We've covered the hyper-marketed Samsung Instinct since Sprint first announced it in April at the CTIA trade show. The Instinct will be available June 20th, but we received our review unit in advance of the release date.
Sprint has been pitching the Instinct hard with TV commercials, movie theater spots and of course on their web site. Pitting the Instinct vs. the iPhone, Sprint has reminded us that the Instinct has key features that the current 2G iPhone lacks including the ability to send MMS pictures and video, GPS, streaming TV content over EVDO and voice dialing. Yes, 'tis true the Instinct has all these and so far, they've worked extremely well for us. Cool. Will the 3G iPhone, rumored to be announced next week have some of these? Maybe.
But there's more to being an iPhone killer than filling in the missing features. The iPhone has an incredibly cool and easy to use interface that brings "fun" to the phone. Likewise, the recently released LG Vu on AT&T brings some of that fun to the phone experience-- it's very easy and intuitive, and it has broadcast TV, which adds a special something. The Instinct is by no means hard to use-- in fact, Sprint and Samsung worked hard to make it easy to use because they understand therein lies some of the iPhone's power. The Instinct even has a "Fun" tab. But it takes more than a label on a tab to make something fun and pleasurable to use.
The Samsung Instinct is pleasant to use and we particularly like the Favs tab where you can put your most used applications, web pages and even TV or radio stations as shortcuts. The touch screen with haptic vibration feedback generally works well- it's responsive and accurate. Not as good as the iPhone's, and there's no multi-touch but it's much better than the Samsung Glyde for Verizon we recently reviewed, and on par with the LG Voyager (Verizon's fall 2007 attempt at an iPhone killer). The screen is huge by phone standards and fairly bright though not as color-saturated as the iPhone or Vu.
The interface with its tabs reminds us of the Samsung Glyde, LG Voyager and LG Vu, and in terms or form and function, we'd say the Instinct is more aptly a Voyager competitor than an iPhone competitor. In fact, the fierce comparisons with the iPhone may hurt the Instinct because it really doesn't directly compare and the iPhone is an impossibly tough adversary.
Sprint will sell the Instinct with a mandatory $69.99 "Everything 450" plan which is Sprint's Simply Everything plan with 450 minutes of talk time rather than unlimited voice. This gets you Sprint's GPS Navigation service, unlimited data, Sprint Music Premier with approximately 50 commercial free radio channels and Sprint TV Premier with approximately 25 TV channels that are served over the data connection (not broadcast TV over the air). If you need more minutes you can go for a higher Simply Everything plan, likely the $99 plan with unlimited voice since the "Everything 900" minute plan isn't a bargain at $89. So the cheapest Sprint plan is $10 more per month than the cheapest iPhone plan, but you do get lots of streaming media content and the GPS service. Both AT&T and Sprint's plan include 450 anytime minutes and unlimited data.
The GPS application on the Samsung Instinct
Sprint TV has been enhanced on the Instinct and fills up a large portion of the display. Unfortunately, the video is blocky, sometimes pauses and audio drops out. You can see a clip of Sprint TV in action on the Instinct here. Sprint tells us that they're tweaking their network to get EVDO rev. A tuned for the Instinct, so performance may improve by the time we post our full review.
Like the LG Voyager, the Instinct is large and isn't a lightweight. It's not too wide to be comfy in hand, even for a woman though and we really like the black soft-touch finish on the back, making it one of the few touch screen feature phones that isn't too darned slippery to hold. The Instinct is attractive and looks more chic and high-ticket than the Voyager but not as good as the iPhone.
The entire front surface is covered with highly reflective clear plastic that shows fingerprints and creates glare. The screen is quite hard to see outdoors but looks great indoors as long as you avoid windows and overhead lights which bring out the glare. Three touch controls live below the display: the back button, home button and call end key which isn't quite a call end key since it brings up the phone-related applications when not in a call, works to end applications but does not end calls.
The screen automatically locks after a set period of time (you can set the timeout). Unlocking the screen is annoying-- first you must press the power button to wake up the phone, then you must press and hold the power button until the device unlocks. Not very expedient. We're thrilled that the screen doesn't turn off during a phone call so you can use the on-screen keypad, speaker controls and etc. To hang up a call, you must slide the red end call button on screen (just tapping it doesn't work). Again, pressing the call end button on the phone doesn't end a call.
Voice quality is excellent-- one of the best Sprint phones we've heard. And the speakerphone is quite clear with no distortion even at higher volumes.
Sprint packages the phone in a black gift box, similar to the elegant packaging used in HTC's Touch devices. The box is chock full with goodies including two 1,000 mAh Lithium Ion batteries, a charger, USB cable, software CD, slip case, 2 gig microSD card (the phone supports up to 8 gig cards) and a stereo earbud headset.
There's a great deal more to cover, and we'll post a full review in the coming days. Stay tuned!
-------------------- Lisa Gade Editor in Chief, MobileTechReview