Samsung Instinct s30 Review

Introduction and Design

Last summer Sprint took arguably the best shot at the iPhone at the time, and the Samsung Instinct stood toe-to-toe with its fruity rival. While it may have bested Apple’s wunderphone on paper, the Instinct lacked the pizzazz and savvy to be a real competitor. Customers no doubt stayed with Sprint because of it, but we doubt too many AT&T customers defected for an Instinct. Now we have the Samsung Instinct s30, which offers a refreshing design update and promises deeper access for developers. Will this new Instinct prove a compelling upgrade or more of the same?

Included in the box you’ll find:

• AC Adapter
• Li-Ion battery
• 3.5mm stereo headset
• USB charging data cable
• 1GB microSD card


The most striking difference in the Samsung s30 is the design. Gone is the boxy exterior, replaced with svelte curves. The metal frame is now plastic, a downgrade in materials but an upgrade in the weight saving department. Despite the smaller feel in hand, the Instinct s30 is actually a touch bigger than the original.

You can compare the Samsung Instinct s30 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The 3.2” resistive touchscreen remains, but feels ever so slightly more responsive than the already responsive original. We said the Instinct’s onscreen keyboard was the best we’d ever used, and we still feel that way. It seems a bit brighter as well, but that may just be in our head. Either way, it’s a pretty darn good display even if it’s not up to snuff with Sprint’s own Touch Diamond or Pro.

There are two new color options: “A Touch of Copper” and “Cobalt Metal”, the latter of which keeps the gunmetal trim of the original but has a gray back instead of black. The basic layout remains the same though. The same touch-sensitive Back, Home and Phone buttons appear at the bottom of the display, the left side has the volume rocker and proprietary Samsung 20 pin charger and the right has a microSD slot and Speech to Action and Camera buttons. Along the top is the familiar 3.5mm headset jack and power button. All of the buttons have good feedback, including the touch sensitive buttons thanks the haptics.

Samsung Instinct s30 360 DegreesView:

User Interface

Not much has changed here, though the software now clocks in at CB26, whereas the original Instinct still has CA10. To the layperson the two are identical, but if you look around you’ll notice a few differences. NFL Mobile Life and NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile are now hard options in the Fun tab, and the user can no longer add items to the Web tab.

The big deal here is deeper access to Java API’s for developers. Specifically, they now have access to multimedia (including streaming content,) messaging , Bluetooth, contacts, calendar and file access to read and write from the internal file access. Theoretically there could be some very cool apps coming, but we’ll see how many developers jump on board with this. One important nugget lost on most reports is that this access will be granted to all future Sprint Java-enabled phones. While other carriers tout their “open network” that continues to produce nothing of note, we really applaud Sprint for proactively opening up their platforms and encouraging customers to take advantage of all that their phone has to offer.

Everything we loved the first time around is still there, and we still maintain that the s30 UI is one of the easiest and most intuitive UIs on the market. The Favs tab allows for quick access to what you do most, from menu items to TV channels to downloaded content to one click messaging to a specific contact. While it lacks the polish of iPhone OS- or Palm’s upcoming webOS- it is still a very easy to use yet functional operating system.

Phonebook, PIM and Messaging

The phonebook of the Samsung Instinct s30 remains the same as before, that is to say not quite smartphone level. There is no separate first and last name fields, which is a disappointment given that other models like the Memoir offer a pretty darn great phonebook on a feature phone. The calendar approaches smartphone levels a bit more with its ability to sync with Microsoft Exchange, though it still cannot sync with plain old Outlook. Other basic functionalities - like calculator, clock and notes- are included and unchanged. Visual Voicemail is still better than AT&T’s offering.

One main gripe of the Instinct was the lack of an Instant Messaging client, even though it eventually came. The Instinct s30 ships with it, giving the user access to AIM, Yahoo and Windows Live. Sprint Mobile Email is a snap to setup and offers push-ish email with preconfigured setup for the most popular services, plus access to other personal email and, as with the calendar, Exchange support. The user can of course also send SMS and MMS messages, the former of which is threaded. Unfortunately the portrait keyboard is STILL ALPHABETICAL, not T9. Someone at Samsung needed to be fired last year over this, by now the entire department should be gone. This is perplexing as it is unacceptable.

Connectivity and Data

The Samsung Instinct s30 downgrades to EVDO Rev. 0 from the original’s Rev. A. While this looks like a bad move on paper, and we’re not saying it isn’t, Rev. A isn’t particularly noticeable on a handset as compared to an aircard. Browsers don’t render fast enough anyway, and the limited uploading we do on our phones are usually of relatively small files.

Speaking of browsers, the Instinct s30 actually comes with two. Samsung again has a “full HTML” browser, clocking in at v1.3 (up from v1.2 on the Instinct). It’s decent, but still not as full as we’d like it to be. Rendering is quicker than in the past, but still not what we would call quick. Luckily it ships with Opera Mini, and Sprint even touts it with a screenshot on the box. While it still doesn’t support flash like its Opera Mobile counterpart, it renders pages quickly and accurately. The stock browser only works in landscape mode, whereas Opera gives you the option to choose.

The s30 is Bluetooth 2.0+EDR compatible and supports the HSP, HFP 1.5, DUN, OPP, FTP, PBA, A2DP and AVRC profiles.


Again there is nothing new here, which is a bit disappointing because there are still zero options. Still, the 2 megapixel shooter performed well enough in good lighting conditions. It is most likely the same camera found on the original, as results were similar. There is direct upload to Facebook and YouTube, a feature we are starting to see more and more but enjoy none-the-less. Video capture and playback are unchanged as well, which is to say that they are fine for YouTube but don’t expect anything great.

The music player of the Samsung Instinct s30 still lacks the refinement needed for it to compete with the iPhone. We loaded our usual six test albums, all properly tagged with album art, and the s30 only recognized 3 of them and occasional album art. All the songs played just fine, but in this day and age we expect more from our music players. Customers can of course also download music for just $0.99/track over the air though the Sprint Music Store.

SprintTV has had several upgrades since the Instinct’s original release. It runs much smoother with less pixilation, but the quality does not approach Verizon and AT&T’s offerings. What it lacks in quality it makes up for in quantity however, with an ever-changing mix of live and on-demand programming.


The original Instinct set the bar pretty high for phone performance, and the Samsung Instinct s30 is just as good. Sound quality on our end was excellent, just as good as a landline phone. Callers were equally impressed, picking up subtle differences in our voice though they said we sounded a bit like we were in a hole. Overall the s30, like the Instinct before it, is one of the best phones we’ve ever tested. Battery life is rated at 4.6 hours, well below the 5.75hr rating of the original, but we found that to be rather generous and 4.6 is probably more realistic. Unfortunately the s30 does not ship with the extra battery and charger like the original did.


Samsung Instinct s30 isn’t really a successor to the Instinct, just a nice refresh. For what it is the s30 is a decent offering, though Samsung has skimped on accessories (the extra battery, memory card is down from 2GB, no leather case) and materials, yet the price remains at $130. Don’t get us wrong, the Instinct s30 is a very compelling offering and still probably the second best featurephone on the market behind the iPhone 3G, but in this day, a and market we feel it would be much better suited at $50 as a low-priced compliment to a true replacement. With the Dash rumored we’ll have to see how it plays out, but for those who just need a phone now the s30 is a fine choice.

Samsung Instinct s30 Video Review:


  • Responsive touch screen
  • Great QWERTY keyboard
  • Excellent call quality
  • Included IM client
  • Ships with Opera Mini


  • Portrait keyboard not T9
  • Issues with music player
  • Lacks the punch the original had

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