(All apologies to my friends that work at Sprint…this is a rather long post and it’s not exactly complimentary of the Instinct…)
Sprint and Samsung are really putting the full court press on with the new Samsung Instinct. They’re promoting the heck out of it and have given it a terrific price point and coupled with their $99.99 Everything plan, they’ve got a compelling reason to take a look at the phone. The press has even been complimentary of the phone, calling it a “decent iPhone competitor.”
Unfortunately, Sprint bought into the iPhone comparisons and continued to tout it as a competitor to the iPhone. This was their first mistake.Â If you compare the two phones solely on features, the Instinct probably comes out ahead right now. However, when you factor in the iPhone 3G coming on July 11, some of those features (like true GPS) become irrelevant.
I spent about 30 minutes playing around with the Instinct on Thursday after receiving an e-mail invitation to preview it in stores. Many things came to mind…here are my most significant thoughts:
GPSÂ – From what I can tell, this is a great feature. I didn’t go anywhere, but the interface was nice and easy to use. Again, it’s irrelevant to compare it to the iPhone once the 3G comes out, but right now, Sprint has the edge.
Interface – With the way they’ve advertised it, I expected the interface to be comparable to OS X on the iPhone. Not so much. It was pretty clunky and not terribly responsive. Not only that, but since the touchscreen on the Instinct is pressure-sensitiveÂ rather than heat-sensitiveÂ like the iPhones, I found that I had to push pretty hard on the screen in order to get it to do what I wanted. As someone who has played with the iPhone as well, this is a big disappointment.
Web browsingÂ – This was probably my biggest disappointment with the Instinct. One thing that’s great about the iPhone is that it will adjust portrait-to-landscape just by turning the screen. All applications work both ways (with the exception of the included YouTube app, I think), including browsing. On the Instinct, you can only browse (and type) in landscape mode. Couple that with Mobile Safari’s ability to zoom and its far superior navigation capabilities, the iPhone wins this one hands down.
Form factor – This one’s a wash. They are about the same size and they feel the same in your hand.
KeyboardÂ – This is kind of a duplicate complaint, but the pressure-screen makes typing kind of a chore. Not only that, but the iPhone has auto-correct built in while the Instinct only suggests misspelled words. The typography of the Instinct is far inferior to the iPhone’s (to be expected) as is the color saturation, making the Instinct’s screen a lot harder to read.
Lack of syncÂ – I’m not sure why I should be surprised with this. As someone who has made the choice to live better in a Windows-less world, it’s difficult for me to find a phone that will synchronize with my Macbook. Windows Mobile-based phones OBVIOUSLY won’t do the trick, so I’ve got very few options – Blackberries (ew), Palm-based devices (I like the Centro, but HATE the typography) or iPhones. Everything else just kind of sucks. The amazing thing to me about the Instinct was that it doesn’t even sync with Windows. That makes no sense to me. Synchronization is one of the key reasons to have an advanced phone like an iPhone or a Blackberry. The fact that the Instinct doesn’t even sync with Windows is a HUGE failure by Sprint’s project planners. Sure, you can view your mail on there, but if it doesn’t synchronize, what benefit is there?
Bells and whistlesÂ – There’s no doubt that Sprint made a lot of effort in making sure that the Instinct was packed with features. That gives them the ability to point to lists like this and say, “SEE, our phone has more features.” The problem is that with a lack of a good platform, the Instinct’s features don’t feel cohesive and they are all difficult to find (the technician at the Sprint store on the Sprint campus spent 10 minutes trying to figure out how to add an e-mail account). I’ll admit, the Live TV function is cool (although I can’t for the life of me find where the list of channels is) and the addition of Visual Voicemail is great. But with the opening of the iPhone App Store, the applications built for the iPhone will all be vetted by Apple’s developer standards and are going to be sweet. The applications I saw for the Instinct fell far short of anything on the iPhone.
I really wanted to like the Instinct. I really did. But there were so many places where it was so far inferior to the iPhone that it was laughable. Even the Sprint employee that was checking out the Instinct said that it “didn’t hold a candle to his iPhone.” That’s just sad.
Even sadder was that when I asked one of the people in the Sprint store (REPEAT: this is the Sprint store on the Sprint campus) why I shouldn’t just leave Sprint and go get an iPhone, his response was, “Well, if you’re on the Employee Friends plan, that’s why.” And it’s true, but not for the reasons he thinks. The Friends part is the important thing to me. As many problems as I have with Sprint (small by comparison to my problems with Comcast), I won’t leave their network because I’m a loyal person who wants to support a local company that employs about half a dozen of my friends. The cheaper plan is nice, but the friendships are more important. I just wish that the company wouldn’t rely on my friendships for my loyalty and instead provide me with great phones and great service.
The Instinct’s failure is not entirely Sprint’s fault though. The media who touted the phone as “a viable iPhone competitor” really sealed its fate. Sprint would have been better off to not believe the hype and just sell the phone for what it is – a touch-screen phone with media features. They should not have tried to go head-to-head with the iPhone for a lot of reasons, but they certainly got some great press out of the deal. Unfortunately, the phone doesn’t live up to the hype. There are some neat features for sure, but if you want to compare it to the iPhone, well…you just shouldn’t. Compete with Blackberry or Palm…don’t compete with Apple. For an example, see the Microsoft Zune. Microsoft has TONS more money than Sprint and they still can’t compete in the MP3 market.
For me, I’ve been waiting for this phone to come out before using my hardware upgrade that Sprint offers every 18 months. I’ll probably now use it to get a Centro because it at least will synchronize with my Macbook. I wish that I liked the Instinct because there are some great features there…I just felt like using it was too much of a chore.