp camera. Outdoors is where the camera shines capturing nice, sharp and bright colors. Macro Mode was a bit of an oddity. I was able to focus within 6 inches of my subject but the framing wasn't as tight as I've seen on the Focus Flash or HTC Radar. Not sure what the focal length is on the Focus S but I'm guessing it's a notch wider than what you have on the other two Windows Phones.

The LED light is about par for the course. I've never been a fan of these little lights and there's nothing to set the Focus S's light apart from any other LED camera light.  As with other LED lights, images do tend to have a color cast to them but it's nothing that can't be corrected with post-processing software.

Video quality was very nice using either the 8mp rear camera or the front-facing camera.  The video sample includes two out-takes.  The first was shot at the lake and where my son is trying to skip rocks is in the shade. The video adjusts for the low light of this area without blowing out the brighter area around the water. The second half was shot at our State Capital on a very overcast day (forgive the jumpiness...I was shooting on the go) and the camera performed really well under low lighting conditions.

All in all, I think most will be pleased with the Focus S's camera. Still images were nice (performs the best outdoors) and video capture was very good as well.  I don't think I'm ready to give up my DSLR but the Windows Phone cameras has progressed rather nicely.

Phone Quality

With respect to phone quality, the Samsung Focus S ain't too shabby. Call quality was good, speaker volume is loud and clear and the microphone filters background noise out nicely.

I wasn't thrilled with the vibration feature. Where the Focus S had a light saber feel to it, the Focus S reminds me of that fly buzzing around the house when it's across the room. Just noticeable enough to know it's there but not strong enough to make you get up and find the fly swatter. I'm guessing the thinner form factor limits the intensity of the vibrator. Any stronger it might rattle the battery cover loose.

As far as the Samsung Focus S's phone performance goes, I think everyone will be pleased. You'll just need to remember to dial down the ringer volume when in meetings or other situations where the Gummy Bear Song ringtone wouldn't go over too well.

Summing it all up

It's really hard to find anything to complain about with the Samsung Focus S.  It's not perfect but it is a really good Windows Phone.

Will it suit everyone's fancy? Probably not. If you like to pocket carry your Windows Phone, you might find the Focus S too large. If you're on tight budget, the Focus S is more pricey than other options with the lowest price I've found being $179 (with contract) over at Amazon Wireless.  While some may not be attracted to the Focus S, those who are will find a very good Windows Phone in their hand.

The 8mp camera does nicely and shines with video capture. 16GB is a nice storage size giving users plenty of room for apps, music and other files. The 4.3" Super AMOLED Plus screen looks really good and is a solid outdoor performer. Sure, it has that dimness quirk but it's manageable (and hopefully Samsung will find a solution soon).

Some will find issue with the flimsy battery cover but most will remove it once in the phone's lifetime. I've pulled it off about a dozen or so times and it hasn't lost any of it's ziplock tightness.  Throw in internet sharing, 4G capability, respectable battery life, good phone quality and you have a very well rounded, quality Windows Phone.

The Samsung Focus S's strongest competition will likely come from the HTC Titan (and HD7S if it sticks around). We'll wait until the AT&T Titan hits the shelves to make that comparison but compared to the HD7S the Focus S has a better screen and has a thinner and lighter form factor.  Personally, I see my HTC HD7S beginning to collect dust on the shelf and unless the Titan makes one heck of a compelling argument (and we'll know this in about a week), the Focus S will be my primary device.

The Samsung Focus S joins a growing field of quality second generation Windows Phone devices. It may not fit the bill with everyone but for those who choose the Focus S, you will have little to complain about.

George Ponder

George is the Reviews Editor at Windows Central, concentrating on Windows 10 PC and Mobile apps. He's been a supporter of the platform since the days of Windows CE and uses his current Windows 10 Mobile phone daily to keep up with life and enjoy a game during down time.