The Samsung Instinct

The new touch-screen phone is a pleasant surprise but no iPhone killer.

Dec. 10, 2008— -- I was excited, albeit skeptical, about testing Sprint's new touch-screen phone, the Samsung Instinct.  As an iPhone user, I'm always excited about reputed iPhone killers, and the Instinct has certainly placed itself in that crowd.

On first touch, the Instinct is quite impressive. The phone's slim build fits perfectly in the hand and a gripped back prevents the phone from slipping like the first generation iPhone. Unlike other phones available on the Sprint carrier network, the $129.99 Instinct has a relatively simple user interface and basic directions that describe how to use each Instinct feature.

The Instinct's most impressive feature is the tactile feedback that users get when they touch the phone.  iPhone users routinely complain about the uncertainty that comes with text messaging and e-mailing on the revolutionary device because of the lack of feedback from keystrokes.

This makes the Instinct's tactile feedback a welcome innovation.  Users get the best of both worlds: a multitouch phone and a reliable typing solution. The result is the ability to type faster than on the iPhone, and with fewer errors.

Unfortunately for Instinct fans, tactile feedback is where the upper hand seems to end.

While Sprint and Samsung bill the Instinct as the anti-iPhone solution, they seem to have forgotten many of the iPhone's most game-changing features.

Yes, as their commercials clearly point out, the Instinct's battery can be easily removed and, yes, the device seems to have superior GPS navigation abilities. But the Instinct lacks the basic feature that has given the iPhone such success: simplicity.

The Instinct comes nowhere close to matching the iPhone's "more than a phone" seamless multifunctionality. Instead of a media-purchasing function integrated with a media library (as you get with the iTunes library, for example), Instinct adopters have to use the Sprint store, which doesn't have the same media offerings.

Similarly, when the photo library on the Instinct is empty, the phone says, "No media file is present," instead of saying "No pictures."  For people used to storing many kinds of media (videos and songs in addition to pictures), this message is slightly confusing.

With these faults, it is important to note the Instinct's most redeeming feature: its e-mail functionality.

With the Instinct's clean e-mail user interface, impressive screen and tactile feedback, maybe it's the BlackBerry and not the iPhone that should be worried about the competition.