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printed October 22, 2014
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Review: Samsung Focus Flash for AT&T

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The Samsung Focus Flash is a spare little thing. For a modern smartphone, you might even go so far as to call it dainty. It's a solid black slab with no distinguishing features of any kind. Were it not black, I'd call it vanilla.

It feels exactly the way it looks. It's not a high-end phone, but it's not a low-end phone either. The materials -- a mixture of glass, plastic, and metal -- feel good, but not awesome and not cheap. They are a bit slippery thanks to the glossy finish, and the Focus Flash jumped from my grasp a couple of times while testing it. The front surface is sharply rectangular, but the side edges are rounded and let the Focus Flash rest comfortably in your hand. Thanks to the smooth finish, it will easily slip into most pockets and its small footprint may lead you to forget that it is there.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The only controls on the front are the three mandatory Windows Phone buttons. The "Windows" (nee, Start) button in the middle is an actual, physical button. It’s very easy to find thanks to the edges that are raised a bit from the otherwise unbroken surface of the Focus Flash. The back button is to the left, and the search button is to the right. These are both capacitive keys and worked as they should.

The volume toggle is on the left edge. It’s a thin strip of plastic that stands out just a bit from the edge. I wish it had nubs or some sort of other physical way to determine where the up and down portions of the key are located. It works fine as is, but a little extra help wouldn't hurt.

The power/lock key is on the right edge, positioned close to the top of the phone, which is where Samsung likes to put this key. It’s small, but still found and used without trouble. The feedback is OK. The dedicated camera button is also on the right edge, closer to the bottom. It’s a two-stage key for focusing and releasing the shutter. The first (focusing) stage is not well defined. It’s too easy to go right past it and snap a photo when you were only trying to focus.

The 3.5mm headset jack is the lone item on the top of the Focus Flash, and the microUSB port is the lone thing on the bottom of the Focus Flash.

The battery cover is easy to remove. Amazingly, you can pull the SIM card out without removing the battery. This is rare, but not necessarily useful. Windows Phone devices don't support expandable memory, so there is no microSD card slot anywhere on the Focus Flash. You're stuck with the 6.33GB available to users.

For the most part, there's nothing wrong with the Focus Flash's hardware and controls. Despite its name, however, it exhibits very little "flash" with respect to design.

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