Samsung launches the Instinct in Canada

Tonight I attended the launch party for the Samsung Instinct phone. I wanted to personally check it out to see if it lived up to the ‘iPhone killer’ label that has been floating around. Unfortunately it doesn’t but that doesn’t mean I hated it.
Samsung Instinct Launch Party

Here’s my quick take on it which is appropriate since I only had it for about 20 minutes to play with:

Things I liked:

  • smaller than an iPhone and feels nice in the hand while holding it to use as a phone
  • has haptic feedback (vibration) so when you press on a button or type on the touchscreen, you get tactile feedback
  • turn-by-turn GPS navigation although I couldn’t truly test this out inside a bar
  • no configure voice commands to launch apps and services as well as dialing
  • nice roomy landscape keyboard made it easy to thumb type
  • a couple of slick games included (albeit demos) including a nice version of Scene It (movie trivia) which was fun to play – not sure of other game purchase/download options
  • very cheap unlimited data plan from Bell or Telus ($10) but that may also be a negative since there are no 3rd party apps (yet)
  • the phone dialer and related features seems simple and intuitive although some elements of the UI seemed Apple-ish (swipe to end call)
  • beefy, removable battery
  • much better weather app than the iPhone

Samsung Instinct Launch Party
Things I didn’t like:

  • no wifi – maybe the thinking is you’ve got unlimited data, why would you need wifi?
  • somewhat clunky touchscreen – perhaps due to a calibration issue on my demo unit but haven’t we moved beyond calibration?
  • non-standard browser which seems to have trouble loading/sizing images and rendering basic css
  • I was under the impression it was Windows Mobile under the hood – it’s not (it’s Samsung’s own creation) which actually makes things worse since there isn’t access to that library of (WM) software available to users although the Samsung rep did say that 3rd party apps ‘were possible’ but would most likely have to come from the carrier
  • the IM button launches Windows Live….mmmkay.
  • the camera was about the same as the iPhone (2 megapixels) so it looked like crap inside the bar with low light
  • in my limited time with the device, multiple times I was holding it portrait and while using it, would be forced to use the keyboard in landscape mode. I later found out there is a button to change the orientation on the keyboard itself but it was clunky when compared to the iPhone’s auto-rotation depending on its orientation
  • Stylus? McFly?
  • again, I’m not sure if it was just my demo device or not but it seemed that whenever I did anything related to the internet, I’d get some kind of warning screen that I was about to incur data charges. I would assume the demo units were on the cheap data plan but maybe not. I would also assume that if you were on said plan, you wouldn’t be told this over and over again
  • no camera flash but the iPhone doesn’t have one either so not a huge deal to me
  • playing back some of the demo videoclips on my device looked like crap and weren’t full screen – the media player seemed lacking

Samsung Instinct Launch Party
Overall it wasn’t a horrible device and I probably could have used more time with it to fully explore it’s features…it just seemed like it was designed in a world where the iPhone didn’t exist (CDMA land?). I really was hoping it would offer more competitive features but unfortunately, the Instinct comes across as a Windows Mobile clone that is trying to look as slick as the iPhone.

I could see this phone being ideal for someone that is stuck on a CDMA carrier or that possibly doesn’t need or want the expanded options the iPhone has (which come with a higher sticker and data-plan price).

I’m still amazed that (in my opinion, of course, since this is my blog) none of the phone manufacturers have managed to actually create an iPhone killer yet. Not even close. Which is really too bad…competition is always good and only benefits the consumer in the end.

One final note about Samsung: I think the person behind @theinstinct on Twitter has been doing a great job at responding to the detractors, helping spread the word about the product and answering questions in a positive and professional manner. It is refreshing to see bigger companies using social media to try to engage an audience…even if it may seem like an uphill battle against strong competition. Perhaps Samsung just hired the right people to promote the Instinct.

3 Comments

  1. Michael says:

    I played with Kwanye’s (Michael Kwan) demo unit a bit. Tactile feedback is cool, perhaps Apple could integrate this.. I’m assuming it would just involve allowing the phones vibration function to be accessed by applications.

    Nothing else really makes me want to purchase one. I love my iPhone and nothing I’ve used can knock it down so far (though better battery life would rock).

    I think the instinct marketing team is doing great as well, I asked @theinstinct to tell me why it’s better than an iPhone and I got a top 10 list! I think the team is doing a great job, but the product isn’t there.

    By the way, is your iPhone jailbroken? I couldn’t help but notice the ‘Rogers’ in the top corner, usually ‘ROGERS’ on the default phones. I changed mine to ‘iFone’ after a little playing around with MIM and some other customization apps.

  2. John says:

    Michael: I agree it’s just not there…I’m not giving up my iPhone or my GSM anytime soon. Apple should be able to add the feedback using the vibrate motor…although it may kill the already taxed battery life ;)

    I liked the idea of @theinstinct’s top 10 list….although was hoping for a little more substance in it.

    My iPhone isn’t currently jailbroken (waiting for the unlock or a killer installer app to make it worthwhile – I like having firmware updates I can run right away) by my 1st gen was….the “Rogers” is an artifact of upgrading to the 3G using my 1st gen iTunes profile which was modified using MIM…some system plist settings seemed to have survived the upgrade and firmware applications.

  3. Duane Storey says:

    I just don’t understand how any tech person at a big company could recommend launching with a proprietary OS these days. Embedded Linux is proven technology, and it’s easy to code with. While I’m not the biggest fan of Windows Mobile, it has great developer tools and is easy to develop for either. Running an in house OS just seems like a bad idea.

    But, I’d love to have a Ukrainian approved landscape keyboard. Apple sure is lagging behind doing some simple features like that. By the time the next iPhone comes out, I predict the current one we have is going to seem really dated compared to everything else on the market.

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