Taking pictures in low light
Sometimes with my phone, in a low light or near dark situation, when I hit the shutter the phone will just take the picture with the flash but doesn't focus. Other times/situations, the light will come on so it can focus briefly then it will take the picture (which I thought was the way it's supposed to be). Is there any setting or any way to force it to do the latter? I would think the former should never happen, but for some reason that's all it was doing the last time I tried it.
Re: Taking pictures in low light
Low light photography is tricky in general. Although I have not played with taking low light pics with mine yet, I do know that there is a "low light" setting if you tap on the "A" in the upper left corner. Have you tried using that? If not, try that or setting your flash to dedicated "on" and not automatic. This will obviously make it flash all the time and should give a "pre-flash" as you described.
Also for any camera that does not have a way to manually focus, and as a general rule of thumb, your best bet is to prop yourself or the camera so that it is a still as possible to get the best chances of focusing on your subject. This of course depends on the environment that the subject you are trying to capture.