Windows Phone 7 and Software
This is obviously a review of the Samsung Focus rather than Windows Phone 7. That said, this is a brand new OS, so we'll cover the basics.
There's the excellent Zune Player for music and video (totally sweet, totally like the Zune HD experience), there's XBOX Live with some very good looking games, but no support for USB file transfer of anything beyond music and video. You'll use the Zune Windows desktop software to sync music, photos and video to and from the phone, just as you'd use iTunes with an iPhone. Mac users, yes there's an OS X Windows Phone 7 Connector app and it worked fine on my Mac to sync non-DRM iTunes library music and video to and from the phone. You can even select individual playlists from your iTunes library for syncing. Shocking, ain't it?
The MS Office Mobile suite is capable and attractive, and it does support SharePoint for you business types. But there's currently no USB loading of Office documents or PDFs. You can upload your photos to Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud storage service but there's no way to get at Office files on SkyDrive short of emailing document URLs to the phone or downloading docs from other websites. MS Exchange support is of course very robust, though Windows Phone 7 doesn't yet support all Exchange policies (the most commonly used are supported). The OS seems very secure, and apps are vetted on the Marketplace. The drawback: that's the only place to get apps, not even corporate apps can be installed-- chalk up one for the iPhone and BlackBerry. So Windows Phone 7 is business-friendly in terms of robust MS Exchange support and security (it even has remote wipe and find my phone features), but it lacks features heavy business users crave.
The home screen is comprised of tiles and the UI is named "Metro". These tiles can be live and provide info on the number of new emails and missed calls and rotate images from your photo collection. Apps include IE Mobile (based on IE 7) and a fantastic email client that looks even nicer than Android's. It supports POP3, IMAP and Exchange accounts as well as Hotmail and Google mail. Bing search and maps are on board, as is MS Office Mobile and OneNote (view PowerPoint files and view/create/edit Word, OneNote and Excel files).
The Marketplace is where you'll download free and paid apps (there are approximately 1,000 titles as of this writing and we expect the number to rise quickly). The usual suspects from iTunes and the Android Market are here: Netflix streaming movie player, Weather Channel, Weather Bug, AP News, BBC News and Kindle is coming. There are also plenty of fluff apps including more unit converters than anyone would want to consider. XBOX Live is your gaming hub and there's a photo viewer, calculator and alarms integrated into the OS as well as an excellent Facebook client that's a part of the People hub.
What's missing at launch? There's no copy and paste, though that should be coming soon via an update. Only the built-in apps can multi-task. There's no mass storage mode. Since 3rd party apps can't multi-task, there's no background updating for Twitter, and games don't always save state if you're in the middle of a level and exit the app or turn off the phone. You can sync over WiFi with a Windows desktop but there's no Bluetooth file transfer.
Multimedia and Camera
The Zune player looks every bit as good as it does on the Zune HD, in fact it's better. It makes iTunes on the iPhone look a bit dated and it certainly blows away even custom music and media players on Android. The side-scrolling panorama view is filled with eye candy, album art and useful stuff like a history of what you've recently played. The music player can run in the background and the lock screen has access to playback controls. You'll get your songs and videos onto the device using the Zune desktop software on Windows or the Mac utility on OS X (a free download from Microsoft). You don't have to buy Zune music, though it's hard to resist the Zune Pass plan: for $15/month you get subscription music (download and stream all that you want as long as your Pass plan is active) and you get to download and keep 10 mostly DRM-free songs each month. You can use the Zune desktop player to rip songs from CDs and import tunes already on your hard drive. Also on-board and standard for Windows Phone 7 is an FM radio that uses the included stereo earbud headset as the antenna. Like the Zune, you can bring up playback controls by hitting a volume key when the phone is in the sleep screen.
The video player is capable, and if your video isn't in a Zune player-friendly format like MPEG4, the desktop app will convert it for you. The built-in rear-firing speaker sounds surprisingly full for a phone and there's plenty of volume. That said, the HTC Surround with its slide-out speaker bar, is considerably louder (it can easily fill a small room with sound), and a bit fuller when Dolby Mobile is on.
Like the Galaxy S phones, the Focus has a solid 5 megapixel camera that focuses quickly (much more quickly than the HTC HD7 and quicker than the HTC Surround) and takes sharp, colorful shots. The Samsung can't compete with the Nokia N8 (few phones can) for video and photo quality, but it is one of the better cameras on the US market. The LED flash helps with low light shots and standard autofocus and macro focus modes. The Focus can shoot 720p video that's not quite as good as the iPhone 4, but it's better than the Surround and many other phones on AT&T.
Battery Life and GPS
The Samsung Focus ships with a 1500 mAh Lithium Ion battery, and that's more capacity than the HD7 and Surround which have 1230 mAh batteries. Those extra milliamps and the more power-frugal Super AMOLED display make for longer runtimes. The first gen Snapdragon CPU isn't shy about using power and the Focus still requires nightly charging with moderate to heavy use, but it will make it through the day in most cases. With light use, it can go two days on a charge.
Despite troubles with the Galaxy S GPS, the Focus has no problems and it in fact uses a different chipset. The GPS works with both Bing Maps and AT&T Navigator powered by TeleNav. Bing Maps offers excellent POIs and satellite views while the $10/month Navigator offers spoken turn-by-turn directions.
The Samsung Focus is our favorite Windows 7 Phone launch device. The Dell Venue Pro might offer some serious competition but it's not available as of this writing and is destined for T-Mobile rather than AT&T. The Focus has an absolutely wonderful 4" Super AMOLED display, and the competition literally fades in comparison. It's also more sensitive to touch, even more sensitive than the iPhone 4. The Focus is attractive and solidly built, though it doesn't hide its plastics. We love the user-accessible microSD card slot, though it's a pain that one must follow strict procedures to change cards thanks to Microsoft's software design. Still, it's nice to start out with 40 gigs of total storage if you go with a 32 gig card. Finally, the camera takes very nice shots and has fast autofocus, particularly outdoors.
Pro: Wonderful display that stands out from the crowd. Attractive, slim and light. Good performance, very good camera and solid battery life. Only Windows 7 phone with a user-accessible microSD card slot.
Con: Piano gloss plastics are slippery and won't appeal to the metal and soft touch surface crowd. Must hard reset and wipe the phone if you want to upgrade microSD cards (due to Windows Phone 7 architecture, not a Samsung flaw).
Price: $199 with a 2 year contract, $499 without contract.
Websites: wireless.att.com, www.samsungmobileusa.com, www.windowsphone.com