We run down every angle of Instinct. The iPhone competitor has the right features, but how does Instinct stack up against the competition? Read more to find out…
First Impressions, General Phone Functionality
The first question on everyone’s mind is, does the touch screen work? While iPhone has arguably the best touch screen in the industry, its competition has failed to meet that standard. From the good in HTC’s Touch, to the bad in LG’s Prada, to the downright ugly in Verizon’s Voyager… simply saying a phone has a touch screen doesn’t say much at all.
Thankfully, Instinct has a good touch screen. In fact, of the non-PDA touch phones out there, Instinct is the best. Is it as good as iPhone? No, it doesn’t have multi-touch, and it isn’t as accurate, but we haven’t found a touch phone that comes closer.
After the first touch, Instinct starts to get interesting… it’s not a typical Sprint phone at all.
BREWed to Perfection?
After suffering the horrors of the Verizon User Interface, seeing that Sprint had touched every corner of the device’s interface at first made our blood pressure rise. When carriers start messing around with the interface of a phone, the result usually is a device that gets a lot of low scores all over the place from us.
What Sprint has done though is made every application and service provider create custom, BREW-based versions of their applications to run on Instinct. In case you don’t know, BREW is a competitor to Java, the application platform Sprint uses. Java is open to anyone for application development, BREW isn’t.
What does this all mean? It means you get a consistent application experience. Everything just works. And, it does a few things even better than iPhone. For example, each time you launch an application… it automatically checks for a software update for the app. Rather than make folks wait for a firmware update, Instinct has the edge of being able to update every phone, all at once, simply when people open the application. That’s how it should be. Even Apple makes you load the App Store to check for updates, as well as wait for firmware updates to patch their own applications.
The interface is well-polished. Sprint’s uiOne efforts have paid off in this device, creating an interface that actually is better than what a typical Samsung phone has. There’s consistency without any hinderances. And, the lack of being hindered is key, because that is the main objection to Verizon’s User Interface.
Things get better, despite being in BREW, you can still run all the free Java applications out there as well. And, thanks to earlier devices like UpStage, Instinct’s Java apps work fine with the touch screen.
Live > Google?
Instinct is one of the first phones to feature integrated Windows Live Search for free location based directory searches. Unfortunately, this is not something that you can pair up against Google Maps or Apple Maps. Live Search on Instinct only allows for directory listings, and map viewing from there. It’s not as complete an offering as Live Search for Windows Mobile, but it does have the same excellent voice recognition.
Sprint Navigation however, makes up well for this. There’s no question here, Instinct is a better GPS phone than iPhone or iPhone 3G. Live, 3D, voice-cued GPS navigation… and it all works with traffic data too.
Best of the rest…
Text messaging, visual voicemail, and the like all just work. Even they automatically check for updates too. You don’t have to wait for a firmware update for Sprint to improve visual voicemail, and you don’t have to ask for it either.
Voice quality, on the phone or Bluetooth, is excellent. Better than iPhone, and edges out iPhone 3G. While iPhone 3G has an improved earpiece, microphone, and speaker, Instinct doesn’t require juggling the device around the ear.
We did not test phone-as-modem in our review. Others have reported sluggish speed over Bluetooth, but perfect EV-DO Rev A speeds when using USB.
And, the camera is excellent. It’s a shame that iPhone 3G didn’t rise to the occasion, but Samsung certainly made sure that Instinct’s camera works twice as good as Apple.
Email. This is an interesting one. The experience is different from iPhone. But, it works quite well for reading. The Mobile Email is integrated at the OS level, auto-checks, and plays nice with IMAP. It’s a super-charged version of the Mobile Email app for other Sprint phones. It’s nice, at times a little sluggish. Where it misses though, is that it has all the same problems iPhone had before its 2.0 software bump. Namely, it’s a pain to mass-delete email, and has poor push functionality.
While the email app does feature push support, it’s actually a bit annoying. We just turned it off. This is compounded by the fact that Instinct, like iPhone, lacks any spam detection software. So, you can be constantly nagged by spam.
We did not test Instinct’s new Exchange/Outlook integration, the successor to PCS Business Connection. However, reader reports are that it works well.
One bad thing… well, two bad things.
Unfortunately, there is one huge problem with Instinct. And that’s the lack of an App Store. Yes, Instinct can run Java applications. But, Instinct is more powerful than what Java J2ME really was designed for. As such, the applications out there, for the most part, can’t come close to the technical excellence of Apple’s App Store.
What’s worse, is that this appears to be more of a business decision, than a technical one. Instinct’s counterpart in Korea, does have an App Store… and one that allows for AU-MIC OS apps to be written and submitted, just like iPhone OS apps on Apple. (Instinct is powered by the AU-MIC Operating System).
We’re not entirely sure why they did that. But it does make us want to have an iPhone 3G in our pockets instead.
