Sprint Targets iPhone With Touch-Screen Samsung Instinct


Coming in June, the Instinct is an EV-DO Rev. A device which Sprint said "speeds up the user experience like no other touch-screen phone," an obvious jab at Apple's iPhone, which dominates the touch-screen space.

"The iPhone set the bar for user interface," Sprint product commercialization director David Owens told Reuters. "We wanted to have an equivalent experience."

Sprint expects the Instinct will be its top seller this year in its bid to win back customers who ran to AT&T, the country's exclusive provider for the iPhone.

"Our goal is clearly that it's a large volume," Owens said.

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According to Sprint, the Instinct features a touch-screen with localized tactile feedback, called haptics, which allow the virtual QWERTY keypad and other operations to become "a sensory experience." The mobile phone also features a Voice to Action button offering access to functions through voice activation, including call, text, picture message, traffic, movie, sports, news and search.

The device measures 2.17 inches by 4.57 inches by 0.49 inches and weighs less than 4.5 ounces, Sprint said. It features advanced functions like Visual Voicemail, which lets users listen to messages in their order of preference and manage them with a screen tap. It also offers support for corporate and consumer POP3 email accounts, multitasking that lets users play music in background mode while surfing the Internet, texting or playing games; a 2.0 megapixel camera with camcorder and expandable microSD memory of up to 8 Gb. Other features include stereo Bluetooth 2.0; an integrated world clock, SMS voice and text messaging with threaded text, phone as a modem, picture caller ID and Sprint Mobile Sync.

The Samsung Instinct marks Sprint's first EV-DO Rev. A consumer device. It offers Web browsing, business and personal email access, picture sharing, commercial-free radio and other features at broadband speeds. Additionally, the device opens up access to Sprint exclusive services and multimedia content including Sprint Navigation, a system powered by Telenav with GPS-enabled audio and visual turn-by-turn driving directions, one-click traffic rerouting and more than 10 million local listings; and live search, delivered through Microsoft, which offers access to director information, GPS-enabled directions, interactive maps and one-touch click-to-call access.

The Instinct also boasts entertainment features like Sprint TV, which offers live and on-demand programming; Sprint Exclusive Entertainment, a made-for-mobile sports and entertainment video programming network; and Sprint Music Store, which lets users browse and wirelessly download full songs directly to the device for $0.99 each.

Lastly, the device offers Pocket Express, which gives up-to-date information on sports, weather, news, movie times and other customized options based on the user's zip code.

According to Sprint, the majority of its mobile broadband network has been upgraded to EV-DO Rev. A technology, allowing the Samsung Instinct to offer "blazing fast" speeds. Currently, Sprint's mobile broadband network reaches more than 242 million people in 15,325 cities and touches 1,452 airports.

With the EV-DO Rev. A network, peak download data rates can reach 3.1 Mbps and peak upload rates can hit 1.8 Mbps. Average download speeds on EV-DO Rev. A can hit 600 Kbps to 1.4 Mbps and average uplink speeds between 350 Kbps and 500 Kbps.

"Instinct brings customers what they want with the immediacy they want," said Sprint senior vice president of product development and chief marketing officer John Garcia in a statement. "Every decision during the development process focused on simplifying the user experience. The end result is a great-looking phone that makes the value of Sprint's fast NOW Network come to live, but most importantly, it is fun and easy to use."

Along with its multimedia capabilities, Samsung's Instinct has three dedicated keys -- phone, back and home -- on the lower portion of the handset to ease operation and navigation. The phone key takes the user back to voice calling and features such as speed dial, visual voicemail, contact and the dial pad, while the back key lets the user take a step back. The home key offers access to the four main function menus on the user interface: favorites, main, fun and Web.

The favorites icon gives one-touch access the most used features, allowing customization and personalization. Favorites can include Web sites, TV channels, text messaging and more. The main function offers access to applications like messaging, voicemail, GPS navigation and more. Fun takes users to their music, TV, photos, games and more. And the Web tab accesses the Internet and all things Web-related like weather and news.

"Samsung designed the Instinct after spending years developing innovative touch-screen technology," said Samsung Mobile chief marketing officer Bill Ogle. "What really sets the Instinct apart is the ability to access users' favorite features with just one touch of the device. The three navigation keys that Samsung positioned at the bottom of the Instinct are instrumental in making the user experience quick and easy."

While pricing of the Samsung Instinct has not yet been determined, Sprint said it would cost less than $300. The cheapest iPhone model currently costs $399, while the iPhone model with additional storage reaches just under $500. Sprint said the device will require activation on a Sprint Everything pricing plan, which offers 450 voice minutes and unlimited data for $69 and unlimited voice and data for $99.

Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart told Reuters the device alone can't won't necessarily save Sprint, but offering the Instinct with unlimited data plans could be a silver lining.

"Everyone's going to offer you something that looks like an iPhone," he said. "Here's something that also offers you a lot of cool things to do with it at a flat rate."

The Instinct comes with a 2 Gb microSD card that holds roughly 2,000 songs from the Sprint Music Store; two standard 1,000 mAmp batteries that offer up to 5.75 hours of continuous talk time each; a battery charging sleeve; a travel charger; a USB cable; 3.5 mm headphones with a built-in microphone; and a leather case with a stylus.