Windows to heaven

I promised a phone review, so here it goes:

I am not a I-fan of the I-phone.  It’s not that it’s a bad phone by any means, but I don’t like the fact that the technology is lagging and it has little originality.  Tons of people have it and, aside from different cases or screensavers, they have the exact same phone. I simply don’t subscribe to the idea that if everyone has something, I need to have it.

I am also not a fan of many Android phones.  Now, between the TWO, I’d likely take an Android over an I-phone, but the constant “skinning” of Android phones (where a manufacturer like LG or Sony takes the Android operating software and mods it out to make it “more catchy”) drives me crazy because it makes some Android phones have cool features that other ones with the SAME operating software, but different “skin”, not have.  It also really frustrates me to hear Google is releasing a new (4.0, 5.0) version of their software and I find out that my phone manufacturer won’t let me have access to it because they don’t want to put in the work of updating things for my phone.  I practically sold my armpit glands to have the money to buy the damn phone and they’re telling me I can’t upgrade it.  Lame.

Enter the Microsoft Windows Phone.  This year, Windows came from relative obscurity in the phone world years ago, and is overtaking Blackberry for the third most popular phone operating system out there.  I’ve seen a few people using them around the office and it spurred my interest, so I got in touch with Microsoft to find out more about their phone.  After a few emails I had arranged to try out the Samsung Focus S phone (a Windows Phone running Windows 7.5) from AT&T.  It was the most like my Android OS’ed Motorola Atrix 2 in features, so I was eager to compare.  Needless to say, I absolutely loved this phone!

Let me explain, I am not a gamer.  I don’t own a gaming computer, any gaming systems, or even a series of games on my phone.  This phone has Xbox live built in, which would be nice for the gamers out there, but that’s not my thing.  I also don’t use the phone for music.  I listen to music in the gym and don’t want to sweat all over my phone..I’d rather sweat on an Apple ipod in that case, simply because they are cheap and disposable.  This phone has an awesome built in music player that is much more customizable than the Droid and Apple music players, but again, it’s not my thing.  What I use my phone for is what most people use their smartphone for: picture/video taking, blogging, emails, texting/talking, and for social applications.  I like the ability to move easily between apps and multitask, I like fast internet, and I like ease of use.  I don’t want to spend five minutes trying to “speak text” the phrase “What would you like on your pizza” and having the phone type, “What glue Nikes your pleaser”.  Little glitches like that make me want to throw the phone out of the window into a volcano (yes, in that scenario, I am in Hawaii and driving on the rim of a volcano).  Therefore, I am reviewing this phone with those criteria in mind, but also looking at some differences in basic operating systems.  Many reviewers review the phone itself, and I’ll talk a little about it, but the main focus will be the operating system (OS).

The first thing I noticed is that the Samsung Focus S is light.  Not potato chip light, but not brick heavy either.  I compared using the finger/thumb test where I held the phones with my thumb on the bottom and middle finger on the top (like a pliers..I wasn’t giving my phones the finger).  It took 9 minutes for the Windows phone to reach that stage.  Now, Samsung has typically had light phones (I’ve owned a few different models in the past), but it was nice to see they stuck with something they’ve mastered.  It’s also a nice size unit and fit easily in the palm of my hand.

This is what my hand looks like holding the Samsung Focus S

As far as setup goes, it’s a snap.  You enter your email and password to setup email, you can easily integrate your Facebook profile into your phone and you can even use the Facebook app, which is easily downloadable from the Windows Marketplace.  Twitter, WordPress (yay!), Accuweather, IMDB, and a few other apps took the place of AT&T’s apps when I first got my hands on it, and within minutes, I was ready to go.  The Windows Mobile software even made downloading my contacts from my AT&T SIM card a snap.  Most phones I’ve owned cannot seem to grasp the easy task of pulling names and numbers from my SIM, which often leaves me editing names and numbers for weeks after I get a new phone.  Windows Mobile’s OS took care of everything and downloaded every single phone number on my SIM correctly and quickly.  Simple details make a phone worth having and this was bonus number one.

