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Samsung Focus S - 1st Impressions [Video]

We've had our Focus S now for a few hours and feel we can share some thoughts with you in this video.

First off, it's the lightest and thinnest phone out there, weighing in at 3.9oz. The design is real slick with nice curved edges, lending it a great feel in the hand. The screen: Super AMOLED Plus is nice, but the difference between it and HTC's Super LCD is less extreme than back in 2010. In fact, we like the color representation a little better on the Titan when compared side by side. That's not a knock though on Samsung, as both devices have really good screens, though we are finding the Focus S screen a bit more dim than we would like. In addition, it auto-adjusts very frequently, which results in a brief but frequent flicker of the screen as it constantly changes screen brightness.

With the gyroscope, compass, 16GB of storage, 512MB of RAM and an 8MP rear camera, the specs are pretty top notch. We actually have HSDPA+ ("4G") service around here and it is faster, though we still think T-Mobile's edges it out a bit e.g. the Radar 4G. One of our favorite aspects are the buttons--both in layout (side power button) and implementation--they feel perfect, are easy to identity and have just enough travel.

So, what's the best phone out there? Nearly impossible to say. HTC has really stepped up their game with the Radar 4G and Titan, taking away any huge advantage that Samsung may have had last year. That's a good thing though as it means you don't have to worry about odd details, but can concentrate on aesthetics e.g. size and looks, instead of performance.

We'll have more comparisons coming up this week, so stay tuned. And try our forums for questions or discussion!

(Side note: Yes, I have a bad head cold, so sorry if I sound kind of sick...but it's because I am!)

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Reader comments

Samsung Focus S - 1st Impressions [Video]

58 Comments

HTC Titan and HTC Radar are not the phones that make me want to buy them. Had them both for some time. My Omnia 7 is good for now, but Samsung Focus S, Nokia Lumia 800 are really good and makes me wanna think about buying one of them. HTC didn't do anything big here, their phones dissapointed me a little

The back cover on this device...and they are charging $199.99? They are charging about $149.99 too much :) Anyways....Good preview, Daniel. And I love that you pay attention to aesthetic details - it's refreshing.

Really great, thank you! Do you have any initial preferences as far as cameras between the Titan and Focus S?

Have to play with that a bit. Will let you know. My initial impressions is the Focus S feels almost film like, which is kind of neat. But I need to play more..

I honestly can't believe that a Super AMOLED Plus display looks that dim. Either that panel is faulty or Super LCD tech has really come around. But its interesting that the regular Super AMOLED of the original Focus looks better than the Focus S.@TechJunky79

I have the original Focus next to my new Focus S.In the store the Focus S seemed dimmer but at home in medium lighting they look the same.If I cycle the brightness manually the "S" does seem a little dimmer in; Low, Medium and High - but they don't seem to have the same color balance so it's not a direct comparison.For me, I always thought the brightness on the Focus S was too high (except outdoors).It's a cloudy day today so I can't compare outdoor visability.My 2 cents? I'd rather have a slightly dimmer screen than a dead battery. ;)

I was pretty set on buying the Focs S tomorrow. Now, after seeing the first impressions video, I'm wavering. For me, it has now become a huge toss up between the Focus S and the Titan (a device I wasn't considering). Its likely that the only way I'll be able to decide now is to go into the AT&T store, when the Titan becomes available, and spend some time handling both myself. I like having a brighter screen, and am interested in seeing whether there are any setting adjustments that can be made on the Focus S to get the screen brightness, and white level, to be comparable to what Daniel is seeing on the Titan.

