Samsung Instinct Review

Introduction and Design
This is a CDMA phone offered with Sprint.

Touchscreen devices are nothing new, in fact they've been in the mobile world for nearly a decade, but there's no denying that the iPhone jumpstarted their popularity. In the last year there have been several attempts to replicate the iPhone experience, names like Voyager and Vu come to mind, but in reality no one has come close. Part of Apple’s success lies in their ground-up approach, a fact that went largely overlooked by competitors. Samsung and Sprint took note. Nearly a year to the day after the iPhone’s release the Instinct is here, and it is the first touchscreen device that can truly go toe-to-toe with the iPhone.

In fact, on paper the Instinct beats even the iPhone 3G. Its EVDO Rev. A data will work in more places than the iPhone 3G’s HSDPA due to Sprint’s much larger and more mature 3G network. The Instinct’s 2 megapixel camera is capable of video recording and MMS (or Sprint’s variant.) Finally, it features not only voice recognition but Speech-to-Action and it also has stereo Bluetooth. Other features include a 3.2” display, 3.5mm headset jack, GPS and microSD expansion. Paper is just that, though, and the Instinct will have to live up to its hype in the real world before being crowned.

Included in the box you’ll find:

  • 2GB microSD card
  • 2 Lithium Ion batteries
  • AC adapter
  • Battery charging sleeve
  • Stereo headphones
  • Leather pouch
  • Stylus
  • USB sync cable
  • Software CD
  • User guide


There’s no denying it, the Instinct and iPhone look similar at a glance. There’s only so much you can do with a touchscreen device though, and Samsung has done well to keep the similarities to a minimum. The pre-release pictures appear to have shown two different Instincts, one with a grey housing and the other with black, both with bright chrome trim. In reality the housing and trim are more of a gunmetal color. The housing is mirrored, making it appear brighter than the still-shiny-but-slightly-dull trim. Coupled with the black soft-touch back, it’s a darker look than the iPhone and gives the Instinct a more business-like appearance. It may or may not be intentional, but the dark mirrored background actually does a good job of hiding the fingerprints. It collects them just as you’d expect, but it doesn’t look as bad when all smudged up as the iPhone or Touch Diamond. In our opinion the soft-touch back gives the Instinct is a better look and feel than the iPhone’s metal backing. We’ll of course reserve final judgment until we see both in person, but from what we’ve seen thus far we’d take the Instinct’s flat black over the shiny black or white plastic on the iPhone 3G.

The Instinct is narrower than the iPhone by a good margin, though it is 2mm taller and undetectably thicker (by 0.2mm.) It’s slightly lighter as well, but neither phone is light. The narrowness gives it a better feel, especially when it’s being used (your thumb is navigating the device.)

You can compare the Samsung Instinct to many other phones, using PhoneArena's Visual Size Compare tool.

Perched at the top of the face is a long, stretched oval speaker. It does double duty as both the earpiece and music/ringer/speakerphone speaker. For how small it is and being mono, the sound is surprisingly good. Above and below the display sit the Samsung and Sprint logos, both in a silver finish to contrast the dark gunmetal. Below the Sprint logo are the three touch sensitive navigation keys, Back, Home and Phone. When in use they light up bright white, and like the screen they offer haptic feedback when pressed.

The display itself is 3.2” and has a resolution of 240x432 pixels with 262k colors. Samsung is known for making top quality LCD panels, and the Instinct is no exception, but unfortunately it is not as nice as the 320x480, 16M color display of the iPhone. It does seem to wash out a bit in direct sunlight, but it is still plenty readable.

The panel uses resistive touchscreen technology, meaning that it can be used with a stylus or while wearing a glove in addition to your bare fingers. The iPhone’s capacitive touchscreen cannot, but it is smoother to use partly because of multi-touch. A big advantage Samsung has over Apple is haptic feedback. Every time you touch the screen your press is confirmed with a slight vibration, which is particularly useful when typing. This feature can be turned off, but we wouldn’t want to.

The display is plenty responsive, and even when we tried to confuse it to invoke lag it kept up. There is a stop watch app, and we were able to stop the timer after just 0.05s, which is damn responsive. When typing the letter you press changes colors; there were times when that animation fell behind our typing speed but it didn’t actually miss a key press. We were very impressed, and Samsung passed a big hurdle with its performance.

On the left side of the Instinct is the volume rocker in the middle and covered charging/data port up top. It is a proprietary Samsung port, the same one found in the М520, and we really wish they would move to microUSB as they have committed to do. The right side has a microSD slot opposite the charging port, the Speech-to-Action button in the middle and Camera button down below. The rocker and S2A button are shiny black, where the camera button is bright silver, and all of them offer plenty of travel and positive feedback. At the top is the silver lock button and non-recessed 3.5mm headphone jack. The back is extremely plain, with only an embossed Samsung logo in the middle and the silver camera in the top left.

Samsung are master craftsmen, and even their low-end phones have a high-quality feel to them. It’s no surprise that the Instinct would be their best design so far, both aesthetically and in terms of build quality. The thing is simply rock solid. We’ve never felt comfortable holding the iPhone or similarly sized devices, and the Instinct is far from perfect, but it’s better that its predecessors. The narrowness plays a big factor in this, even if the screen is a bit smaller for it. The edges are smooth, the soft touch finish is reassuringly grippy and the lines clean as can be. The design isn’t original (nor is Apple’s,) but it is uniquely Samsung.

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