Introduction to the Samsung Instinct
Released in 2008, the Instinct was Samsung’s first attempt at a phone styled like an iPhone. While it was marketed against the iPhone upon release, it really wasn’t a fair comparison because outside of the design, the two phones are quite different. The Instinct succeeds in delivering both voice and 3G data communications in a relatively easy to use and understandable way. The Instinct is only available with Sprint service, which can be seen as either a good or bad thing, depending on how you view the company.
Design (3 out of 5)
The Samsung Instinct measures 4.5 inches by 2.1 inches and is a half-inch thick. It features a 3.1-inch touchscreen and three touch controls underneath the screen. The screen is large enough to allow for easy navigation, but seems a little small when you are browsing the web. There is extra unused real estate around the screen, so it would have been nice to have the screen a little bigger. The display itself supports 262,000 colors and has a 432x240 resolution, so while a little small for the phone style, at least the images on the screen look good.
The back plate slides off to reveal a removable Lithium-Ion battery, always a plus. Sprint claims that the battery has 5.75 hours of talk time, which means after some use you will get slightly less than that. That’s not a lot of time, and Samsung recognized that by adding an extra battery in the box. While a nice gesture, it’s still kind of annoying to have to carry around an extra charged battery, or charger, in order to use the phone all day.
The Instinct weighs in at 4.4 oz, which seems like the perfect weight for the phone. It is heavy enough to feel sturdy, but light enough to not remind me when it’s in my pocket.
User Interface (2 out of 5)
The GUI on the Instinct is very good, but the phone loses points here, as the touchscreen is the only input method and they have a habit of going bad. The touchscreen is haptic, so you can use your finger or a stylus to navigate, but since there is no place on the device to store a stylus it is a feature few people will take advantage of. It’s not a huge deal because the touchscreen is accurate and responsive to your finger. The Instinct will give you tactile feedback when you press down on it, to let you know when you have made a selection.
The on-screen keyboard defaults to landscape mode, so you will have to turn the phone when you need to type something in. Because of the size of the screen, the individual letters are a little small and I often hit the wrong one when starting out. As time went on I got better, but would still have the occasional mistype.
The GUI organizes the phone into four sections: Favs, Main, Fun and Web. Favs is a user-customizable menu where you can store your most-used programs. Fun includes games, multimedia programs and the camera. Web contains a browser and a number of internet-reliant programs like weather and sports news. All of the settings, messaging and GPS features fall into the Main folder.
The icons are large and responsive, I rarely had to press twice to navigate though the phone. You can move through lists with a flick of your finger and the scrolling list will rubberband to make navigation easier.
The only issue with any part of the user interface is the fact that the Instinct touchscreens do stop working after a while. Because the touchscreen is the only navigation method, the phone essentially becomes a brick until you can have the screen replaced. Sprint will replace the touchscreen, but it’s a hassle that could have been avoided by better quality control.
Features (4 out of 5)
The Samsung Instinct offers integrated support for several popular email providers like AOL, Hotmail and Gmail. This makes the email setup process a breeze. Even if you have a non-integrated email account, the setup process isn’t that bad anyway.
The Sprint EVDO network powers several wireless features, like the integrated GPS and MobiTV. The 2-megapixel camera can take pictures and record video, and they come out pretty well, considering it is a cell phone camera. The Instinct has no onboard useable memory, so you have to a have a microSD card in the slot in order to save anything, including contacts, to the phone. The Instinct does come with a 2GB card.
The Instinct comes with its own version of visual voicemail. The messages appear in a list on the phone and you can listen to them in any order that you choose. The Instinct is Bluetooth compatible and offers a fairly good voice-command system. With a push of the button on the right side of the phone you can initiate calls and messages or even launch applications.
Performance (4 out of 5)
As a phone and data device, the Instinct’s performance is reliant on the quality of the service, which can be a little touchy. In areas of good service, the phone is clear and the data speeds are very fast, but get too far inside or away from a tower and the quality degrades quickly. If you have had Sprint service before and have never had service issues, you will be fine with the Instinct, but if you currently have service issues, don’t expect the Instinct to be any better.
Navigating through the phone is a wonderful experience compared to some other touchscreen interfaces. The phone moves quickly from screen to screen and responds to every command. The web browsing is slow sometimes, but generally only when viewing complicated pages.
Verdict (3 out of 5)
Overall the Samsung Instinct is a very nice device that is held back by a few glaring faults. The size of the touchscreen is a little disappointing, and the quality very much so. The interface is impressive and easy to navigate through, with programs organized how you think they would be. The battery is a big drawback, especially if you plan on taking full advantage of an unlimited data plan.
When Samsung released the follow ups to the Instinct, the s30 and the Instinct HD, the viability of the Instinct as a must-have device went away, but if you are in need of a quality voice and web device and are ok with the issues I listed, this phone has a lot of things to like.