And the other bad thing…
One would think that a phone designed to answer iPhone, would have a solid web browser. Be it Opera, Picsel, or someone else… it does not make sense that Instinct has as bad of a web browser as it does.
It’s really bad. The TV ads show someone ordering something online. We don’t think that’s possible, unless it’s a circa 1990s web site. The phone chokes on desktop web sites, while it does play quite well with mobile web sites.
Worse, Samsung tried to innovate in areas that don’t even make sense. They attempted to use the camera as an optional accelerometer for scrolling web pages simply by moving the device. One, it doesn’t work. And, two, the web browser is so poor that you couldn’t benefit from the functionality to begin with.
While I don’t think the flaws in Instinct will be fixed, I’d love to be proven wrong. There’s nothing preventing an App Store with a firmware update. There’s nothing stopping Samsung from “updating” the web browser with a whole new one. But, let’s be realistic; these are selling points that Samsung can use to make you buy another Instinct.
Can we suggest Instinct? Sure, with reservations. The first being, don’t think it’s an iPhone. It isn’t, though it comes close (and surpasses the device) in many aspects. Second, don’t expect it to have a good web browser. Unfortunately, the best web browser on Sprint right now… is an HTC Mogul slinging Wi-Fi to an iPod touch. And, third, be happy with the functionality that comes out-of-the-box, you won’t be getting more.
And, if you’re on SERO, or a grandfathered Sprint plan, Sprint’s artificial (and truly, technically, needless) plan requirements (that you must use a Simply Everything plan), make us suggest a PDA or Smartphone instead. It’s certainly not worth the added $480/year in needless plan costs. For that money, you can buy an HTC phone without a contract.
That said, this phone may help Sprint get back on track. It’s a good phone that needs some work. It remains to be seen if Sprint will do the right thing and push through to make those improvements happen. As usual though, we encourage buyers to take a device for what it is, not what it can be. And, right now, Instinct is the king of answers-to-iPhone… but it is no iPhone.
Pros: Best non-smartphone on Sprint, great GPS, great camera, great unified offering, EV-DO Rev A.
Cons: Awful web browser, no App Store, artificial plan limitations.
Final Score: 4/5
38 responses to “Review: Samsung Instinct (Sprint)”
I have to disagree and say the touch screen is WAY better than the iphone, my company provides me with an iphone and it’s not accurate and hard to type emails with. The Instinct touch screen is much better for typing emails.
The Live Serch tool has been preloaded on other previous phone models such as the M520. The best use I found with the utility was to avoid having to pay Sprint for directory assistance calls. Auto detection of current location was correct about 75 percent of the time and the rest of the time attempted to locate me in the wrong city some times as far as 20 miles from my location.
You can mass delete email. If you touch the left side of the subject line in the listing, it will let you select multiple messages. Then just hit the delete button when ready.
Benjamin, the M520 was the only other Sprint phone to launch with Live Search before Instinct. We didn’t imply that Instinct was the first with Live Search functionality, but the M520 was used as a test-type for Instinct’s Live Search app… which is why the app has such a polished experience on Instinct.
Article on this phone sounded attractive in the beginning, mediocre in the middle, then killed me with the grandfather/SERO info. I’ll just stick with my Mogul until a review for the Diamond comes available.
I purchased the Instinct an yes, the touch screen works very well. One big issue is that you cannot sync the phone with your calendar. If it is being copared with the iPhone, I am surprised something as basic as syncing wih outlook calendar was leftout. It was such a pain to get my contacts synced but through some blogs, I found a work around. Two hours on the pohone with Sprint did not help.
So if you are going to get the Instinct, realise that you cannot get your outlook calendar on it period, and be prepared for the uphill task of getting your cotacts synced.
You can sync your contacts at any corp Sprint retail store. Its free too.
Great article!!I have a instinct and this is the best review I have read. I have to agree with tony the instinct touch screen is one of the best I have ever used. It’s better than touch, mogul, and iphone. Sprint has invested a lot of money into this phone so I cant see why there is no apps store or even why the web browser sucks. If Samsung and Sprint really wants to stick it to the iphone the web browser must be updated and good apps store must be developed. Again great article.
I used my 30 day exchange on the instinct to get the palm 800w. There are not many reviews on the 800w out there right now but I have to say it is quicker and better then the best sprint phones: Mogul and Instinct.
One key feature the would not work correctly on the instinct that led me to switch was the new sprint mail access for exchange users. Not matter when I did I could not sync my work email and not being able to do that forced me to send the phone back…
This is a great review, The phone is the best Non-Smartphone Sprint has to offer. I think that’s the thing everyone needs to remember… it’s not a Smartphone. It’s going to have these sync limitations and at least Sprint came up with a creative way to wirelessly sync your contacts (once you get them in the phone). If you want a killer web browser, with sync and better email support your going to have to spend a little more to get into a smart phone or PDA. The Instinct is $129.99 after all rebates! For this price you can’t match it. You don’t have the same plan limitations with a PDA but I have to say that $99/mo for unlimited everything (except phone as modem) is a great plan. I’m sure everyone has had a bill over $100 at some point because of some type of overage or additional charge. Get a mogul or touch and install Opera’s 9.5 beta and you will be set to go.
