Samsung Instinct Hands-On: Rocks Rev. A, Haptic Touch, and GPS

InstinctNo one is stupid enough to call their touchscreen phone an iPhone killer, and Samsung and Sprint are no different. But that’s not going to stop us from comparing Apple’s dream phone with the Samsung Instinct, due in June. This 3G device isn’t a smart phone per se, but unlike the iPhone it offers a touchscreen with local haptic feedback (so you can feel those presses) and GPS capability (via TeleNav). You also get full access to all of Sprint’s other services, including the Sprint Music Store and Sprint TV, Microsoft Live Search, and Pocket Express for instant access to news and other info.

Pricing hasn’t yet been determined, but we expect the Instinct to undercut the iPhone by $100 or more. It’s also lighter (4.4 ounces versus 4.8) than the iPhone. Then again, the Instinct will come with only a 2GB microSD Card (expandable up to 8GB), compared with the iPhone’s standard 8GB. Plus, the iPhone rocks a bigger 3.5-inch display, compared with the Instinct’s 3.1-inch screen, and is a hair thinner (0.46 inches versus 0.49 inches).

Sprint recently came by our offices and showed us a pre-beta version of its device, and we were impressed by some things and underwhelmed by others. The carrier assured us that both it and Samsung’s engineers were hard at work on addressing some of our concerns—namely, the lack of a delete key on the keyboard, the somewhat crude and poky HTML Web browser, and some overall sluggishness—and we wouldn’t be surprised if our hands-on evaluation of the Instinct at CTIA was more favorable than our iffy first impressions. Stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, here’s why the Instinct has a lot of potential.

  • Samung Instinct Typing 2First Sprint consumer device with EV-DO Rev. A capability, which means faster speeds than the iPhone (600 Kbps to 1.4 Mbps downlink, 300 to 500 Kbps up) but also faster than every other consumer-centric touchscreen device on the market. Music downloads at 99 cents a pop and picture sharing should fly on this device, no hotspot required.
  • Completely customizable menus. The iPhone gets serious kudos for letting users add icons to the Home screen and move them around at will. The Instinct takes things a step further by allowing you to populate its Favorites menu with everything from specific Web sites and Sprint TV channels to individual text-messaging buddies. Overall, we also like the ability to drag and drop items up or down for prioritizing.
  • Instinct MusicThree dedicated keys below the screen: Home, Back, and Phone. The phone key is something the iPhone sorely lacks, and it allows you to start making calls in one less step. Pressing this key also gives you quick access to visual voicemail (hmmm, sounds familiar) and voice dialing. The Back key allows you to rewind one menu choice without having to start over.
  • Voice Recognition 2.0. Most of us don’t bother with this feature on phones, but on the Instinct you can get a lot done without lifting a finger. This includes text and picture messaging, looking up the latest traffic conditions, looking up movie and sports info, and search.
  • No Sticker Shock When the Bill Arrives. The Instinct is the first phone in Sprint’s lineup that actually requires that you sign up for a Simply Everything plan, which includes unlimited data starting at $69 per month. So you can watch as much TV and send and receive as many texts as you like without those dreaded overages.

Samsung Instinct Specs Entertainment and Personalization: Entertainment on Instinct• Sprint TV with an extensive selection of live and on-demand programming including Sprint Exclusive Entertainment (SEE), the industry’s only made-for-mobile sports and entertainment video programming network • Sprint Music Store allowing users to wirelessly download full-length songs directly to their phone for just 99 cents each • More than a dozen streaming-radio applications, including Sprint Radio with more than 150 channels • Sprint Media Manager PC to phone transfer application • Background music mode allowing the user to play music while text messaging, playing games or surfing the Internet • Customizable Favorites menu • Sprint PCS Picture MailSM • Picture caller ID Productivity: • Sprint Navigation with GPS-enabled audio and visual turn-by-turn driving directions, one-click traffic rerouting, and more than 10 million local listings Instinct Telenav • Live Search for Sprint, powered by Microsoft, provides easy access to directory information, integrated GPS-enabled directions, interactive maps and one-touch click to call access • Voice to Action button providing many functions using voice activation including call, text, picture messaging, traffic, movie, sports, news, and search. • HTML Web browsing • 2-megapixel camera with 2X digital zoom and video camcorder • Advanced Stereo Bluetooth Wireless Technology with audio caller ID • Access to corporate and consumer (POP3) email including AOL, Gmail, and Yahoo • Threaded text messaging provides a view of the full conversation • Mobile Sync to restore contact information if the device is lost, stolen, or damaged • Phone as Modem connects the phone with a computer for Internet and email access SPECIFICATIONS • Dimensions: 2.17 x 4.57 x 0.49 inches; 4.4 ounces • Display: 3.1-inch TFT (240 x 432 pixels and 262K vibrant colors) • Standard Lithium (Li-Ion) battery: up to 5.75 hours continuous talk time

Instinct Side View

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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  1. Brian Says:

    Does it have a good speakerphone?

