Samsung Focus & Windows Phone 7 Review

I’ve been a huge Microsoft fan for a very long time.  When Windows Phone 7 was announced, and I got to try it out at BlogHer last year, I was super excited!  I really loved the interface, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it for real to test it in my “live” environment.  I FINALLY got that chance when Microsoft was kind enough to send me a Samsung Focus with Windows Phone 7.  Here is my Good/Bad/Ugly for Windows Phone 7 and the Samsung Focus…

The Good – There really is so much good here!

First off is the user interface, which you can tell right off the bat that this phone is different.  The apps and easily customizable home screen is seriously gorgeous!  Just take a look at the video below.  The tiles give me instant easy access to the things I need to access on my phone the most, leaving the rest of the apps on the second page.  The official Twitter and Facebook apps are the best looking applications for those services I’ve ever seen.  Really.

The other aspect of the operating system I like are the hubs.  When I just want to look at all the pictures my friends have posted to Facebook I can go to the Photos “hub” and see all of the recent pictures my facebook friends  have uploaded.  The people hub will show me the recent status updates of all my friends.  I can write on their Facebook wall directly from the hub, or send them a text message instead.  Anything that I would want to do to interact with that particular friend is just right there waiting for me.

Xbox Live integration is pretty cool as well.  You can get notified if one of your friends has sent you a game request.  My husband spends forever on the phone texting with different people to schedule when to get on and play Xbox Live.  This way if his friend is playing Xbox Live and wants him to play too, he can just send a game request to my husband and he can get it on the phone.  He sees that his friend wants to play Xbox Live, and so he hops on the Xbox and joins in the game!

Bing is another piece of the Windows Phone 7 puzzle that looks unbelievable.  When I press the hardware search button on the phone it will bring up the Bing app.  What you will see is the search bar with a gorgeous picture, just like on the main Bing website.  Also just like the website there are certain areas of the picture that are clickable to give you more information about the picture itself.  Once you search for something it will give you 3 main categories; web to show the websites relevant to your search, local to give you the nearby locations relevant to your search, and news to give you the latest news about the searched for topic.

I also enjoy the Zune integration.  I’ve been a fan of the Zune software for quite a while, and the phone is just like my Zune, but so much more!  So I get to have my Zune and my phone, without carrying 2 pieces of hardware.

About the Samsung Focus, it feels great in my hand.  Not too thick and not very big and heavy.  Has all the bells and whistles that phones have these days.  What is great about the Windows Phones is that most have a hardware camera button.  You can take the phone out and take a picture without having to search for your camera app.  Definitely the easiest and quickest way to snap a photo.  If you have kids this is going to be a huge plus for you since most of the time, by the time I get my camera app up and going the “Kodak moment” has passed.  The screen is also incredibly crisp and beautiful, which helps with how gorgeous the Windows Phone 7 operating system is.  You can also add a microSD card to expand the phone’s memory.  Which is one gripe I have with my HTC EVO Shift.  It can have a memory card, but you have to physically move applications to the card to use it, and if you do move an app to the card, the widget for that app will no longer work.  This is extremely frustrating as I try to conserve the local memory while I have 32 GB free on the SD card!  With the Windows Phone it looks like it will format the card to work with the system’s internal memory for a seamless memory transfer.

The Bad

A couple of things that were mere annoyances for me was first the software keyboard on the phone.  If you’ve read my blog for a while you know that I’m not a fan of software keyboards to begin with.  Give me a hardware keyboard!  There are Windows Phone 7’s that have hardware keyboards, but this Samsung Focus does not.  What I really don’t like about the software keyboard though is how it’s laid out.  The delete button is ever so close to the “m” button.  So every time I go to type “m” I end up deleting the previous letter, and not typing the m, leaving me 2 characters short of what I was trying to say.

Lack of real widgets is my second gripe.  While the Live Tiles are great, there just isn’t much “meat” to them.  Sure it’s cool to see how many emails I have, but what about an excerpt of those emails?  It’s also great to see how many tasks I have, but how about an actual list of the tasks I can see at a glance.  I was also disappointed with the “pictures” tile.  I may not have set it up correctly, but I thought it should display my most recent pictures automatically on that tile?  or like photos my friends have posted on Facebook so I can look down at my phone and go … oh hey, what was that picture, click on it and immediately be taken to the picture my friend just posted.

The Ugly

Unfortunately this was a deal breaker for me, but many people don’t use this as intensively as I do, so it may not be a deal breaker for you.  Yes Windows Phone 7 integrates with Google calendar.  What I found out though is that it will only sync your default Google calendar.  Leaving all of my other calendars (which I have about 10 different calendars associated with my Google account) in the dust!  The seamless syncing of calendar’s I have with my husband I have now, would not exist if we had Windows Phone 7’s.  He has shared his Google calendar with me, and so it has become one of the calendars associated with my account.  When I put MY Google account on my phone it brings in all of my calendars so I can see his, mine and all my other ones.  On his phone he can see his, mine, and our children’s calendars.  He can add appointments to any of the calendars from his phone, and I can do the same.  When I add an appointment for my husband, his phone is automatically updated with the appointment.  This was a HUGE oversight, as most of the other smartphones already bring in all of the calendars.  Their solution to this problem was to create separate Google accounts for EACH CALENDAR!  Nope, soooo not going to do that.

So I know this post was longer than most, but I had so much to say about this phone and the OS.  Here is the REALLY good news!  Microsoft was kind enough to give me a Samsung Focus for AT&T away! So if you are in the market for a Windows Phone 7, simply leave a comment on this post and you are entered!  Perfect to get for your Dad for Father’s day this weekend!  In light of Father’s Day giveaway will close on Saturday night so you can tell your Dad you got him a phone if you won!

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About the author

Sarah Werle Kimmel

Sarah Werle Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 20 years of her career working as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on local NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX news affiliates, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website


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