I snapped a picture of Olivia to check the picture quality and it was fantastic.  The picture was clear and crisp with minimized shadowing with the lower light we were in.  For IPhone users, the Samsung Focus S has onboard storage like your phones do, so there is no little mini-storage cards to lose.  At 16gb, that’s a bunch of pictures.

I also made a few calls and tried the voice texting to my parents and fiancee to see if things worked smoothly.  The call clarity was another bonus.  On both phone and speakerphone, the call was clear and easy to understand.  Speech texting only had one word come up wrong, but it just was plural rather than singular, so it was easy to correct.  The Samsung Focus S also has a front facing and rear facing camera, so using Skype is also an option.

Facebook and Twitter apps had my full attention.  Both apps were simple to use, easy to navigate, and very user-friendly in their design.  Anyone that’s used an Android based Facebook app knows how frustrated users can be with mobile versions of Facebook.  Just one look at the Facebook reviews on the Android marketplace and you’ll see the issues facing the Android FB.  In fact, I used it twice (years ago), and had such a bad experience that I swore I’d never use it again.  The Windows Mobile version of Facebook was amazing.  Photos were easily uploaded and statuses went through in a snap.  Absolutely no issues here.  I couldn’t find an Instagram app, which is a huge bummer, but I imagine it’s on the way.  It’d be a shame to see this OS not have an Instagram app.  Internet explorer is also the installed browser and is lightning fast.  In a comparative speed test, my droid browser took 3.5 seconds to navigate from to and the Samsung Focus S took about 1.5.  The Motorola supposedly isn’t TRUE 4g, and the Samsung is, so that may account for faster loading as well.

The other bonus was the battery life.  Online, the rating for this phone seems to be similar to an IPhone with 6-8 hours of performance, but my Samsung Focus S lasted an entire 12 hours with moderate use and around 7 hours average on heavier use which is far longer than any I-phone I’ve owned has ever lasted.  My Motorola phone was close in battery life (18 and 7), but Androids can vary based upon which manufacturer’s skin is over the Android OS.  I hate charging my phone more than once a day, so it was a relief to see that the phone’s processor and the Windows Mobile OS aren’t sucking battery life.

The last bonus is that it has built-in Microsoft functionality like SkyDrive, Office 365 (Word, Excel, OneNote, etc.) and wow, is it easy to use.  Documents from my email pulled up quickly with no version-change issues or errors, and using each Office feature was almost as easy as the real thing.

The only downside is the limited choices of apps in the Marketplace.  Google has a ton, Apple has quite a few, and Winows is playing catch-up, but is still lacking a few great apps that are popular on phones these days (I mentioned Instagram, but there are others).  I would imagine as Windows phones become more and more popular that the market place will grow, but I’m an impatient guy and want them now (imagine me stomping my feet like a 2 year old while saying that).  Other than that negative side, this phone far exceeded my expectations.

I was searching for an alternative to the Apple OS with it’s conformity-based approach and the Android “magician’s slip” manufacturer-based skins (“this one has it, this one doesn’t!”), and I certainly found exactly what I was looking for..and more!  I would recommend the Samsung Focus S or any Windows Mobile phone to anyone looking to make an OS change in their mobile phone lifestyle.  Down below are a few more screenshots I took during my experience using the Samsung Focus S.

Instead of app icons, Windows Mobile uses tiles which are “alive” the People app constantly flips pictures, the text and email numbers change with each email, and the missed call tile changes as well. Touching that little arrow at the top takes you to a side screen with more app choices and the settings.
The Marketplace screen. Hope to see Instagram here soon.
Take your Office with you.
The Facebook news feed. Not much happening at that moment.
Aww…I texted my mom.
My aunt Mary commented on my Facebook and Silhouette Bakery is just plain awesome.

That’s it for now everyone.  I’m off to keep tinkering with this phone.  More posts to come!  For more about Windows Mobile Phones, click here.