After attending Microsoft's announcement of its new Windows Phone 7 operating system and looking at the three new AT&T phones that the software maker had on display, I'm putting my money on the Samsung Focus as the hottest new Windows Phone 7 smartphone of the group.
It's obvious why AT&T chose the Focus (which will hit the market Nov. 8) as the first of the three WP7 phones it will sell. The Focus is slender (0.3-in. thick), curved and lightweight (3.88 oz.), and it felt good in my hands.
What's more, the 4-in. WVGA Super AMOLED touchscreen was clearly brighter than the two other AT&T phones Microsoft presented at the announcement: the HTC Surround and the LG Quantum. (A Microsoft representative said Samsung should have plenty of displays in stock and should be able to keep the phones on the shelves, despite a display supply problem that developed earlier this year.)
The Focus is equipped with a 1GHz Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm, which enabled me to swipe efficiently through various screens and open "tiles" (configurable interface elements) quickly. The Focus comes with 8GB onboard storage, but it can handle a microSD card of up to 32GB. The Surround and Quantum each come with 16GB onboard storage but have no expansion slots.
I didn't get to hold an untethered LG Quantum; as a result, I couldn't judge its weight and overall feel very well. However, it came off as almost klunky, because too much effort was required to open and close the slide-out keyboard. The keys themselves seemed too stiff, clicking when I typed. Given those limitations, you have to wonder if the unit would be able to handle fast texting.
The HTC Surround felt heavy, boxy and inelegant. However, it did have some interesting features. For example, it opens slightly to expose audio speakers -- a clear indication that it's a multimedia-focused device. It includes a rear kickstand to prop it up for easy video viewing.
All three phones will include the access to Microsoft Office applications that workers need; among other things, they will support powerful uses of PowerPoint. But they should also be fast enough and bright enough for gamers. Wireless, real-time player connectivity to Xbox Live isn't available yet, but it will be -- and Microsoft has promised that plenty of games will ship with the device. WP7 phones also connect to Bing and Zune, among other services.
The Samsung Focus, LG Quantum and HTC Surround will each cost $199.99 with a two-year contract.
Bottom line: If you want that crossover device to move from work tasks to personal tasks, the Samsung Focus seems at first glance to be the best of AT&T's WP7 offerings.
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