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Samsung’s Instinct is Built to Impress

Posted in Communication,Computers,reviews by Joe Colburn on the March 23rd, 2009

When I reviewed the Samsung Behold a while back, I thought it looked and felt great. I was pretty pleased with it, which is a pretty good endorsement, coming from an iPhone user. The Instinct has left me even more impressed. Though not perfect (and no phone is to me), Samsung left very little to complain about with this phone.

Samsung Instinct : Watching CNN live

Simplicity in design
One of the things I’ve liked a lot about some of the phones coming from Samsung lately is the simplicity in design. I think a good phone should have, at the most, six or seven important and frequently used buttons exposed. The Instinct has eight, and while I think one could have been multi-purposed to knock out one of the other buttons, what they have is at least useful. The basics are in all the right places, too. These include the power/lock button at the top, the back, home, and phone buttons on the face, and the volume buttons on the left side as well as the camera shutter button on the right side. Also on the right is a voice dial button, which I find gets hit by accident more than on purpose and is better left unexposed to the accidental touch.

Samsung Instinct : Close up Samsung Instinct : Top
Samsung Instinct : Camera Samsung Instinct : Left side

View all the photos on Flickr

The body of the phone is a good weight and very smooth. There’s not a corner on this thing, which I personally think just looks better than some of the boxier phones. The face is pretty reflective, which could be a problem if not for the bright screen and the back, home and call buttons don’t need to be pressed as much as just grazed with a finger when the phone is awake. These three buttons also light up when the phone is awake, adding to the appearance. The Instinct knows it’s good looking and so does Samsung. They even included a sleeve to protect it and dressed up the packaging to complete the presentation.

User interface and applications
Samsung Instinct : MenuWhen the Home button is pressed, it defaults to the Favs screen. At first glance, I thought this was a screen for people I call often. Instead, it’s a quick launch page for all your favorite applications, people to text or call, TV channels, music playlist, or radio station. For example, I added my own phone number contact entry, Voicemail, My Photos, MySpace, CNN Mobile Live, and Recently Played. After adding them, I could easily drag-and-drop to re-order them to my liking from an editing screen.

The email system is pretty complete. I’d prefer to see a full date and time for each email in the listing, but that’s one small detail that’s hard to miss when they’ve covered so many other bases. Just checking my GMail account, I was able to easily highlight several messages and delete them or mark them as read or unread. You can also set a sending priority, reply/reply all/forward, and attach any number or type of files to emails. Just a little poking around revealed an email settings screen from which you can tell the phone to observe DST (or not), set the time zone, date format, name format, and check for upgrades. Of course, you can add several different accounts of different types. This really is pretty close to what an ideal email application on a phone would look like. I didn’t see an image attachment displayed inline and there’s my date/time display complaint, but that’s about it.

The Instinct has many of the base applications that you might expect of a phone of its caliber, and as expected, most don’t have a lot of room for improvement and are pretty standard. One that stood out, though, was their visual voice mail. Like the iPhone, the Instinct has voice mail that downloads all at once to your phone and provides a listening interface more like a music player, allowing you to easily skip ahead, jump back, or start over with a playback progress bar. I love visual voice mail and I think (and hope) it will be the standard for future phones. I’d love to be able to forward a voice mail via email as an attachment in the future, but otherwise it looks good.

Samsung Instinct : Real time trafficNavigation and traffic maps are not forgotten here, either. In fact, the Instinct, like few other phones, seems to have beaten the iPhone to turn-by-turn driving directions with voice prompts. It’s pretty smooth and only interrupts my background music long enough to tell me I’m going the wrong way or announce an upcoming turn. I also liked that it had some intuitive options for selecting where I’d like driving directions to. When I selected “Airport”, it gave me a list, ordered by proximity. I do have a bias towards Google Maps integration, but this worked well and was pretty fluid in my testing.

