Review: Samsung Focus 2

Nokia has committed wholly to the Windows Phone platform with its flagship Lumia line, but it isn’t the only manufacturer investing in Microsoft’s mobile OS. Samsung’s new Focus 2 is the company’s fourth Windows Phone device, and it’s a smartphone worth your attention.

Unlike the company’s Android devices, Samsung’s latest Windows Phone isn’t aimed at the upper echelons of the smartphone market. It’s the kind of device that will appeal to first-time buyers and seasoned consumers looking for a good deal.

And this is a really good deal. At $50 with a two-year AT&T contract, the Focus 2 is a bargain. That’s only half the price of the Lumia 900, and a third of the cost of HTC’s Titan II, even though all three phones run on the same AT&T 4G LTE network. And since the Windows Phone platform is consistent across the devices — you’ll see a few pre-loaded manufacturer and carrier apps, but not much else — you’re not sacrificing much software experience with the low price tag. The Samsung Focus 2 was just as quick and responsive as any other Windows Phone Mango device I’ve used.

Having access to AT&T’s 4G network is also a big plus. While I was using it in the downtown San Francisco area, I consistently had between three and five out of five bars. And all of my calls sounded clear and and sharp.

Of course, just because the software is consistent, that doesn’t mean all Windows Phone devices are alike. The hardware design, camera quality, display, and battery life are just a few of the important features where these smartphones can dramatically differ.

The phone’s 4-inch 800- by 480-pixel Super AMOLED display is on par with other Windows Phone devices. My only complaint is that it never got quite bright enough. Even the highest brightness option looked lackluster, and was noticeably less bright next to the original Focus and the Nokia Lumia 900.

A few other drawbacks with the Samsung Focus 2: It comes only in white with silver trim, it has just 8GB of storage and no MicroSD card slot for extra storage, and it comes with a single-core Qualcomm MSM8255 1.4GHz processor — something that didn’t noticeably affect the phone’s performance, but is behind the dual-core times.

The Samsung Focus 2 gets you access to AT&T’s 4G LTE in a compact, appealing, and most importantly, cheap device. Don’t get me wrong, this definitely isn’t a better phone than the Nokia Lumia 900. It doesn’t have the same curb appeal and falls short in comparative specs like the onboard camera and available storage. But if you’re looking for an affordable, entry-level smartphone and are curious about the Windows Phone platform, the Samsung Focus 2 is a good choice.

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