Samsung Instinct

October 9th, 2008

Here’s my review of the Samsung Instinct. For some reason it is sometimes marketed as an iPhone competitor. Is it really? Read on.

The Instinct feels well made and solid. It doesn’t creak and shift much when you squeeze it.

The display is 3.1″ measured diagonally and looks fine.

On top there is a power button plus a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The left side has 2 volume buttons plus the charging/data connector.

On the right are the microSDHC card slot, voice command button and camera button.

When you touch the screen, the Instinct vibrates slightly – it’s called haptic feedback. At first I thought it was a really stupid feature because there is a split second pause from when you touch, to when it shakes. It makes it feel detached. However, after using the Instinct for a few days I grew accustomed to it and began to like this feature – go figure.

Below the screen are 3 other ‘buttons’; back, home and phone. They’re actually touch sensitive and not really buttons which gives the Instinct a sleek appearance. Like other touch sensitive buttons I’ve tried, these ones are really easy to press accidentally if you’re not careful. To keep this from being too big of a problem, the Instinct usually asks if you really want to exit a program when you accidentally press one of the ‘buttons’.

When you’re not using the Instinct, you can deactivate the screen by pressing the power button located on the top left. If you want to use the Instinct you have to press the power button once and then once more and hold it. This is not very intuitive because if you just press it twice (without holding the second time) then the screen just turns off again.

Text entry is either an on screen QWERTY keyboard (in landscape mode) or a vertically oriented alphabet (in portrait mode). There is an auto correct feature but you have to turn it on every time you want to use it. There’s no way to leave the auto correct on all the time. Other then that I thought text entry was adequate.

The menu items are organized into 4 tabs. It looks like the Instinct has tons of features but really half of the tabs link to Bell’s website.

The built-in email and messaging client is only for MSN. If you’re listening to music and want to change songs you have to exit the program, change songs, then sign back in. Not very impressive. It’s slow and in my opinion not worth the 8 bucks Bell charges for it since you can’t leave it running in the background. If you do receive a call, you can go back to the messaging client when you’re done. I would just get the unlimited browsing option and go to

The built-in mapping program (on Bell) is from Telenav. From my experience Telenav is an excellent program but you have to pay to use it. Even if you just want to look at the map and aren’t interested in directions. Bell wants $3.50 each day you use it or $8 a month plus any data charges.

Anyways Telenav has spoken directions and traffic support. It downloads instructions and maps as you go.

Telenav seems to have a devastating effect on the battery. I drove for 40 mins and the battery went from full to half empty. Make sure you get a CLA for the Instinct. I also found Telenav would sometimes take a long time to get a GPS fix – even if I was outdoors with no tall buildings around.

There is a notes app plus a calendar

The music player is the carrier branded kind. As far as carrier branded music players go, the Instinct’s isn’t horrible but it’s still slow.

You can sort music by artist, album, genre, etc.

The player is integrated with Bell’s music store. If you plan on paying $15 a month for music then you’ll probably like how the Instinct comes preloaded with a bunch of popular music.

If you prefer your own music, the music player can play mp3′s stored on microSD/SDHC cards.

The music player can play music while in the background so you can use it while surfing the web. I did find that sometimes I wasn’t able to switch back to the music player so I couldn’t change songs. Also, remember that when you switch from the web browser to change songs, the browser will exit and you’ll have to reload the page when you switch back.

For $10 a month you can watch TV with the Instinct. Video quality wasn’t bad but I didn’t like how you couldn’t do anything else while watching or listening to the TV.

The camera has a resolution of 2 megapixels and has a self portrait mirror. There’s no flash. It does have this neat feature which tells you when you’re not holding the camera still enough and are going to get a blurry picture. You can switch to the camcorder from within the camera app.

While not outstanding, image quality is not bad for a 2 megapixel camera phone. Like all camera phones you’ll get better results outdoors. The video app is limited to 20 second clips.

There is a browser that supports full HTML. It’s actually pretty good, especially when you consider that the Instinct isn’t a smartphone.

I didn’t like how the Instinct would close the browser every time you switched – similar to when you’re changing songs on the music player.

RF performance

RF performance is nothing special. If you’re in an area with poor network coverage, consider a different phone.

Incoming sound quality is pretty horrible. I found people to be really fuzzy sounding, however when the person on the other end is silent, the Instinct blanks the audio. To be fair the audio blanking is also a function of the carrier. Outgoing audio has noticeable background hiss.

One thing I really noticed is that the Instinct has a bad habit over over emphasizing the loud part of each word. It’s really annoying.

Earpiece volume is excellent. When I cranked the volume up I thought I was going to go deaf.

The speakerphone is adequate.


The Instinct wasn’t an easy phone to review. On paper it does have a reasonable amount of features. But the thing is, features are only part of what makes a phone great. The phone has to be fun to use and intuitive. While I wouldn’t say the Instinct was difficult to use, it lacks a certain something that makes me want to use it. So that’s one strike against the Instinct and the main reason why Instinct and iPhone shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence.

I wasn’t pleased by the Instincts lame email client. Not everyone uses Hotmail, I’d like to see at least POP and IMAP support. And even then you still need to pay to use the email client. Besides paying for the email client, you also have to pay for the GPS. It would be nice if you could at least look at maps for free and only pay when you want navigation. Don’t forget the music player – the Instinct comes with music but you have to pay if you want to listen to it. Talk about dangling a carrot … strike two.

Still I wouldn’t give it 3 strikes. The Instinct’s GPS is pretty good. The TV isn’t fantastic but it doesn’t suck either. The same could be said about the browser – which is decent considering the Instinct isn’t a smartphone.

It took me a while to figure out who would want to use the Instinct but then it hit me. Many of the Instinct’s features are just links to the internet. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t really like to play around with their phone and is happy just surfing whatever links the carrier puts in the phone then the Instinct is for you.

As for being an Apple iPhone competitor … while the Instinct may come with a few features that the iPhone does not, they’re really not that similar. They’re 2 different classes of phone with the iPhone being a much higher end device.

Howard Chui

Entry Filed under: Phones

4 Comments Add your own

    E  |  October 20th, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    “The video app is limited to 20 second clips.”

    You can record for as long as you like, but you can only send people/e-mail videos that are 20 seconds or under.

    GeSchmidtt  |  October 25th, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Email does support POP and IMAP accounts, I have 2 running on mine. Also, native texting and very nice keyboard.

    GESandoval  |  October 28th, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    I made a switch from the iPhone to the Instinct. Yes, the iPhone is cool, but I was getting way too many dropped calls and 3G was spotty. I ended having to use EDGE most of the time, which defeats the purpose of paying extra for the 3G service.

    I like the call quality, volume and Rev. A access through Sprint. I’m using the “Simply Everything” plan which actually saves me $20 per month vs. AT&T. Definitely not an iPhone killer when it comes to functionality and third-party applications, but the Instinct is a much better phone for calling and 3G data access.

    Ultimately phone call quality and 3G access were important for me and that’s what my decision was based on. Of course, it is up to each person to decide what’s important to them.

    M.I.C.  |  November 7th, 2008 at 2:31 am

    This reviewer has the Telus Bell version of Instinct, not the same thing as the Sprint Model.

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