Ah, here’s where the Instinct, like every touchscreen device before it, will falter.  Right?  Wrong.  The Instinct’s onscreen QWERTY is the best we’ve used, and it’s not really even close.  In landscape orientation the Instinct is very comfortable to use and we were typing quickly right out of the box.  It kept up with us and was accurate as can be.  When you press a key it turns blue and the phone gives you haptic feedback, and as we got faster the animations sometimes couldn’t keep up, but the presses were still registered nonetheless and the message was correct.  Honestly, we were quite surprised since we are a) not a fan of touchscreen QWERTYs and b) not a fan of QWERTYs in general.  Our only complaint with the QWERTY keyboard is the backspace key placement, which is on the very top next to the orientation toggle and keyboard hide key.  About 10% of the time we’d hide the keyboard instead of going back, but since there were very few mistakes this really isn’t an issue.

We do have a major gripe with the portrait mode keypad however.  In one of the stupider design moves in recent history Samsung has decided to go with a full keyboard laid out alphabetically.  There is no excuse for this not being a T9 keypad like you find on the Touch Diamond or Glyde.   This layout makes one -handed typing basically out of the question, and Samsung needs to release an update for this yesterday to fix this issue.  There is also handwriting recognition in portrait mode, though we doubt many people will use it.

Text messages are threaded, finally.  We’ve seen this on Palm, the iPhone and Windows Mobile 6.1 and it’s about time it came to a non-smartphone.  Unfortunately we don’t see this carrying over into the rest of the dumphone lineup (though it’s unfair to call the Instinct a dumbphone, perhaps a slightly-more-intelligent phone is a better term.)  When you open messaging you see a list of contacts you are conversing with, and tapping their name brings up your conversation thread.  You have the option to delete individual or selected messages, as well as the entire conversation.

Email is handled by the Sprint Mobile Email client, which just appears as “Email” in the menu.  Users can check personal email from AOL, AIM, Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail or other personal POP and IMAP accounts.  It is advertised as push, and does indeed alert you when you have new email, but in our use it took anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes for a message to show up.  It does appear to be using IMAP, which is an upgrade from past versions.  For the everyday user that doesn’t need their email within two seconds of arrival SME is a very capable and easy to use program.  The only oddity is that the user has to go into the settings and choose to be alerted of new emails, for some reason this is not set to on as default.

Sprint recently announced Sprint Mobile Email Work, which will allow users to configure Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes email on the Instinct in addition to their personal email accounts.  It is simply another tab in the email program, entitled Work, and the user can configure their device with their server settings to access both work email and work contacts.  Since the Instinct requires an Everything or Talk/Message/Share plan, the program is free.

The Instinct also supports Sprint’s Picture and Video mail service, basically (though not truly) MMS.  Unlike previous Sprint phones, which capped out at 30s, the Instinct can send Video Mail that is up to 2 minutes in length.  Unfortunately other devices cannot view videos that long, though they will receive the message and be given the option to forward it to email.  There’s nothing special to say about it besides that, other than it’s a feature the iPhone 3G does not support for some unknown reason.

Unfortunately, and questionably, there is no instant messaging client.  Hopefully it’s still being written.

Connectivity and Data:

The Instinct is fast.  EVDO Rev. A and Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR make it the fastest device on the market, perfectly complimenting the largest 3G data network in the country.  Sprint’s touting the Instinct as the first consumer device with Rev. A, which isn’t entirely true given QChat launched a few days before the Instinct, but they can probably lay claim to it being the best 3G experience on the market.  Yeah, the iPhone’s getting high-speed data but AT&T’s 3G network is still small and spotty.  The increased speeds, both down and most notably up, makes programs like Sprint Navigation run incredibly smoothly.

The browser is a mixed bag.  It is a full HTML browser, but much like RIM and Palm’s full browsers they fall short of a desktop experience.  It is better than those two, PhoneArena eventually loaded properly, but it seemed to take longer than it should.  It has three zoom steps, ½, 1 and 2x which are accessed sequentially via a side button.  There is also a page overview mode, similar to Opera Mini, which allows the user to drag a box around the webpage and release to zoom in.  Unfortunately flash is not supported, though is.  It’s not as bad as some are making it out to be, but it could use some improvement.

Browsing is done in landscape mode only.  While the Instinct does not have an accelerometer, the user can hold the camera button while surfing and the phone will move the page as you tilt the device.  It’s a cool feature, just not all that useful.  It also needs some topographical relief as a reference point, so something like a carpet or a dark room in effect nullifies this feature.  One thing we did like is the keyboard changes when in the web browser.  On the main keyboard screen www. and .com replace the space bar, and if you switch to number/symbol mode most common web address beginnings and endings have a shortcut, including https://, mail., and .mobi.  Kudos to Samsung for being so comprehensive.
The phone does run Java apps, so there’s hope for Opera Mini, but currently it does not work since the Instinct has no soft keys.  The addition of Opera Mini would greatly increase the Instinct’s browsing capabilities.

The Instinct features Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR and supports the following profiles: HSP, HFP 1.5, DUN, OPP, FTP, PBA, A2DP, AVRC.  A2DP, or stereo Bluetooth, is another major advantage the Instinct has over the iPhone.  Paring is easy; it will attempt to auto pair with other Bluetooth devices using common passwords and in general it worked.

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