Blog Post

Samsung Instinct: Novelty, Not Novel

I played with the demo version of Samsung’s consumer-oriented iPhone killer in April and found it fun, but maybe a bit too much gadget crammed into too small of a space for me. It’ll be out on June 20 with a $200 price tag on the Sprint network, and today reviews appeared in a variety of places. David Pogue points out that the Instinct is long on features and short on polish when compared with the iPhone; Walt Mossberg agrees, saying the hardware is nice, but Apple’s software beats the Instinct’s hands down.

The lack of zing in the Instinct is a shame, and it shows how hardware and software can combine to create a novel design or a novelty design. The touch experience on the Instinct is a novelty design. It’s what Samsung calls a haptic touch screen, which means it vibrates when a user touches in a command. Pogue calls it gimmicky and he’s right, but I liked it anyhow. However, it’s hard to think of ways to integrate that vibration into features that push the Instinct to go beyond the constraints of a modern cell phone.

In contrast, the iPhone’s novel use of accelerometers and software give it the ability to orient itself (something the Instinct can’t do). That’s a feature that provides a similar Wow factor as haptic touch, but also can be used to change that way games are designed, turning the movement of the device into a type of joystick. That’s novel. Regardless of its novelty screen, people will buy the Instinct and it will certainly follow the iPhone in bringing touch as a user interface to the masses.

13 Responses to “Samsung Instinct: Novelty, Not Novel”

  1. Stacey Higginbotham

    @Raymond, I’m not sure why the URL is listed as a review. The post links to some excellent reviews and also to my review done back in April. Hopefully, one of those will help.

  2. Why is this post called a review (according to the URL) when there’s not much of anything being reviewed? You talk about the haptic interface and…that’s pretty much it. From what I’ve read in other “first looks” pieces, the Instinct has a lot of excellent features, a mediocre camera, and a really bad browser. Supposedly Opera Mini runs on it, but I haven’t read any articles that talk about how well it runs on the phone.

    It looks like a great device that does a lot things well. I never looked at it as an iPhone killer — it’s pretty idiotic to think of it that way — since its multimedia capabilities simply can’t compete. The iPhone also has a ton of potential with its apps. However, for calling, messaging, email, and browsing (with Opera Mini), the Instinct might work for a lot of people.

  3. Stacey Higginbotham

    @Curtis, I actually don’t have an iPhone and don’t really want one now that I have Opera Mini on my BlackBerry, so for you and Ryan, I agree that the iPhone isn’t for everyone.

  4. Keep in mind that Samsung isn’t a one-trick pony in regards to phones. They, and other manufacturers, will come out with a variety of phones to target different tastes. The Samsung Glyde is one such example. Another example of why I think the iPhone will stay a niche product.

  5. Stacey,

    I think you assessment of the Instinct versus the iPhone is on the money, however I’d point out that not everyone will enjoy the iPhone’s user experience. In my opinion, the iPhone has a great UI and overall experience, however the Instinct’s more straightforward and staid approach has appeal in its’ own right, but not likely the digerati such as you and I (I have an iPhone and an iPod Touch). I can certainly see the Instinct’s UI and user experience appealing to more mainstream consumers interested in a touch screen phone. In particular, I can see the experience offered by the Instinct as being the next evolution of the “basic” user experience on a cell phone as the market moves away from the longstanding flip phones and candy bars. Just a few years ago Motorola “defined” the preeminent flip phone design and UI with the RAZR, so who knows where the Instinct’s “novelty” may lead in the marketplace.

  6. Sprint / Samsung should call it iFlop or iFail…

    Sprint overcharged my small (US) company for over $50,000.00. We caught them doing it and now they refuse to refund the over-payments. You can read the full story at

    I also wrote an open letter to Dan Hesse the Chairman and CEO of Sprint Nextel. It is a good read so please consider reading the letter.