  2. Robert Says:

    I’m a Sprint customer. I own a Treo 755. The one big, and I mean big complaint I have is I don’t want “Sprint T.V.” (I have Slingbox downloaded onto the Treo) or a few other apps from Sprint, but there is no way to remove them. Sprint does not allow it. These apps are taking up valuable memory. This phone sounds pretty cool, but I bet there are many like me who won’t buy another or upgrade to another Sprint phone because of these application limitations. I admit that I’m not as computer savy as I would like but my thinking is, if you have all these apps and you are not using them, then I should be able to remove them. Don’t ya think?

  3. abcyesn Says:

    Finally a phone that can compete with the iPhone. has more info about this phone.

  4. vle62 Says:

    You can remove those application, you just need to know how to unlock them.

  5. vle62 Says:

    the HTC touch would have been a good phone, if a full slide out keyboard could have been added.

  6. Kfr3sh Says:

    You can remove applications on your phone that you dont use if you know what youre doing & im guess you obvioulsy dont know what your doing. All you need to do is use a freeware website and dowload programs and instructions that tell you how to remove the programs..really not that hard if you ask me.

  7. bob Says:

    So, will this phone be sling compatible?

  8. Computerjohn Says:

    “First Sprint consumer device with EV-DO Rev. A capability?” Are you feeling ok?? The HTC Mogul was the first, with the upgradable firmware & now every new Mogul comes with it. That firmware was availble to everyone since early March.

    Another questions in which I would of thought would of been answered & i’m sure others are wondering are: How was the sound quality in the ear piece, does it have speakerphone, can you listen to music without a headset, what type of charger connection does it use, does it support Wi-Fi?

  9. Mark Spoonauer Says:

    Good point. We said consumer device because we think of the Mogul as a business device, although it obviously has cross-over appeal with consumers. And, by the way, I love how Skyfire flies on that device. Anyway, we didn’t get chance to make any calls with the device, and to be honest it was such an early beta I wouldn’t have trusted our impressions. I’m sure it has a speakerphone but we didn’t test it. No Wi-Fi support. It does have stereo Bluetooth but I’d have to double check if it has a proprietary charger connection or mini/micro USB.

  10. alland Says:

    Computerjohn, I believe it says “First with EV-DO revA AT BIRTH” The HTC mogul had a firmware to upgrade it to RevA

  11. HAMZA Says:


  12. Mike Gallagher Says:

    Will I be able to sync with my MAC ical etc?

    How about syncing over bluetooth, have a blackberry now and am very annoyed that ?I have to dig out a cord just to sync my computer and phone.

  13. Dudeizzlle Says:

    ok, to hamza, how do u hear that the phone breaks easily when it is not even out yet, so therefor there arent that many people to “break” it. soo, i want this phone when it comes out but i dont want to HAVE to get the simply everything plan. its required to get the phone soo…

  14. HTC-Touch-or-Instinct Says:

    I like the haptic response, and the landscape touch screen keyboard on the Instinct. Holding the camera button down and tilting the phone back and forth will pan and scan webpages is a neat feature, not as cool as the pinch and flick of the iPhone, but it shows promise. I like the customizable menus, and the Simply Everything for $99 is hard to beat (impossible as of 5-19-08). Plus EV-DO Rev A.

    My fiancee has the AT&T Tilt, and I like it okay, but not for myself (too bulky)! I like the HTC Touch that Sprint carries, but when texting, there is only a tiny onscreen keyboard that requires using the 2 inch stylus. Best Buys carries the HTC Touch Dual (comes with a slide out keyboard) but it has a slower processor, less internal RAM, and I’m not sure it has EV-DO.

    So, for those out there who know the specs:

    1. Will the Instinct come with MS Office mobile apps? Read and edit docs, spreadsheets and powerpoint slides? Is it even compatible with MS Office mobile? (This could be a deal breaker for me.)

    2. Is a free or cheap virtual keyboard available, that is better than the native version already on the HTC Touch?

    3. Do voice commands works with texting on the Instinct? Will it type your speech? That would be cool!

    The answers to these questions could determine which phone finds a home in my pocket. Both phones have their advantages and disadvantages, but out of the box you seem to get more from Samsung (two batteries, a 2 GB micro SD card), but the HTC Touch comes with different adapters and USB cables and 3.5 mm headphone + mini-USB port adapter.

    Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  15. Tony Says:

    I’m in Real Estate, so I had been considering the iPhone, but the text entry & slow network scared me away. I agree with the above poster, without MS mobile apps (or something compatible) and a pdf reader, I will have to choose something besides Instinct. If it reads/edits office apps and reads pdf’s, I’m ALL IN!!

  16. Brian Says:

    Yeah, the phone looks good, but what about the internals? What is the processor speed? How much internal memory does it have? If it’s not good I gonna wait until the Blackberry Bolds comes to sprint.

  17. Ash Says:

    Ok, so if you already have a 2 year-contract with a phone on sprint and its not up can you still get this phone? and do you have have have to get the dumb but everything plan?

  18. Kevins2k Says:

    You can upgrade to the phone without signing a contract. Only thing is you have to pay full price for the phone. The reason you have to be on a simply everything plan is that majority of the phone function requires the internet to operate… EX the visual voice mail, navigation, Sprint TV. Without an everything plan, you’re getting a phone that just makes phone calls.