The *only* thing I'm trying to figure out is the "4G" for the Titan. On my international one, I get "H" but doesn't show "4G". The Focus S is clearly HSDPA+ though and I thought the Titan was too.Will have to do a speed comparison between both of them to see if the "4G' icon is just a visual gimmick or if the international Titan is not as fast (which I doubt).It is definitely hard to choose between the two. It's not a bad thing though to have a field of just awesome Windows Phones to have to choose from ;-)

I agree that it's not a bad thing for Win Phone fans to find themselves in a position where they have more than one really good phone to choose from. I've been checking out some of the other discussions, and it seems that many other readers are in the same boat as I am, basically facing a tough decision between the Titan and the Focus S. Please continue to post comparisons of the two and any other impression that could help us. At this point, any different between the two gets factored into our decisions, including any differences in HSPA+ support. Thanks for a great, and quickly available, first impressions. WPCentral Rocks!

I saw these phones myself as well and I have to say I agree with you.Both HTC Radar 4G and HTC Titan screens looks better than Samsung Focus S. Colors are mor walive and white is really white and no bluish color like Focus S.Both HTC Radar 4G and HTC Titan looks like high quality build specially when you hold them on your hand they feel lik high-end device but Samsung Focus S not really same Samsung plasticy cheap feeling.After seeing them because of feel and build quality and specially screen now my decision is final. I will buy HTC Titan unless till then Nokia come with something amazing but for right now I go with HTC Radar or Titan.

great review m8! im really looking foward focus S to replace my focus. Seems to be a great update. Thanks for the details.

whites are brighter on Titan, blacks are way darker on focus, in terms of design those these cant hold a candle to the Lumia 800 in my view.

Nice Review! Regarding Brightness, I had to change the setting from Automatic to High to get to the level I expected from a Super AMOLED Plus. It seems to brighten up a bit under some circumstances but it definitely did not blow me away when I first played with the phone. Battery life saving strategy, maybe?

Great vid Daniel! Love the Focus S, but I'm more conflicted than ever! Got the Focus S for my wife (she's loving it by the way). But for myself, I just don't know!I guess for me, it will now boil down to bench marks (and to a lesser extent, camera) Can we get a comparison in that regard? I know the Titan has a slightly faster CPU st 1.5Gh. Excellent work!

On a different note I wonder how many tech bloggers will come out and criticise both HTC and Samsung for reusing Android phone designs as they were so quick to with Nokia. tnkgrl basically said on the podcast she thought the lumia 800 was a poor cousin to the N9 (coincidently a phone that almost nobody will ever see). But I bet it will be a different tune with the Focus S, which is basically a cut down (spec wise) vs of the Galaxy SII.

I was honestly thinking "Man, I'm betting a bit tired of these design rehashes by HTC and Samsung" before I got to this post. Seriously was. I walk around and see people with HTCs and Samsungs (mostly HTCs, btw) and unless you're a geek you can't tell them apart.I've made up my mind. I'm going to wait for the Nokia phones next year. At least they won't look like Android phones.BTW, what happened to LG this time around?

I'm with you on that one, I'm waiting for Nokia in January. They better not disappoint me though. Do you think they will bring us a device with FFC, 4" plus screen, and 16-32GB or at least have expandable memory? All or HTC phone designs are the same except screen sizes. I want to be different.

@OMG55 - I will definitely wait for Nokia, even until Apollo! It seems likely that they will bring a ffc, and perhaps a screen larger than 3.7", but not sure if Nokia will bring expandable memory, though. Hopefully, they will offer storage options. I think what becomes the bigger question is, will you switch to the carrier that carries said device if it is not your current carrier...Anyway, as far as being different - you will definitely achieve that as far as style/aesthetic is concerned; but Nokia may play it safe, at least initially, on the specs side. I'm a style person, and style plays into 95% of my purchasing decision, so Nokia's got my cash on lock!

Nice Review! Regarding Brightness, I had to change the setting from Automatic to High to get to the level I expected from a Super AMOLED Plus. It seems to brighten up a bit under some circumstances but it definitely did not blow me away. Battery life saving strategy, maybe?