Part of this phone’s charm, aside from the good looks, of course, is the array of multimedia features including locally stored music, live TV and video on demand and radio stations. They make up a good portion of the “Fun” menu and are helpful when you’re stuck waiting on someone for a bit. The music player is mostly pretty standard. You can search for tracks in multiple ways and build playlists. Getting to other songs, adjusting settings, and even leaving the player completely don’t mean you have to stop listening. In theory, you could set it to shuffle, connect a male-to-male audio cable to your car’s auxiliary input and listen to your favorite tunes while getting directed to the airport. The music application also connects directly to the Sprint Music Store for the opportunity to find and purchase more music. Alternatively, you can install the Sprint Media Manager. In addition to managing photos and video, the Sprint Media Manager helps you manage your music. After a 5 minute installation process, I was able to quickly find and add music to my phone as well as download purchased music from my phone.

Sprint Media Manager

The live TV seemed to be lacking in selection and quality. There weren’t a lot of channels to choose from and when I did watch, the quality could have been better as I found it a little choppy. It appears that the video is being delivered very highly compressed, making the picture quality suffer, although the audio seemed fine. At one point, Comedy Central completely froze for a minute and then the TV application crashed, so there’s probably still some bugs to work out. Still, there is something to be said for being able to watch TV on your phone in the U.S. The other day, I sat in my conference room, waiting for someone who was delayed in attending the meeting. I fired up CNN and kept myself occupied with some news for 5 minutes, which was nice. The Radio application delivered a sampling of streaming radio stations, including stuff from Sirius and Sprint Radio. Some of these require a subscription, but others connected right away with no subscription needed.

One of the things that surprised me about this phone was the camera resolution, checking in at only 2.0 megapixels. Given the 5.0 megapixels of the Behold, I was left wondering why the Instinct stopped at only 2.0. I suspect it’s because Samsung is building each phone to the needs of different target demographics and the target buyer for this model happens to care a lot more about music and live TV than high quality photos. What it does offer is the ability to smartly determine if a photo is going to be blurry and warn you if it is. It also has the ability to record video either two minutes at a time max (for uploading) or with no time limit at all. I can record almost 11 hours of video in the space left at the moment on a 2GB MicroSD card.

Samsung Instinct : Taking a photo SSPX0003
Taking a photo The resulting photo

There’s a whole Web screen on the Instinct, which has options for several pre-set bookmarks. You can add or remove from the page, but the only two optional items were “Marine Forecast” and “Entertainment News”, so the rest, including “Sports” and “Weather” were not optional. It would be great if they were and I could select from my bookmarks to add to the screen. Inside the browser, you can bookmark pages, display them in standard or mobile mode, go “home”, search, zoom in and out, and expand the view or shop more options. This is another mostly standard application. It doesn’t lack much, but it’s not loaded up with amazing options and features, either. It has everything you need to browse the web, and that’s what’s important.

Samsung Instinct : The web test

Some conclusions
The Instinct is aptly named, instinctively providing most of what a consumer could want in a media-centric mobile phone. It has all the bells and the whistles to make it a top choice in the highly competitive new mobile phone market. There’s little I could ask for that hasn’t been offered here and it all comes in a sleek little package. It seemed like a lot of the software had to be updated at some point, but this was done automatically. If the next set of updates include a couple bug fixes and the streaming video quality gets an upgrade too, it’ll be just about perfect.

About the author

Joe Colburn Joe Colburn is a software engineer specializing in PHP and a technology enthusiast. Always eager to dive into new and exciting things, Joe writes about anything technology related news and products that he thinks you will also be excited about. Find Joe Colburn on Google+ or by any of the links below.

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3 Responses to 'Samsung’s Instinct is Built to Impress'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Samsung’s Instinct is Built to Impress'.

  1. Chetan said,

    on March 31st, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Now all brands are coming with touch screen !!
    This is what we can call as iPhone effect !! :D

  2. on May 30th, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Wow, thanks a bunch for the info mate! :)

  3. JD Webb said,

    on January 24th, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    I enjoyed that

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