  19. Knowledge Says:

    I talked to a Sprint rep. last night, tryin to determine if I wanted to wait 4 Instinct or get the BB Curve and I was told the Instinct wasn’t equipped with word processor,windows media and something else.This helped me to decide the Curve, but the BB Bold is promising and bad as hell[in a good way], but unfortunately I heard it’s going 2 AT&T :-(

  20. SoUnique Says:

    actually i have sprint service and i haven’t had my phone a year and i was told im eligible for the full upgrade

  21. James. Braselton Says:

    hi. There. I. Got. To. Play. With. A. Demo. Instinct. Saterday. I. Am. Going. To. Get. A sprint. Instinct. I. Am useing. Currently a. iPhone. The. Sprint. Instinct. Is. Way. Better. Then. iPhone. Even. Might. Heat. The 3 g. iPhone. Too

  22. Bob Says:

    I like it, I used it, it has good features, pricing is okay, but, where are the APPS? i.e. Adobe Reader, some type of spreadsheet, or word processor, or other business tools. I don’t see them out there, realizing it is new, but how long is the wait. Any insight will be helpful, since I have a 30 day trial period.

  23. Me Says:

    This phone won’t have such things. If you want a spreadsheet, word processor, etc, get a different phone. This is not a business phone.

  24. Rachel Says:

    I just bought this phone a few days ago and I love it. The internet is ridiculously fast even when i have only 1 bar of service! The touch screen keyboard takes a while to get used to but you have your choice of QWERTY, just an abcdef… board, and a touch pad so you can just write the letters on the screen like it was paper. Def. not a business phone. But you get weather, news, live searching, sports, movie times, live tv… i just love it.

  25. jeraldo Says:

    I have done constant research on this phone. spent hours working with it as well. tried out the rev-a network. simply put, its amazing. loading web pages in under 4 seconds, sprint TV, radio, and GPS run almost flawlessly. supports up to 8gb sd. comes with two batteries, case charge station and all computer cables. It is definatly my choice for a cell phone. It works great with itunes, music and movies as well so long as it is MPEG-4 format. I agree with rachel. I was going to purchase the iphone before i found this. edge network sucks, horribly slow. 3g isnt available in all areas of the country. even if it was, still wouldnt compare to the speed of this phone. voice app works great. my gf and i were wanting to go eat the other day but were kinds new to the big city and arent sure where anything is yet. I just simply said peperjaxs withing seconds all of them were listed and the exact directions right after that. with voice directed gps. couldnt ask for a better phone right now

  26. Ryan Says:

    Does anybody know if this phone has speaker phone feature ?

  27. KlyLee Says:

    It does have speakerphone, and from what little I’ve used it, it’s pretty good. Extremely easy to switch on and off during a call, too (as well as a mute feature).

  28. Pyr0TeK Says:

    I bought the Instinct for the wife and I. I will say this phone is very user friendly and fast to use. You can get to anything very quickly, and txt’ing is crazy fast with it’s integrated QWERTY keyboard. The speakerphone and music player sounds quality is pretty good compared to some other phones I have heard. The GPS navigation is much better than the iPhone 1st gen and does not find where you are by triagulation, but does use true GPS signal. All in all, so far we are very pleased with our phones. It also supports BREW so who knows what this phone will be capable of in regards to being able to open word,excel,pdf docs etc. For all you get with it, it is a great deal also.

  29. charles Says:

    ok for sum reason ppl really dont know that if u wanna write instead of text on the instinct. did u know u can write the whole word instead of just a letter. there is a lot u can do with this fone that i bet half of yall havent even had a chance to figure out.

    watch this, got to your text messages and and put your figure on a message and hold it there, watch the message raise up, and u can just drag it from there.

    if u see a blue star at the top of the screen press it, kinda hard doe, and watch wat cums up.

    did u know u can hook the fone up to an aux cable in ya car or home or were eva, it will ply thru ya speakers. WOW.

    just so much u can do with this phone. like send pics and vids to a cellphone. that the touch cant do, or even the iphone<——–which is a great fone, just cant do it. n e thing else just ask. i got answers

  30. charles Says:

    forgot to say u can drag it to ya trash box at the top right of the screen and u can do this on a lot, like ya contacts, phone history etc. i use it to delete certain name and number.

    oh yeah check this out, i know i got a lot to say, but if u wanna create a new folder on ya sd card , u have to put in ya computer and just type the name you want to use wit ya folder. but go into the camera folder to do so.

  31. Eric Says:

    Quick Questions:

    1.Can i play movies on my instinct
    2.IF reposne to question 1. is yes/ How do i put them on
    3. What can i do on my instinct that does not occur extra charges( i have only talk time, no data)

  32. Mark Says:

    Has anyone used this phone with a Bluetooth device and activated the voice commands by pushing the call button on their Bluetooth device (headset or speakerphone)? I’ve read one reference that the voice commands are not supported with a Bluetooth device, and I have a disabled customers who was wondering and seems to have seen the same symptom with a Blueant Bluetooth headset.

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