That's not to say the OS is boring. It's not, and you've got XBOX Live games with a healthy selection of high quality games to get your blood pumping. XBOX gaming and Zune music are the centerpieces of Windows Phone. Funny for a company that brought us the all business Windows Mobile phones of old. But there's meat for business types here with solid MS Exchange support and Microsoft's mobile version of their Office suite (view/edit/create docs).
Windows phone manufacturers can create their own Hub or tile and a selection in the Marketplace for free downloadable apps. HTC and Samsung have the largest apps selections, and both offer note apps, photo editors and more. Samsung includes their Now app, which is a combo of Accuweather, Yahoo news, stocks and top tweets by country. They have a downloadable photo editor, RSS reader (a Google Reader client), MiniDiary (similar to the Android app, a cute diary app for photos, notes and voice recordings), a social network photo sharing app and more.
Given Windows Phone's music focus, we're surprised that the speaker wasn't a bit louder and more audacious. The HTC Titan's speaker is simply amazing in comparison, while the Samsung's is solid but not impressive. Sound quality through the 3.5mm stereo jack is good, though we did notice some audio popping when using amplified connections like car and home stereos. We didn't hear any popping using headphones or wired headsets. The phone works with Bluetooth stereo headphones and speakers, and audio quality through Bluetooth to speakers was very good.
Microsoft greatly improved their camera software in Mango, and there are lots of shutterbug options like autofocus mode (normal, macro), white balance, saturation, effects and EV. Happily, Samsung improved the imaging hardware too, and the Focus S' camera is much better than that of the original Samsung Focus. It's the same hardware as the Galaxy S II and it features an 8 megapixel camera with an illuminated backlit sensor and a fast lens. The S II does beat the Focus S for maximum recording resolution (1080p vs. 720p) because 1080p video recording requires a dual core CPU.
Photos are very colorful and sharp, with generally good exposure. There's some whiteout in bright outdoor scenes, but it's actually a little less than on the Galaxy S II. Windows Phones compress photos and videos less, and this leads to better quality, though the files are a bit larger than on Android phones and iOS. You can sync photos using Zune or the Mac desktop connector that syncs to iPhoto, and you can upload photos and videos manually or automatically to Microsoft's SkyDrive services. You can also share via messaging, Hotmail, email, Twitter, Facebook and Evernote. As a camera phone, both the Samsung Focus S and the 8 megapixel HTC Titan do a good job.
It's hard to not like a smartphone with serious Samsung Galaxy S II DNA when married to the elegant and enjoyable Windows Phone Mango OS. The display is lovely and Samsung's Super AMOLED technology makes those colorful Live Tiles pop. The phone is fast; in fact it's extremely fast. That's a testament to Microsoft's optimization for second gen single core Qualcomm CPUs and the added benefit is better than average battery life compared to other smartphone platforms. The Focus S easily lasts through the day, even with heavy use. Call quality is top notch and reception is good. The camera takes very pleasing and sharp photos and good 720p video. Our only complaints are the plasticky build and extreme slipperiness of the phone: get a case.
Price: $99 - $199 with 2 year contract
Websites: wireless.att.com, www.samsungmobileusa.com
Further Reading: HTC Titan vs. Samsung Focus S Comparison Smackdown
The Samsung Focus S and Focus Flash.