Windows Phone 7 review: My hardware

posted by Jeff | Saturday, December 11, 2010, 7:40 PM | comments: 0

Now that I've had my phone for awhile, I figured I would write a little about what I think of it. There are really three things that I want to cover, so I'll split between three posts, for hardware, development and the OS. In all three cases, there will be a ton of iPhone comparisons, because I had one since the time it was introduced. Let's face it, iPhone set the standard for what a smart phone should be.

Like most anyone who was with AT&T, I got a Samsung Focus. The other two models offered weren't really as rational in terms of features, so it was a pretty obvious choice. I did like the HTC HD7 on T-Mobile, but it was kind of large, and I wasn't as comfortable with T-Mobile's data coverage maps. It's important to consider that this phone is not Windows Phone 7 beyond the fact that it has all of the requirements to run the OS. Beyond that, the manufacturers can generally do whatever they want in terms of design.

The thing that draws you in on the Focus is the screen. Samsung apparently has a corner on the market for Super AMOLED, and I have to say, it's impressive. It really makes the primary colors of the OS pop. Text is particularly beautiful. There has been some criticism that the resolution requirement wasn't higher, but I have to say that I don't think it's a negative at all. It's quite stunning.

Sound is much better than on the iPhone, both from apps and for speaker phone. The speaker is on the back though, so it's best when you have your hand behind it, reflecting it back at you. That's pretty normal, for games in particular. The included headphones have volume controls and a mic, and work similar to their iPhone counterpart. Unfortunately, they're completely uncomfortable, so I don't use them. The iPhone headphones work plugged in, but the mic does not. The clicker does start and stop music, fortunately. Not sure why they didn't just copy Apple here. And by the way, call quality is much better than iPhone, by a long shot. That surprised me. Yes, sometimes people use their phones for calling people!

The construction of the phone is generally pretty solid, and on par with my iPhone 3GS. The glass is apparently the "gorilla glass" also found on the iPhone 4, and I haven't had any worries that it will get scratched or anything. The plastic used on the back and sides does feel kind of cheap in terms of texture, but it doesn't flex or squeak or anything (surprising given that the back comes off for battery, SIM and microSD access). It's a little on the slick side. I'd like it if there was something like the hard InCase cases available, but I haven't seen one yet.

The positioning of the buttons is a little less than ideal, but I'm not sure how much of that is iPhone routine. The power button is on the side, instead of on top like most other smart phones (including the HTC WP7's). That wouldn't be that big of a deal if it weren't for the fact that the volume is on the opposite side. I do like the little sliding cover over the micro-USB port though. While it never seemed to be a problem, I was always troubled by the fuzz that collected in the iPhone's dock connector.

The memory card thing has been kind of a mess, in that a card's "class" isn't enough indication that it will be fast enough to sustain certain read/write speeds. While some people report outright failures with some cards, my story has been "mostly OK," I suppose. I bought a 32 gig card. Once you install it and format it, the card is essentially bound to the phone, exercising the "secure" part of "SD." That's fine, as my intention is just to have it in there to carry all of my music. I've had three instances of a weird restart that looks as if the phone was reset, with none of your data, and the default tiles on the start screen. Rebooting the phone fixes it, and everything is back to normal. Reading various forums, I theorize this is a symptom of the memory card use (Diana has no card, an no such problems). It feels like something that might be corrected in software of firmware, so we'll see.

One minor complaint is that the required three face buttons (back, start and search) are touch buttons instead of physical hard buttons. This seems to be the case on most models, and it requires a little getting used to so you don't accidentally tag them when using the phone in landscape mode, especially for games.

The camera takes nice photos in daylight... when the software allows it. I think the hardware is fine, but the OS software driving it is definitely a work in progress.

Overall, the hardware itself is pretty good, even with my complaints. The screen alone is such a thing of beauty (and knowing it has awesome glass helps), that it hides any complaints I have. I can see why the similar phones that Samsung did for Android are so popular.


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