Once Opera Mini gets running on this it will be a comparable experience to Safari. That will definitely take care of the biggest drawback on this phone. This is all assuming Opera ports to the Instinct.
Personally, web browsing on a phone isn’t something I do very often so I don’t really care about the browser. I think this phone is just easy to use. If I want to text, it is easy. If I want to email, it is easy. If I want to share a picture, it is easy. I could go on…
You actually can sync Outlook with the Instinct. It takes a bit of a workaround though. You have to get Google Calendar first. Have Outlook sync with Google Calendar and then sync Google Calendar with the Instinct and Tada!, your Instinct is synced with Outlook!
What’s the bottom line on tethering with the Instinct? Is it permitted, and if so what’s the PAM price? Is is possible to disable NAI?
Is the A2DP audio routing still only for playing music files, or did they finally enable it also for streaming content like Sprint TV/Radio?
Ron…it is possible to toggle NAI. ##debugmenu# you will then need to enter you MLS. You can also toggle DDTM there as well. I also read were people have enabled A2DP but were reporting problems
No mention whatsoever about music. The iPhone is an iPod too. Nobody has made a phone that comes close the abilities an iPhone has with music, podcasts, audio books, and iTunes. Plug it in and it syncs with your Mac or PC. Buy a movie, right on the phone. Buy your music right on the phone.
Does the Instinct even play music?
The App Store just knocks the ball out of the park.
The Instinct is nice for what it does, but it doesn’t compare to the iPhone. Some (not this review) refer to it as better than the iPhone, when it’s not even in the same league.
* Opera does work on the Instinct, I have already downloaded it.
* originally it was planned for the Outlook calendar to sync, their should
be a patch coming out soon to resolve this. So i have been told.
Richard, please do some basic research before posting.
The Instinct (like many of Sprint’s other phones) has access to the Sprint music store, which allows me to download full MP3s ($.99) at any point, without the need to plug into a computer or be in a wifi hotspot. And since it plays regular mp3s, i can put bassicly anything that I want on it. It also works great with any aux ports in car stereos.
P.s. Not to mention the “turn by turn” GPS navagation on the Instinct, completly embarresses the gps features on the I-phone.
what is the MLS that is mentioned? i cant use my Instinct as a modem .the IC 902 worked great but nothing with this one. Sprint told me that i had to pay for a phone as modem plan on top of my simply everything 900 minuts plan and it was $ 49.95 a month extra to turn the feture on. i know there has to be a work around for it . anyone have the instructions to do this?
Mark, the MSL is the six digit lock code your phone is programmed with that is used to check for proper service activation and diagnostics on the handset.
You can call Sprint Customer Care and ask for it, then follow the instructions on how to access NAI a couple posts up.
is that the only place to get the MLS #?
Mark, Sprint Care is an option but depending on the rep they may ask why you need it. I had web probelms with my first Instinct and called Tech Support and he had to give it to me to trouble shoot the phone and change a few settings in the ##data# menu. There are a few programs on the web that will read the phone and give you the MLS…that is how I got mine after I exchanged my first Instinct. I would post the link but you must first register at ringerpost.com to view their forum.
Back to the “Outlook calendar sync” lack of functionality. This is a requirement in the business marketplace. The addition of this one function could wipe blackberry and iPhone.
SAMSUNG and SPRINT keep fighting the good fight. WE are all behind you and are will to help. However the window for this critical application – sync – is limited. Get creative! You know like Apple; your main competitor.
Sprint is building an Application store for the Instinct
I tried the Palm Treo 800w first… it locked up twice on me the first night I had it. I could not get my contact to sync to it with the crappy Microsoft Active Sync. Not very easy to navigate if you are not a seasoned PDA user. I traded it in on the Instinct and also got the wife one. I will say, the Instinct has to be the easiest and fastest phone to use. You can text, dial friends, launch the web, etc. at lightening speeds because everything is so easy to get to from the way the user interface is layed out and customizable. By the way, using the camera button to rapidly scroll not only up and down, but also side to side, on web sites DOES work, unlike what this review says… I know, I use it. GPS is far superior to anything the iPhone has put out yet. I have also tested it thoroughly and been pleased thus far. All in all, you can’t beat this phone for the price and all that is comes with.
SO after toggling NAI, it seems Sprint Mobile Broadband Connection Manager doesn’t see it. Also tried Sprint Smartview, which reads the phone data but doesn’t connect otherwise. Tried toggling from SD to MDM (##872#) with same result. Any suggestions?
