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Home > Phone Reviews > Samsung Focus S (SGH-I937)


Samsung Focus S

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating star
Carrier: AT&T
Manufacturer: Samsung
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What's hot: Lovely OS, excellent display, very thin and light.

What's not: Plasticky, audio out to amplified sources has issues but fine with headphones.


Reviewed December 2, 2011 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

The Samsung Focus S is part of a trio of new Windows Phone 7.5 Mango smartphones on ATT. The Focus S joins its smaller and more affordable little brother, the Samsung Focus Flash and the HTC Titan. The Focus S sells for $199 with contract, but right now the carrier is discounting it to $99 with contract. That's a good deal for a phone that's a near twin to the high end Android Samsung Galaxy S II. What's different? The Galaxy S II has a 1.2GHz dual core CPU (all the rage in Android land), and the Focus S has a single core 1.4GHz CPU. Much as we pay micro-psychotic attention to specs, don't read too much into that. Not only is the Focus S extremely fast, silky fast, too fast for your grandma (or at least too fast for mine); but also Microsoft only supports single core CPUs in OS 7.5 Mango. Why? Because they found no worthwhile performance gain with dual core CPUs, so why raise handset costs? They've finely tuned their OS for single core Qualcomm Snapdragon CPUs in a similar fashion to Apple tuning the iPhone to Apple's CPUs.

Samsung Focus S

Samsung's first US Windows Phone, the Samsung Focus on AT&T was a fast phone even with the first gen 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU. The Focus S is faster, and more importantly, it has improved battery life because the second gen Snapdragon CPU is much more efficient. How nice to not have to worry whether your phone will make it through the day with moderate to heavy use. It will. The Focus S has a 1650 mAh Lithium Ion battery and a power frugal 4.3" Super AMOLED Plus display. As you'd expect from a Super AMOLED Plus display, blacks are inky and colors are hyper-saturated, and there's a slight blue color tint that's noticeable on white backgrounds.

Design and Ergonomics

The good news and bad news is that the Focus S is a near dead ringer for the Samsung Galaxy S II. That's good because the phone is absurdly light and very thin, and the GS II has been extremely well received. The bad news is it feels too light (if that's possible) and it's typical Samsung plastics with not a hint of metal or high quality finishes. At 3.9 ounces, the Focus S is lighter than the smaller and cheaper Samsung Focus Flash (3.7" display), and the battery door is paper-thin. The phone is exquisitely thin at 0.33", but that thinness combined with the gloss sides makes it easy to drop. I rarely drop phones but have found myself one juggle away from disaster several times with the Focus S. Get a case with a grippy texture.

Samsung Focus S

As per usual with Samsung, the power button is on the upper right side and the volume controls are almost directly across on the left hand side. Happily, Samsung dropped the volume controls just a bit lower than the power button so one doesn't accidentally press the opposing button when gripping the phone to turn it on or change volume. The 3.5mm stereo jack is up top and the micro USB port for charging and syncing with the Zune desktop client is at the bottom. The phone has dual mics for noise cancelling, with one on the top edge and one on the bottom edge. The speaker fires out the rear and has moderate volume and fullness, but it can't compete with the amazingly loud and full HTC Titan speaker that can literally fill a room.

Samsung Focus S


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Samsung Focus S Video Review



Calling and Data

The smartphone has HSPA+, which AT&T calls 4G, and download speeds were typical of the lower range of HSPA+. Our phone averaged 3-4.7 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps up using the phone itself and when using a laptop and the mobile hotspot feature, which is the same as the Titan but slower than the 3.5-6 Mbps down and 1.2 Mbps up we get with AT&T's HSPA+ Android phones. Why? No idea.

The Samsung Focus S has the mobile hotspot feature, something we sorely missed on first gen Windows Phone 7 handsets. Call quality is excellent and reception is average. Call recipients said we sounded landline clear, and incoming voice had average volume with excellent clarity. The phone worked well with our Jawbone headset and our car's built-in Bluetooth.

Windows Phone, Zune Multimedia, IE 9 and XBOX Gaming

Standard for Windows Phone, you get the very capable and attractive Zune music and video player that syncs to your desktop (Zune client in Windows, Mac Windows Phone Connector that syncs to iTunes on Macs running OS X). There's 16 gigs of internal storage with 14 gigs available for your use, and there's no expansion slot. After the ruckus over the microSD card slot on the original Focus, I doubt we'll see any Windows Phones with card slots until the OS supports it in a more user-friendly fashion.

The Metro UI is all about elegance and simplicity. In fact, it's downright calming--think of it as the Chamomile tea of operating systems. If iOS is too closed for your tastes and Android too unfocused, Windows Phone falls somewhere in between, and is closer to iOS in terms of ease of use and presenting a structured experience.

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).

IE 9 (mobile) does a good job of rendering websites, though we still don't rank it as highly as the standard Android and iPhone web browsers. It gets 95% of CSS and formatting right, but once in a while we'll notice a font that's not sized properly (MS errs on the side of making fonts too large so things stay readable), or an image that extends beyond its intended column. Though IE 9 doesn't break any Sunspider JavaScript tests (the Samsung Focus S scored 6250, while the iPhone 4S scored twice as fast), in real world use, the Focus S downloaded and rendered websites as quickly as our iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S II. That's a marked improvement over the original Samsung Focus and the HTC HD7S on AT&T. Sorry, there's no Adobe Flash Player on board, but now that Adobe has announced the untimely demise of mobile Flash Player development in favor of HTML5 tools, that will fade in importance.

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


Further Reading: HTC Titan vs. Samsung Focus S Comparison Smackdown


Samsung Focus S


Samsung Focus S

The Samsung Focus S and Focus Flash.





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Display: 4.3" capacitive Super AMOLED Plus display. Resolution: 800 x 480, supports both portrait and landscape modes via accelerometer, has ambient light sensor.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 1650 mAh.

Performance: 1.4GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM 8255 CPU with Adreno 205 hardware graphics acceleration. 512 megs RAM, 16 gigs internal storage with 14 gigs available.

Size: 4.96 x 2.63 x 0.33 inches. Weight: 3.9 ounces.

Phone: GSM quad band with 3G/"4G" HSPA+ 14.4 on the 850/1900/2100MHz bands.

Camera: 1.3MP front camera and rear 8MP camera with flash, autofocus and illuminated backlit sensor. Can shoot 720p video.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR.

Software: Windows Phone 7.5 Mango.

Memory Card Slot: None.


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