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Samsung Focus Flash

No one smart phone is perfect for everyone. And while my current favorite, the Samsung Focus S that I reviewed over the weekend, ticks most of my own boxes, and comes awfully close to being a near-perfect device, you may feel differently. Maybe the screen and device are a bit too big. Maybe it's just too darned expensive. Maybe a high quality camera just isn't a huge concern.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce the Samsung Focus Flash. It's the anti-Focus S, if you will, though of course it's powered by the same excellent mobile OS--Windows Phone 7.5--and even the same speedy 1.4 GHz microprocessor. In the world of Windows Phone and Android handsets, the Focus Flash is a mighty mite, a tiny little phone that looks impossibly cute and small. But what's odd is that it's no smaller than the iPhone 4S, though it feels lighter and thinner in your hand. In fact, the Focus Flash's screen is actually bigger than that of Apple's device.

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Samsung Focus S (left) and Focus Flash (right)

Compared spec-to-spec with the Focus S, the Flash comes up short in a number of areas. The storage is relatively paltry at 8 GB, compared to 16 for the Focus S. The camera isn't as sharp, and it offers only 5 megapixels of resolution, compared to 8 for the Focus S. (That said, it does sport auto-focus and decent clarity; it's absolutely better than any first-gen Windows Phone cameras.)

Here are some shots I took with the device's camera:

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But let's be honest here. Does any of this stuff really matter to the type of person that might be drawn to such a device in the first place? I need to step outside my own tech-heavy preconceptions here as well, so don't worry, I'm not pointing fingers. But when the basics are all in place, the high-end spec stuff only matters to a tiny minority of people.

So here's what the Focus Flash does deliver. First, it's super inexpensive. You can get the Focus Flash for just $50 today (with a new wireless contract, of course), a far cry from the $200 or more than most modern smart phones cost. Yes, that's a tiny percentage of the total, two-year cost of such a device plus plan. But for many, that initial cost is the barrier. And the Focus Flash shatters that nicely.

Second, it's small and attractive, and would look as at home in the hand of a high-powered corporate executive as it would in that of teen hipster. Unlike most other smart phones, it's also very light, and the iPhone 4S feels like a heavy brick by comparison. So it's highly portable. You won't even know it's there when you're not using it.

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Samsung Focus Flash (left) and Apple iPhone 4S (right)

The device itself features a mechanical Start button, which is unique to Windows Phones, I believe, especially when you factor in that both the Back and Search buttons are capacitive. Someone told me at the US launch event that this button was thus a bit harder to press than the others, but that's not been the case at all and I find that the little rim around Start makes it easier to orient yourself without looking at the device. In fact, that's kind of a weird issue with many Windows Phones since the capacitive buttons make it hard to tell which end is up.

Turn it on and you're greeted by a brilliant, bright, and colorful AMOLED display. It's tiny, compared to other Windows Phones, but again, looking at the spec sheets and then comparing them side by side, something odd emerges. The Focus Flash screen is in fact bigger than the screen on the iPhone 4S. Just guessing, but the iPhone 4S's sheer heft--it really is a dense device-may simply make it seem bigger than it is. But looked at side by side, the Focus Flash has a bigger screen in a similar body, but looks and feels lighter.

All the usual Windows Phone 7.5 niceties appear, including Internet sharing (tethering). And thanks to the front-facing camera, you can easily take low-quality self-portraits or engage in video chat with compatible third party apps like Tango.

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Samsung Focus Flash (top) with Focus S

I'm a big guy and for me personally, the Focus Flash is just a bit too small. But for everyone else in my family, and for many, many other people, I bet, the Flash is just right. Again, no smart phone is for everyone. But I do think there is a whole generation of "candybar" phone users who aren't all that thrilled about today's big and heavy smart phones. The Focus Flash is perfect for that crowd. In fact, it's probably perfect for a bigger audience than I'm even aware of.

If you're turned off by the SUV-like dimensions or brick-like weight of many of today's smart phones, the Samsung Focus Flash may be just the ticket. I recommend checking it out in person--it's for sale now at AT&T Wireless--before committing, however, especially comparing it to the other Windows Phone offerings. But if you're looking for the ultimate in portability, the Focus Flash is a fine, fine phone.