Try steps 2 and 7 on this post and see if works.
I do not use the Sprint Mobile Broadband Connection Manager to connect. I just set up a new dial up connection and it works just fine.
Does anyone know if the Instinct has Microsoft Activesync? I’m told by my company’s IT Manager that in order for the phone to link up with our MS Outlook email, it would have to have this. We mainly use Blackberries, but I’d love to try an Instinct. I just have worries over whether it would work with my Outlook. After chatting online with a Sprint Tech rep, they told me the Instinct does have MS Activesync and to refer to the 242 page User Guide. However, the only references I see in there are for Sprint Desktop Activesync – not MS Activesync. Has anyone gone through this circumstance? I hate to run out and get my company to buy the phone if it’s not going to access my MS Outlook email.
No you can not use MS Active Sync with the Instinct, it does not have Windows Mobile on it etc…
You can link up to ActiveSync via Sprint’s Outlook plug-in. You simply leave your office PC on and it will pick up the email and push it to your phone.
It’s certainly not a standard form of ActiveSync/Exchange, but it does work.
i too tried the instinct. the interface was AWESOME! but as a business phone, nope. i need to sync my info w/outlook on an HOURLY basis … that was a deal breaker for me.
i switched to the treo 800w … a very nice phone, little weak on the processor (333mhz), and battery life … VERY VERY POOR … but i am sticking with it (both palm and sprint are dedicated to solving this battery life issue … it is a KNOWN issue) …
also, sprint has the best plan out there … att/verizon/others cannot touch their price (i’m talking anywhere from 30/month to 50/month price difference for the SAME SERVICE) … sprint has really come through for me!
tom in denver.
There is another way to handle this situation. I use Outlook at the office and like you guys I need my e-mail directly to my phone. So what I did was I set up an outside account. I used a g-mail account because you dont have to delete your e-mails which is great for work related buisness. When you go to the office just have your computer geek guy have all your e-mails forwarded to your gmail acount and then have your gmail account send those e-mails to your phone. This is good for two reason, Reason one: you always have a backup of your e-mail. Reason 2: it goes right to your phone..Problem solved.By the way I am a very happy owner of an Instinct and I love the phone.
I keep hearing that Instinct has a 3rd party working on a calendar program to work with Outlook…there was a link to this company online, but it doesn’t work any more. Anyone know anything about that? This is the deal breaker for me. I need it for work and will not jump from blackberry until it happens. I can’t believe that Sprint/Samsung would be that ignorant to think that this would not come up. Was it that important it rush it to market? How sad!
quick question, will the instinct work with mac computers?
So what is the FINAL answer on the Outlook calendar issue? Can the Instinct transfer outllook to your PC? I have Treo and would love to try the Instinct, I would be dead in the water, if I did not have an active calendar to work from when I am away from my PC. Any inside scoop or wait…
I jost got the instinct… and I think the phone is way better than the Iphone. it is faster easier to go arund touching,,,, YES the touch part is very acurate.. and to sync you contacts is simple. just upload your contacts to the sprint.com website and then sync them to your phone by setting up the MOBILE SYNC programs.. It was very easy and fast. Is really easy to set up email accounts with yahoo aim hotmail. and it easy to open, delete, reply and all that comes with accessing your email…. the phone is fun….an it only has 3 buttons. pics voice, on/off… I loved that. all you do is touch your way around. or use the stylus.. When you get the phone you get 2 batteries, stereo headset, leather pouch, stylus, 2gb microsd, phone charger and usb cable, it is the most complete package I have ever seen…
I love my instinct. I think the iphone is nice too. I think it depends what you want in a phone. Someone commented about music with the iphone well I could care less about music I have an ipod and a mp3 navi system like a lot of ppl. Im not really sure what sprint has as far as music but I uploaded everything off the sprint store and off my computer on to it. Its a good phone and its constantly being updated so…. I love it!!!
I only wish I had known enough about the phone to trade it in before the 30 day exchange was up. I have the pink that came out 2/2009 and I hate it.
Very Great article!! I agree with mostly everything you said, specially with the point made about the camera button being used as an accelerometer on the browser to scroll pages, that to me is just pointless because it really does “NOT” work, and even if it did the instinct browser is too crappy for a feature like this. However I do believe the instinct has a better touch screen than the iphone and the phone is easier and faster to use. Mass-delete email is very easy just hit the message icon located on the left of the message and select the ones you want and hit the delete button.
Overall I would say the instinct is no iphone but it might benefit someone better than an iphone would because of its easier and faster operating system, and some great features that the iphone lacks such as a great gps with text-to-speech, visual voicemail, and a great camera that could actually shoot/and allow you to send videos as messages unlike the Iphone.