Where is the one WP7 to rule them all? I think i'll wait to upgrade when all the reviewers on all the major websites says, "this is the one WP to have." Nokia's got the looks, HTC's got the camera, Samsung's got the screen... Really need M$ to step up and build a hero/"ace" device! Wpcentral hurry up and feed us the Apollo leaks

Two performance related questions:1. Can you run WP Bench on the Focus S? I assume it'll come out around the ~96 level, matching the Titan. It's insignificant but can their potentially faster NAND ram compensate for the 100MHz fewer CPU?2. Can you verify (not sure how) if the Focus S has 512MB or 1GB? I thought I read the box says 1GB and there was some rumor about 1GB. But many other sources indicate 512MB. Which is it?!?!

Good first impression. It's an odd thing with Samsung as the main complaint against them has been phones that feel cheap and plastic like. Then they turn around and release a phone that does nothing but further enhance that sentiment. The flip side is a crash test showing the Samsung Galaxy S2 falling to the ground from different heights vs the iPhone 4S. The Samsung survived and the iPhone chipped on the first drop and pretty much shattered on the face down drop. I guess it comes down to you want a durable phone but you also want it to feel like it's well made since you just dropped 200 plus on it.

After much deliberation I decided on getting the Focus S as an upgrade to my Focus.The HTC Titan was too big and heavy. The Focus S feels light, SUPER THIN and is barely larger than the original Focus.Yes, nearly all the Samsung phones look alike and maybe I'll upgrade again when Nokia comes out with something better than what they came out with last week - those phones are way too small for my fingers.If Samsung comes out with a 32GB model in the next month or so I will be crushed. ;)Lastly: Is the Focus S 1.4GHz or 1.5GHz?! I see one thing on at&amp (box says 1.4);t another on the Microsoft site and nothing on the Samsung site, etc - typical. Either way, I love the decision I made. :)

jfreiman, are you going to upgrade now? I bought my focus this time last year and I'm pretty sure I can't upgrade without large early-termination fees. I want to upgrade now though. Do you know how I could do this without huge cost?

I don't know if it is 1.5 or 1.4, but I suspect it is 1.4. According to Qualcomm, 1.4 is the standard recommended clock. To achieve 1.5GHz with this SoC, HTC has chosen to overclock it by 100MHz, which I guess is sanctioned by Qualcomm. So unless Samsung is doing the same then it's probably the default 1.4. But, it could potentially be using faster NAND which may offset that. We'll find out over time, as people report in.

I have the original focus, a Titan (last 3 weeks) and just got the Focus S. I set the brightness to Medium on the Focus S and it is just as bright as the original focus, and way brighter than my Titan. I think you must have a faulty screen. All of you looking at the Titan, make sure to hold it a lot before you purchase. I thought I would love the bigger screen, but it is just a little to bulky for a phone, and I hate the placement of the power button (on top). I am 6'1 with good size hands just for reference. Just my experience, hope it helps.

The Focus S I saw on display in Brunswick, Maine was defective. The screen was noticeably brighter at the bottom right corner (a triangle shaped dog ear) the rest of the screen was much dimmer. I can't believe AT&T would put it on display. When the sales associate came over to ask me if I had any questions, I just asked if there was something wrong with the screen. He said "No." Then I loaded a blank explorer page and it was so obvious... he asked me if that was all the questions I had. He had on a tshirt with the An-Droid advertising the Infuse or the Inspire... can't remember which one. The Focus Flash was noticeably brighter next to the S. I guess I'll have to drive to Portland to see if the one on display there is working properly. The Flash felt nice in the hand. Great Size. Both were displaying 4G in the signal strength area.

