Review posted April 27, 2009 by Lisa Gade, Editor
When the original Samsung Instinct came out 10 months ago, it made quite a splash not only thanks to Sprint's mega-marketing campaign that pitted it against the 2G iPhone but because it packed a lot of features into a touch screen feature phone. Thanks to the iPhone in part, the world of touch screen phones moves fast, and now we have a wide selection of touch screen feature phones that are packed to the gills with bells and whistles formerly found only on smartphones. We wouldn't say that the Samsung Instinct S30 is Sprint's answer to these phones (Samsung Eternity, Samsung Impression, Samsung Behold, LG Versa, LG Dare... you get the idea) because it really adds nothing new. Instead it focuses on looks and the Instinct S30 has a more rounded casing and new color trim that makes it look less slab-like and more svelte. Current Instinct owners won't be running to snap up a new S30, rather feature phone owners looking for a touch screen and more features will likely pick it up.
Like the original Instinct, the Instinct S30 is a slate design phone with a resistive touch screen. The 3.1" resistive touch screen has haptic feedback but no accelerometer, EVDO Rev. 0, a GPS with Sprint Navigation, Visual Voicemail, a 2 megapixel camera, an HTML web browser, music player, Sprint TV, Sprint Radio and Sprint's Nascar Mobile. The phone has Bluetooth but not Wifi (Wifi is very rare on non-smartphones). MicroSD card compatibility has risen to 16 gigs, so you can store a lot of tunes. Because the Instinct S30's features haven't changed from the Instinct, we won't cover them again. Please read our Instinct review to get a complete rundown of the Instinct S30's features.
Hey, good lookin'
The Instinct S30 is undeniably better looking than the original Instinct, and a very attractive phone in its own right. It's curvy, slim, shiny and has very attractive metallic accents (available in copper and cobalt). It's thicker than the iPhone 3G, and thus a little easier to grip, but is more slippery than rectilinear phones like the original Instinct and Samsung Eternity. Though nearly the same size as the first Instinct, the S30's rounded corners make it look smaller and it is lighter at 3.88 ounces.
The power/screen unlock button is up top along with the 3.5mm stereo headset jack that lives under a rubber cover. The volume keys and Samsung blade-style USB connector (again under a rubber cover) are on the left side while the microSD card slot (covered), voice command button and camera button are on the right. The 1,000 mAh Lithium Ion battery is located under the back cover and unlike the first Instinct, the S30 doesn't come with a spare battery and spare battery charger.
The front is simple: three touch sensitive buttons handle call end, home and back. The S30 uses the same multi-tab homescreen and call screen formats as the original Instinct. Press the call end button to bring up the tabbed interface with access to speed dial, contacts (hold up to 660 contacts), call history and more. The main homescreen has tabs for favorites (put your favorite apps, TV channels and bookmarks here), Main (navigation, messaging, email, calendar, settings, clock, voicemail), Fun (music, Sprint TV, Sprint Radio, photo viewer, games, NFL Mobile, Nascar Mobile) and Web (browser, sports, weather, MS Live Search, news and movies).
Since there's no hardware dial pad or keyboard, the Instinct offers an on-screen dialer, a large landscape QWERTY keyboard, portrait keyboard with ABCDEF layout and handwriting recognition (no different from the original model). The portrait non-ABCDEF layout is a little strange-- it does allow for larger keys but those of us who are used to a standard keyboard layout won't like the hunt-and-peck approach it requires. You can switch between landscape and portrait text entry modes with a touch of an on-screen button, but there is no T9 option.
Sprint's Simply Everything plans were a part of the original Instinct's charm. Sprint led the way to unlimited plans-- voice, data, GPS navigation, Sprint TV and Radio, text and MMS messaging last year. For those who want it all, and the Instinct is the poster child for doing it all, these plans are a bargain. Fast forward to 2009 and the great recession and we wonder if folks are as eager to jump onto all you can eat plans, even if they do represent significant savings over adding services individually. Everything plans start at $69.99/month for 450 minutes of prime time talk time and unlimited everything else (data, TV, messaging, navigation and more). $99.99 gets you unlimited talk time too. Since the Instinct S30 supports most every service Sprint offers, the plan is a perfect fit, and you won't get warnings telling you that you must add plan features to use the applications and services on the Instinct S30.
