Samsung Focus Flash Lightning Review: The Beginning of Something Really Good

Running Windows Phone 7.5 on the first generation of WP handsets was like watching a child violin prodigy sawing away on a community center junker: The promise is palpable, but the gear leaves you wondering what if.

The Samsung Focus Flash is on the economy end of this next generation of WP phones, but in a lot of ways, it blows the doors off of the last generation. That means something.

Like

Feels a million trillion times better in the hand than the original Focus. It's still not anywhere near the build quality of top-notch handsets like the iPhone 4S, but it doesn't feel like a total piece of junk in your hand either: a marked improvement. The physical home button is a departure from most Windows Phones, including the original Focus, and it's actually a pretty nice change of pace. The 3.7-inch Super AMOLED Plus screen is just as sharp and vibrant as you'd expect a Samsung screen to be at this point.

This is also one of the first Windows Phones to have a front-facing camera, which is a nice and seriously overdue perk. It's also got an Internet Sharing on/off setting built into its software, which was conspicuously missing from the wide Mango release. While we weren't able to get it up and running, it would be a huge bonus if the Focus Flash and the beefier Focus S got that in order. Call quality was actually better than the Focus, too, as well as HTC's Trophy Windows Phone on Verizon, which was a pleasant and unexpected surprise.

No Like

The touch actions are much less accurate than on other Windows Phones, and sometimes the screen won't even register fast or especially light touches at all. That problem compounds itself with the fact that the phone can be a liiittle too narrow to type on comfortably in portrait mode—even with my freakishly tiny hands—making sending even short messages a pain despite Windows Phone's generally solid digital keyboard. As for design, the physical home button is nice function-wise, but it could stand to be a little more flush with the face of the phone. The camera is serviceable, but it's certainly not a plus.

Should I Buy This

If you're very specifically looking for a tiny, cheap ($50), and sturdy Windows Phone, here's your huckleberry. Otherwise, there are a lot of solid Windows Phones coming out, like the Focus S, HTC Titan, and of course Nokia's Lumia 800, if it ever makes its way stateside.

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Samsung Focus Flash Specs

  • Screen: 3.7-inch Super AMOLED Plus
  • Processor: 1.4GHz
  • Storage: 8GB
  • Radio: "4G" HSPA+
  • Cameras: 5MP Rear-facing; Front-Facing camera