Thank you Daniel for the info,I went to my local ATT store to buy the Focus S and had high hopes. I checked it out and was let down a little.1. To me screen was nothing special; it was good but did not live up to the expectations. I still think the original Focus AMOLED looked better. 2. The touch screen feedback on the focus s seemed a bit inaccurate/laggy. It did not accurately respond to the "speed" of my scrolling for example. I tried the HTC HD7S that was sitting next to it and the screen was much more natural with touch/ scrolling response. The simple test I performed was to hold Focus S in one hand and use my thumb to scroll from top of the start screen to the very bottom with ONE stroke. The result was a mess. I would get a slow scroll which didn’t match the speed of my thumb. So I had to slide my finger at least a couple of times to reach the bottom, very annoying. The HTC HD7S did fine with this test.Can you test the scrolling on the Focus S vs. Titan if possible?Thanks

OK, Just got my Focus S.First I thaught the same thing about the screen brightness as everyone else here ,but I quickly realized it's not the screen, its the ambient sensor! if you put it on manual -medium- brightness, it is bright as **** indoors.Also there is an extra settings for dimming it down when white background is used, like Outlook, which you can turn off if it bothers you.I hope that they can fix the sensor with a firmware update.Other than that, it is much faster than my original Focus.

I have had my Focus S since this morning and to be quite honest the phone didn't have the 'wow factor' that I thought it would. I not really like the visual aesthetics or build quality. Of course, this is all very subjective and a matter of personal taste, so I will fully accept that there will be several others out there that do not agree with me. I find it VERY inconvenient. Every time hit the power button to put the phone in sleep, I invariably end up hitting the volume rocker at the same time - and vice versa. I walked by the T-Mobile store this afternoon and was very impressed by the Radar. I love the design aesthetics of the phone, which was snappy and responsive during the few minutes that I played with it. I may hold on to the Focus S for a few more days to see if it grows on me, and also in the hope that the Titan will become available on AT&T in the next 30 days so that I can do an exchange. I may also give in and get the Radar.

I do agree. Radar has great build quality comparing to the focus S.Also radar performs better all around when you spend a few minutes with it.

During the full review can you play with the brightness setting please? Maybe its set to auto-brightness and the ambient light sensor is different. If you set it to 80-90-100% and then compare it to the original focus.Thanks!

I picked my Focus S up today and my screen in auto is dim compared to my Focus as well. Very disappointing but I'm pretty sure its the sensor setting and a registry setting or firmware update will fix it. I also turned off the extra setting that pertains to minimizing the echo as it made me sound muffled to other people while on calls. It also made my speaker sound tinny. Much better with it off. I would really appreciate it if you would compare the speakers of the S against the Titan as that might be the difference for me if they turn out to both be 4G. Thanks.

why is the app listing not group alphabetically? is it a samsung only? can it be turned off/on? I have a 7 Pro and it is grouped alphabetically.

My first post on this great blog, so here goes:My Focus S came with brightness set at medium and auto adjust on. I also experienced frequent and distracting brightness changes, so I turned auto adjust off. I tried high brightness (and, man was that bright), and reverted back to medium, which I think looks beautiful. Did you try the different brightness settings on the "S" before concluding that the Titan was superior?Cheers,Brian

I probably just being stupid - it is my understanding that the Focus S has 512MB of RAM. Mine has only 354MB. Wtf?

Ok, after turning off auto adjust and setting the brightness to medium, I can honestly say WOW! What a gorgeous display. I can confirm that the Super AMOLED Plus screen is actually sharper and crisper than the Original Focus's Super AMOLED display.A simple test is to look at the information text of your lock screen. On the Focus you can easily see the pixels, the text on the Focus S is MUCH sharper and crisp. This is clearly evident across everything. The Super AMOLED Plus display of the Focus S is clearly superior. Simply amazing. I hope this gets mentioned in the full review because it would be a travesty to ignore this fact.

The update that Samsung pushed out to the extra settings on Tuesday fixed the dim screen and auto brightness for me.

Hi,Could you please compare Audio quality (for music and phone call)? HTC Titan vs Focus S vs Focus Flash??Do Focus S and Focus Flash have faster NAND memory than Titan?I know available storage on Focus S is 13+ GB and on Titan its 12.7GB... what about Flash?Not important for me... but...How about camera? Focus S vs Titan?Thanks