Review: Sprint's Samsung Instinct

A new smartphone recently debuted to much fanfare. Perhaps you've heard of it-- it's sleek and stylish, has a black finish with a huge touch screen, and starts with the letter "I"?

Actually, we're not talking about the latest iPhone, but rather its would-be competitor, the Samsung Instinct. Sprint Nextel is hoping the Instinct (which it has exclusive US rights to, at least for now) will pique the interest of anyone jonesing for an iPhone or similar device, and early reports of heavy demand indicate that it's getting a lot of attention.

The Instinct was described as a potential iPhone killer leading up to its launch, and Sprint isn't subtle about making the comparison, at least to the first-gen iPhone. While the Instinct's not an iPhone killer, or even necessarily an iPhone wounder, it does successfully take some design cues from it and is a compelling device in its own right.

Measuring 4.6 x 2.2 x .5, the Instinct is slightly narrower and taller than an iPhone, and at 4.4 oz it's a bit lighter too. Being a Sprint device, the Instinct communicates via CDMA networks (800/1900) and supports EV-DO Rev A for data connections. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi support is conspicuously absent, leaving you with no fallback option if a cellular connection isn't available.

The Instinct's built-in memory is a relatively paltry 32 MB, which you can increase up to 8 GB (equivalent to the base iPhone) via the microSD card slot conveniently located on the Instinct's right edge. The Instinct comes with a 2GB card to get you started.

One of the criticisms of the iPhone is a battery that isn't easily replaced by the device owner, but the Instinct imposes no such limitation. The back panel slides off to allow easy access to a 1000 mAh Li-Ion battery, which is rated for 5.75 hours of talk time.

With significant use of the data features and a handful of voice calls, we got about 48 hours of life out of the battery. We noticed that the battery power indicator wasn't very linear, however; it took quite a while to go from full to around half, but not long thereafter we were greeted by a low battery warning.

Included with the Instinct is a second 1000 mAh cell, along with an adapter that allows it to be charged outside the phone. The catch is that the adapter is basically a plastic box with a lid that's required to keep the battery against the charging contacts, so losing the lid would render the charging adapter useless.

User Interface
The Instinct's broad face is dominated by a 3.1 inch, 240 x 432 touch screen display (compared to 3.5 inches and 320 x 480 for the iPhone). Below the screen are three hard buttons, consisting of a Home key flanked by a Back key and one that summons the Instinct's phone-related functions.

The Instinct's haptic touch screen responds to contact with vibrations, a feature we like a lot since it provides the tactile feedback you'd normally get from mechanical buttons. (You can turn this off if you want.) The responsiveness and accuracy of the Instinct's touch screen were quite good; we encountered only the occasional input error while using the dial keypad or on-screen keyboard (the phone switches to landscape orientation when you use the latter).


Samsung, Sprint, Samsung Instinct, touch screen
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