Review: Sprint's Samsung Instinct | Page 2

Many, though not all of the Instinct's functions can be invoked by swiping a finger, a motion that's easy for the device to interpret.)

Because the display uses resistive rather than capacitive technology to detect input, you can use gloves or a stylus instead of bare skin to activate it. Interestingly, the Instinct comes with a stylus, but there's nowhere on the phone to stow it so we think it will be left unused by most.

The Instinct uses a simple grid menu with large buttons that's divided into three tabs, Main, Fun, and Web, plus a fourth Favs category that you can put your own preferred applications into. Overall the UI is intuitive enough that unlike many smartphones, you won't need to spend much time with your nose in a manual to get the gist of how things work.

Voice & Data
When it comes to call quality, the Instinct left us slightly disappointed. There was often a muddy, hollow quality to the audio on incoming calls-including when using the speakerphone-- and several callers remarked that things sounded "tinny" on their end.

Like the iPhone, the Instinct's voice mail is a quantum leap ahead of the typical phone. You can browse your list of messages via the on-screen menu, listen to them in any order you want, and easily do callbacks or save numbers to your contact list.

As an Internet access device, the Instinct is a bit of a mixed bag.

The Instinct's browser makes scrolling Web pages pretty easy, but the content window is small relative to the screen (though you can reclaim a bit of space by hiding one toolbar). The browser supports full HTML (but not Flash) so it can display many Web pages more or less like they would on a regular monitor, and a button lets you access the mobile version pages for better performance. We used that feature more than we expected, because even with an EV-DO connection the browser performance tended to be clunky and we spent a lot of time waiting for pages to fully load (here's where Wi-Fi would come in handy).

The Instinct lacks support for instant messaging, but you can use it to access e-mail accounts from all the major Web-based providers (AOL, Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo)-all you do is enter your account info, and you're up and running within a moment or two.

How you accessing a work e-mail account depends on what kind of mail server it is; if it's Microsoft Exchange with Outlook Web Access enabled, you can access it directly with Instinct. Otherwise, you'll need to get to it indirectly by downloading Sprint's Mobile E-mail Desktop Connector onto your PC, which requires it be left running.

The Instinct also has an integrated GPS receiver that enables you to use the device for voice-guided turn-by-turn directions. The Instinct works very well as a GPS device-better than most smartphones, we think-- due mainly to the relatively spacious touch screen which makes it easy to view and interact with the display.

Camera & Multimedia
The Instinct's got a 2 megapixel camera and includes a self-portrait mirror, but there's no flash. The camera took decent-looking photos, but it doesn't offer any configurable options, nor can you choose photo size, apply effects, or edit your shots afterward. On the other hand, the camera pops up an on-screen warning if you're about to take a fuzzy photo.

You can also record video with the Instinct (something you can't do on the iPhone). A configurable length setting will cap your videos at 2 minutes in length (around 6MB in size) so they can be sent over the air. Otherwise, you can shoot videos as long as available storage will allow.

Reviewing the photos and videos you've taken on the Instinct is easy via a thumbnail page from which you can send via e-mail, upload to the Web, or beam via Bluetooth. There's also a filmstrip viewing mode that lets you scroll through all your shots by swiping your finger, but because the Instinct's display doesn't support multi-touch a la iPhone, you can't use a "pinching" motion to change the orientation of a photo.

The Instinct is no iPod, but it does have a music player capable of MP3, AAC, and WMA audio formats, among others. The Instinct supports the stereo Bluetooth profile and uses a standard 3.5mm audio jack so you can use the listening device of your choice (a wired stereo earbud set with inline mic is bundled). You can buy tracks for 99 cents each, or same yourself some time (but not any money) with 6-song bundles a $5.94.

As with some other Sprint phones, you can access a few dozen channels of video in various genres (news, sports, weather, entertainment, etc.) through the Instinct, along with a handful of love network TV. The quality is usually acceptable but often degrades to barely watchable with pauses and compression distortion.

With the bundled Sprint Media Manager PC utility, you can transfer your own audio, video, and photos to the Instinct. Putting an Instinct in your pocket (it comes with a slim carrying case that omits a belt clip) won't take an outsized chunk of your cash. The phone costs a fairly reasonable $129.99, reflecting a $100 mail-in rebate and the obligatory two-year agreement, and service plans are $69.99 and $89.99 for 450 or 900 voice minutes respectively or $99.99 for unlimited voice minutes (and all plans include unlimited data).

The Instinct isn't the technological tour de force it would have been if the iPhone didn't exist, and it has its share of weaknesses and missing features. On balance, however, we think the pros outweigh the cons, and it's still a well-designed and powerful communications device.

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