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My Samsung Focus S full review with comparisons to Focus! (Videos will come)

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By clfosk, Senior Member on 7th November 2011, 12:22 AM
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NOT DONE YET but here's my pretty long review of the Samsung Focus S and comparing it to the original Samsung Focus. I tried to go over every single thing I could possibly think of and hopefully someone appreciates it! Post any questions you have and I hope others will post their experiences as well.

Still in progress: CPU benchmarks, 4G speed tests, camera review and examples, battery life, some videos.


CPU - Still working on this!
With the faster processor loading times are definitely shorter on apps and games. You'll notice that XBOX Live and Marketplace both open a second quicker. Also you will see better performance within apps, with less lagging and faster scrolling. Runs great and I'm loving the performance boost.

(Benchmarks coming soon)

The upgraded GPU is great! I tested Super Mario Bros 3 on an NES emulator and was getting 48-55 fps WITH sound and 60 fps without! Plays near perfectly.
(Video coming soon)

4G - Still working on this!
So far I haven't noticed much of a speed increase. I live in a 4G covered area and I get 5 bars at home. I will do some more studying and speed testing and get back to this.
Internet sharing is listed on the settings page but when attempting to turn it on you get a message about signing up for an appropriate tethering plan. If you reload internet sharing through provision xml it will get rid of the message.

A few apps report it as having 354MB of RAM. They report the Focus as having 481mb. Both have 512MB and the 'missing' RAM is not useable because it's dedicated to the GPU. You won't even know it's gone though and the GPU's increased performance is worth it. I tried a test where I launched Fruit Ninja, Hydro Thunder GO, Sonic The Hedgehog Episode 1, and Twin Blades and checked the RAM usage. All games were in the middle of gameplay (not at the start screen) and dehydrate on pause was disabled allowing them to all stay where they were at in the game. My peak RAM usage reported as only 31MB.

GPS & WiFi
I tried them and they work just as they should. Still unable to connect to hidden WiFi networks though.

Battery - Still working on this!
I still need to go through a few more power cycles to know what it's like for sure. I'm a heavy user and I'm on my phone all day long so it does not last me the whole day. I'll post more info once I have a better idea.

Right now there is an issue with the keyboard. Many people think the keyboard is lagging. However I think it's just the keyboard tap sounds that are delayed. It makes it really annoying to type because you THINK it's lagging. To me the letters come up just as fast as I type them and when you turn off the sound it doesn't seem delayed in the slightest. It should only take a simple update to fix that.


This phone is much thinner and lighter than the Focus. It does not feel too big in hand and I think it's a perfect size. After only using it for the first few hours, my Focus already felt like a brick compared to it. When pictures of the Focus S first came out I didn't like the aesthetics of the textured backplate but it feels nice in hand and adds some much needed grip. I wished the bezel around the around of the phone was less pronounced and it looked more like the original Focus in that aspect. At first it kinda feels cheapish because it is plastic and extremely light but I've gotten over that and no longer feel that way. The device feels solid. The backplate on it is the thinnest piece of plactic ever and it will bend and can easily break. Not extremely difficult to take off and I actually like it better than the Focus' which I thought was a pain to take off because I felt like I was gonna break the phone while doing so. A nice little added touch is that when you tap on a capacitive button it will dim the button's backlight a little bit.

The bigger screen size is great but my feelings about this SAMOLED+ display are mixed. I have a huge problem with the display and that is a ghosting/blurring issue. Whenever you are scrolling through lists the texts is blurry and once you stop you can see it 'snap' into focus again. It's also noticeable during animations such as launching XBOX Live. This might not bother some but to me I find it highly annoying! I don't experience it on my Focusat all. May be my biggest issue with the phone.
Another issue with the display is the brightness. I guess Samsung wanted to preserve as much battery life as possible and they made the lowest brightness of the screen extremely LOW. But let me explain, the maximum brightness is plenty bright, the problem is just the minimum brightness level. When comparing the Focus and Focus S both on the highest setting; the Focus S is definitely brighter, and on the lowest setting: the Focus S is way dimmer. The issue is what they have set for the lowest screen brightness, it's just too damn low! You will need to keep your phone on atleast medium brightness, low is pretty much unuseable and that's not even talking about during outside use. This also affects the automatic setting as well and it will be way too low most of the time. I don't think the brightness issue is a big deal though because:
1- It can easily be fixed with an update.
2- I put together a file you can deploy to your unlocked phone that will edit the registry to increase the brightness of the low setting. It will make the low setting similar to the brightness of the Focus' low setting. The only issue is it will NOT fix the automatic setting and that will continue to be way too dim.
Also there is another new setting that will mess up your brightness levels. Samsung added a page to settings called Extra Settings that will bring up the option to turn on/off the following:
Auto Display Intensity
Key Vibration Feedback
Echo Cancellation
Auto Display Intensity needs to be turned OFF. With it on you will notice the brightness constantly flickering, especially on a light background. It's extremely annoying. The problem though is you can turn it off but the setting doesn't want to stick! If you soft reset your phone it will turn back on and you'll need to switch it off again. Trust me you'll want to... I find it horrible. The did release an update for Extra Settings in the marketplace but it did not solve this issue. Atleast we know it's a simple app update through the marketplace though.

