Although there's not a lot of variation, there is a bit of wiggle room for manufacturers and carriers to add some of their own apps, and we see that here. With AT&T, you get branded apps for a bar code and QR code scanner, AT&T Navigator with turn-by-turn directions, AT&T Radio, MyWireless, and AT&T U-verse Mobile, which is the mobile version of U-verse TV for streaming shows (this service costs $9.99 per month to sign up for from the phone).
Samsung has added a few extras as well, like a Photo Studio app with some basic editing tools. It'd be even better to see these things within the native camera app.
Microsoft continues to win points for its Music+Videos hub with Zune and Zune Pass integration, and great music-mixing DJ features. Bing's new Mango features with music identification and optical scan-search (called Bing Vision) also worked well on this real-world device.
The device memory is limited to 8GB, as I've mentioned before, but Microsoft has attempted to soften the blow by giving Windows Phone users 25GB of free online file storage through SkyDrive. It's one method for saving photos, videos, and other documents.
As a reminder, the Focus Flash has a front-facing VGA camera and a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash. I must have looked narcissistic repeatedly taking self-portraits in the office, but it's because the photos constantly came out blurry enough to make me dizzy. That's unfortunately not much of a shocker for a phone camera, although quality is slowly improving over time across the industry as a whole. At least the photos aren't grainy. However, neither are they focused.
The rear-facing camera took photos with distinct edges and good focus (autofocus helps). Color fidelity was very good, but in some cases, especially scenes with artificial lighting, colors were off, and often oversaturated. In most cases, the autofix editing icon in the camera app's photo-review screen correctly adjusted the scenes, lightening and brightening as needed.
You can see more of the phone's photographic capabilities in this.
Video recording and playback were fair, but the camera struggled with the low levels of indoor light in my test video (I'll spend more time with outdoor video as well.) It was a little dark, and the camcorder had difficulty keeping the lighting steady. It made the room look much grayer than it was. I also had to boost the volume to hear the subject of the video, but it did play back smoothly without jerkiness. It'll serve most people's purposes well enough, but it isn't the peak quality I've seen.
I tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Samsung Focus Flash in San Francisco using AT&T's network. Call quality was a little weak in my tests. Volume was nice and loud, but voices sounded muffled and slightly digital, as if the voice were being fed ever so subtly through an autotuner. I did enjoy the absence of background noise. On their end, callers said my voice was loud, but sounded a little bit raspy and garbled, and not quite natural.
Samsung Focus Flash call quality sample
On the other hand, the phone delivered one of the better examples of speakerphone I've heard. It was nice and loud on both ends of the line, without background distractions. Sure, it still sounded like a buzzy speakerphone, but it was highly understandable and relatively clear, if a little lispy.
Data speeds on AT&T's 4G HSPA+ network was pretty good. CNET's mobile site loaded in about 17 seconds, and the full desktop site loaded in 34 seconds. The New York Times' mobile-optimized site finished loading in 5.5 seconds, and the full desktop site loaded in about 28 seconds.
Set aside the ridiculously reasonable $50 price tag and the Samsung Focus Flash is still a worthy smartphone, especially for people who want quality, but who don't demand cutting-edge specs. The processor is single-core, but performed without lagginess or incident. The 4G speeds won't be as fast as AT&T's nascent LTE network, but they are faster than plain old 3G. The screen is on the smaller side, the front-facing camera is nothing to boast about, and the call quality needs some maintenance work, but from the camera to the apps, the Focus Flash behaves like a good Windows Phone should. At this point, whether you like it or not probably boils down to how you feel about the operating system as a whole.
I, for one, would recommend the Focus Flash--to the right person. For those who are already entrenched in iOS or Android, the Focus Flash won't be the phone to lure you away. But if you're a Windows Phone fan, a new smartphone owner, or someone who's open to Windows Phone's simplicity and clean, fresh design (and who also happens to love a good deal), by all means check it out.