Phone and Internet
The Instinct is a dual band digital CDMA phone with 1xRTT and EVDO Rev. 0. It's a mystery to us why Samsung and Sprint downgraded EVDO from the faster Rev. A to Rev. 0 on the S30 vs. original Instinct. Sprint has added Opera Mini to the pre-installed applications and you can access it by going to the Fun tab on the homescreen, then selecting Games/Apps, then Opera Mini. Opera Mini is a free download, but we're still glad to see Sprint and Samsung pre-install it since it's fast and familiar to many phone users. Aside from Opera Mini, the built-in browser supports HTML web sites and has desktop and mobile rendering modes, though the desktop mode isn't going to win any awards. A year ago on the Instinct, the web browser was pretty good for a feature phone, but now with other capable feature phones on the market, it seems just OK. Web page download times are a little slow, which is in part due to the browser's slow rendering engine and in part to Rev. 0.
Voice quality and volume have improved over the original Instinct, and the S30 has quite good voice quality and enough volume for somewhat noisy locations. The speakerphone is loud and reasonably clear except at max volume (many phones distort at max volume). The phone works well with Bluetooth headsets and it supports A2DP stereo over Bluetooth. Strangely, the screen doesn't shut off during a call.
The on-screen dialer is easy to use and each number is marked with letters to facilitate vanity dialing. Though the Instinct's tabbed selections for speed dial, contacts and call history are handy, we wish that tapping the call button brought up the dialer as the default tab rather than speed dial. There's no one-touch way to get to the dialer nor can you use smart dial to enter a number when on the homescreen since there's no software or hardware keypad/QWERTY.
GPS and Multimedia
The Instinct seems to have simply everything: Sprint TV, Sprint Radio, NFL mobile, Nascar mobile, a music player and a good selection of available games. The GPS and Sprint Navigation work very well. The phone gets a fix quickly and holds onto satellites even at highway speeds. The navigation software provides on-screen maps, POIs and spoken turn-by-turn directions that are clear and reasonably loud over the phone's speaker. Sprint TV didn't work as well for us, even with a good EVDO signal. We noted serious artifacting (blocky video) that was sometimes so bad the video wasn't watchable. It's a shame given the Instinct S30's large display that would be perfect for watching streaming video. Perhaps Sprint will fine tune the service to work better with the S30 as time goes on.
For tunes, the phone has a music player, supports Sprint's music store and has Sprint Radio which worked fine.
The 2.0 megapixel camera with fixed focus lens takes decent photos but it shows no improvement over the original Instinct. The camera has a self-portrait mirror but no flash and it can shoot both photos and video and send these via Picture and Video Mail (Sprint's terms for MMS).
The Instinct S30, like the original Instinct, is a fun phone that's ripe with features. From Sprint TV to GPS to music and web, it's got the goods. More attractive than the original Instinct, the S30 really offers no other incentive to upgrade. EVDO has been downgraded from Rev. A to Rev. 0 and there's no second battery in the box. To the S30's credit, battery life is better than the first gen Instinct, so the missing spare battery might not be a terrible sore point. If you're looking to move up from a more basic feature phone to a touch screen phone with all the bells and whistles on Sprint, the S30 is a solid choice, though it now faces serious competition from other carriers' touch screen phones.
Pro: Attractive, large display, supports every Sprint service for multimedia and navigation. Good GPS performance.
Con: Sprint TV performance is weak, touch screen OS is starting to look clunky compared to other models on the market (notably Samsung's Touch Wiz phones like the Eternity, Impression, Memoir and Behold along with the iPhone). Sorry, no WiFi here.
Display:262k color resistive touch screen, 3.2". Haptic feedback. Resolution:
240 x 432, supports both portrait and landscape modes depending on context.
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable and 2 are included.
1000 mA. Claimed talk time: up to 4.6 hours.
x 2.1 x 0.5 inches. Weight: 3.88 ounces.
Phone:CDMA dual band digital 800/1900MHz with EVDO Rev. 0 for data.
GPS:Has GPS with Sprint Navigation.
Camera:2.0 MP with fixed focus lens and self-portrait mirror. Can shoot still photos and video. Max photo resolution: 1600 x 1200. Video has 2 modes: MMS of limited length and unlimited at QVGA 320 x 240, 15 fps, mono 8 kHz in 3g2 format.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Music player included supporting MP3, AAC, WMA. Supports MTP 2.0, WMDRM and Sprint Media Manager for Windows. Has Sprint Music and Sprint TV.