I think the Super AMOLED Plus' colors look a little fake and more saturated. I don't think it's too terrible though. The Focus' colors may be more true, but during movie playback I like how the Focus S' colors looked. Daylight use is fine as long as your on atleast medium brightness. Viewing angles are pretty good.

One last thing about the display. I did experience some weird flickering on my device the second day I had it. It hasn't happened since then but I don't think it's a good sign. I did get to take a video of it. It's hard to see it in the video because it kinda looks like distortion from filming but look closely, all those dark flickering bands you see are happening on the screen.

I don't know if it will happen again but if anyone else has experienced it let me know!

Camera - Still working on this!
Well this camera is definitely quicker than the Focus' and when holding each phones in the same spot, the Focus S will give you a greater viewing range and you'll be able to see more in the frame. But other than that I don't think the camera is much of an improvement on the Focus'. I'm still working on taking examples on both phones for a comparison. The camera offers no new settings (such as HTC's burst and panorama modes). I tested the LED on both the Focus S and the Focus in the dark and I think the Focus' LED is slightly brighter but it's pretty close and hard to tell. Overall I'm don't think I'm impressed with the camera.

I haven't taken any videos with the camera yet and will get to that later.

Front Facing Camera
It's there and it works! Quality is not great of course... standard poor webcam-type quality. Tango works great though and hopefully Skype will be released soon. Ability to use your phone as a mirror is nice. Pictures taken with the front facing cam are reversed after being taken, which I think is kinda annoying.

16GB actually meanings 14.07GB total. After a fresh install Zune will show you that 1GB is used with 12.53GB free. If you go into Zune's setting and lower reserved space to 0% it will give you 335.78MB used and 13.20GB free. It was depressing finding out the Focus S would only have 16GB instead of 32GB and no MicroSD slot. I never used the MicroSD slot in my Focus in fear of a random hard reset so 16GB is still an upgrade for me. I kept some music on my Focus (around 2 or 3GB) but no movies (never had space for them). My Focus was filled completely so it's nice to have some breathing room now. Even though it's not ideal I think 16GB is sufficient enough for now.

First of all the speaker on the back is at the bottom of the phone. I think this is a poor position for it. While holding the phone your hand will tend to cover it and distort the sound. The loudspeaker is also not as loud as the Focus and doesn't sound as good. The sound with headphones plugged in was disappointing. Compared to the Focus it sounded very flat. The Focus has more bass and music sounds much better on it. Samsung doesn't offer any sort of equalizer app. Headphone volume also doesn't get as loud.

I did a test where I recorded myself talking on both the Focus S and the Focus at the same time. The Focus S had a noticeable static in the background while the Focus' recording did not.

The MicroUSB port is at the bottom now. It seems like it makes more sense to have it at the bottom. No little door covering it but I don't miss it. It's low profile and hassle free. If you keep your phone in a cup holder or so while driving it may be awkward to have it plugged in now. But it is easier to talk on the phone with it plugged in at the bottom. The moved it to the bottom but you know Samsung won't release a dock for this phone, it's a shame.

The buttons on the phone feel really good, easy, and very pressable!

Call quality

So far I haven't had any dropped calls. Seems pretty decent in that regard. BUT I've been told there is an obvious decrease in sound quality on the other end since getting my new phone. Multiple times I've been told that the other person couldn't hear me at all. It seems to happen when I have the phone about 4-5 inches from my mouth (for example when I'm laying down and have the phone on pillow). The in-call volume is still too low just like the Focus. I wish I was able to hold the phone more than a few inches away from my head and still hear it. Speakerphone is pretty mediocre and not great. I'm disappointed with the microphone and speakers on this phone.


The current registry editors out there do not work. Only way to edit registry is with using a provisioning xml. I have used this method to enable the instant resume hack and to increase the brightness when on the low setting. I tried to change accent colors using this method but so far have been unsuccessful.

Interop unlock works but doesn't. You are able to install the unlock, removing your sideload limit and getting rid 0x81030120 error when deploying interop apps. BUT the apps you deploy won't work. They will either fail to start or their functions just won't work.

The diagnosis app is installed the same way as before (dialing ##634#). It is version 0923. Not all the codes are the same though! *#77284# (tethering) and *#9908# (GPRS Manager) still work. Some other ones that I tried like Auto SIM Configure do not.

USB tethering is possible! Similar to tethering on the Focus but an extra step is need as discovered by dbrandusa. See instructions here:


New CPU/GPU offers a definite increase in speed and power. App launching, app performance, gaming, HTML5 all benefit from it
Bigger screen size and yet thinner and lighter, perfectly sized device in my opinion
Bigger storage capacity (but no MicroSD)
4G capable (but don't expect a significant speed increase)
Has front facing camera (even though quality is nothing special)
Easy to press buttons

SAMOLED+ display produces very annoying ghosting/blurring. Also potential flicker issue
Microphone has some static and issues with other people not hearing you during the call
Speakers are not as loud as Focus' and sound flat
Camera is not much of an improvement
Headphone quality is much worse than Focus' (needs more bass)
Headphone cable controls do not work anymore (Unsure if it's an issue with the aux design or a software issue)
Delayed keyboard tap bug *can be fixed with update*
Extremely low brightness when on low or automatic settings. Annoying "auto intensity display" setting that turns itself on after each soft reset *can be fixed with update*

I really want to love this device. Looking at it sitting there I just want to grab it and play with it much more than my Focus. But I think I was happier with it until I starting comparing it side by side with my Focus. At that point I started seeing it's flaws. I love the faster CPU & GPU, dimensions, screen size, storage upgrade, having a front facing camera, but the biggest dealbreakers for me are the ghosting on the display, poor headphone sound quality, and in-call microphone issues. I will definitely be exchanging it for a HTC Titan on the 20th and I'll see how I feel about that device. If I decide it's too big, the pixel density is too low, or some other major issue I will come back to the Focus S. If you have a Focus or other first generation device and debating between upgrading to the Focus S or waiting to see what is coming (from Nokia and such): just ask yourself are you content with your current storage capacity and screen size? Do you really need your apps to load a second earlier? Do you HAVE to have a front facing camera? If you do need those things NOW and the Titan is too big of a device for you than I think it'll be worth the upgrade. If you do get one you'll just have to be patient for the bug fixes though. If it's your first Windows Phone you'll probably be content with it as long as you turn the brightness up.
The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to clfosk For This Useful Post: [ View ] Gift clfosk Ad-Free
7th November 2011, 12:37 AM |#2  
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Does it seem faster?
7th November 2011, 12:45 AM |#3  
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Originally Posted by MartyLK

Does it seem faster?

Absolutely, in my opinion.

---------- Post added at 07:45 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:38 PM ----------

On another side note, it's crazy how different the AT&T rep was today compared with last year. Maybe it was just that particular store, but the rep that sold it to me was blown away by it's responsiveness and decided to show it off to 3 other reps before handing it over to me. They only had two in stock (one was on display) I got lucky. But, I remember last year...and the rep that sold me the focus had spent some time trying to sell me an Android or iPhone even after he knew I was there for the Focus. So, is it a change in AT&T training for WP7, or that the product speaks for itself?
7th November 2011, 01:03 AM |#4  
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i went to an at&t store today, and the focus S and focus flash were sitting in a lonely corner the store was packed but not a single other person besides me was looking at it, haha

---------- Post added at 02:03 AM ---------- Previous post was at 02:01 AM ----------

could you take some photo samples? I wonder if its the same lens from the GS2, that has pretty high praise for its camera
7th November 2011, 01:04 AM |#5  
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does your unit overheat when running graphic intensive games? I also noticed that autocontrast is quite poor
have you experienced this?
7th November 2011, 01:06 AM |#6  
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How does the quality of both the primary camera and front facing camera seem to other phones you've used in the past?
7th November 2011, 02:11 AM |#7  
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I picked up a Focus S today - like the OP said, it and the Flash were tucked away in the corner of the store. I use an iPhone, but was looking to upgrade an Android phone on our plan and have been interested in trying W7 Phone. The store had exactly one Focus S in stock.

First impression - really light, almost freakishly so. Fairly thin - a little lip at the bottom makes it easier to hold. Screen changes and app loading is very snappy. Screen is terrific.

One nice touch - bloatware, and there is some, is very easily removed. It's much closer to the iPhone where there is zero bloatware as opposed to an Android phone where you literally have to root the thing to remove the nonsense. (An Motorola Android phone on the ATT network might have upwards of two dozen preinstalled, unremovable apps.)

Can't really comment on anything else given that I'm about six hours into this Windows Phone thing.
7th November 2011, 02:49 AM |#8  
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I just picked up my first windows phone, focus s, i notice that when you lay it on its back, you can possibly scratch up the camera lense/cover over time....why would they design it to stick out like that?
7th November 2011, 03:27 AM |#9  
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Focus S vs. Focus
Here's some pics I took of Focus S vs Focus. It's hard to get a true feel of the difference b/w the two in regards to the screen, but I think a few of these pics are able to show it.

Samsung Focus S
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Samsung Focus
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7th November 2011, 03:59 AM |#10  
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Wow, The S-Amoled Plus screen makes a big difference in the Eli Manning Photos
7th November 2011, 04:32 AM |#11  
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Originally Posted by bennyj71

Wow, The S-Amoled Plus screen makes a big difference in the Eli Manning Photos

The Focus has a screen protector on it, and that could make a difference.
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