Samsung has updated its Instinct feature phone with some high-definition enhancements. The latest version of the Instinct, called the Instinct HD offers a camcorder capable of capturing HD clips, a 5-megapixel camera, and an HD-out port so you can view your work on a big screen TV. The Instinct HD also benefits from the addition of support for Wi-Fi wireless networks, but overall, this remains a phone aimed squarely at entertainment addicts.
Price and Availability
The Samsung Instinct HD is available from Sprint for $249.99 when you sign a two-year service contract. That price is pretty hefty, especially when you realize that it factors in a $100 mail-in rebate.
The Instinct HD looks almost exactly like the Instinct S30; its face is dominated by a big, bright 3.2-inch touch screen. Below that, you get three touch-sensitive controls: home, back, and phone keys. Like the S30, the Instinct HD is slightly rounded, and the HD model sports an attractive black and silver design.
The screen resolution has been upgraded to 480 by 320 pixels (the Instinct S30's screen resolution is 240 by 432 pixels) and you'll notice the difference: everything looks crisper and clearer. I also found the touch screen itself more responsive than on past Instinct phones, which was a welcome change. Typing on the Instinct HD's on-screen keyboard was surprisingly easy; I was able to thumb type at a very good clip as soon as I began using the phone.
Unfortunately, though, the menu system is identical to what you'll find on other Instinct phones; I wish it had been upgraded, too. You get a series of tabs across the bottom of the phone that let you switch between the various menu pages, which are Favorites, Main, Fun, My Stuff, and Web. The phone defaults to the Favorites page, which, sadly, is the least visually appealing. It lets you add shortcuts to the features you use the most, but does so in a bland, boring layout. The rest of the pages feature bigger, square icons that are reminiscent of what you find on the iPhone.
Call quality over Sprint's network was very good. I noticed a slight bit of static on some calls, but the phone provided a good amount of volume.
Like other Instinct phones, the Instinct HD does not offer a true mobile office solution. If you're looking for a phone that offers a lot of productivity applications, you should keep on looking. You get a basic organizer, a notepad, a calendar, and some fun games, such a demo version of Uno. You can shop for additional apps through Sprint's Shopping service, but the iPhone App Store, it's not. The selection is pretty meager, and the store itself is poorly laid out, so shopping can be a challenge.
The Instinct HD is GPS capable, and does include Sprint Navigation for spoken turn-by-turn driving directions. It also offers access to Google Maps, which offers text-based directions.
The Instinct HD's messaging capabilities are mixed. It supports POP3 e-mail accounts, and setting up accounts from the most popular service providers (such as AOL and Gmail) is simple, requiring that you enter a user name and password only. The e-mail client itself, though, sports a pretty bland interface, and I wasn't always easy to tell which messages were read and which were not.
You also get an instant messaging app that supports AOL's AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger. The SMS app supports both text and picture messages, too.
Browsing the Web
The Instinct HD comes with the Opera Mobile Web browser, which is a step up from the basic HTML browser on earlier Instincts. Still, it's far from perfect. You zoom in and out by tapping the screen, and I found myself often zooming in when I was hoping to click on a link.
More notable than the browser upgrade is the addition of support for Wi-Fi. The Instinct HD does support Sprint's EvDO Rev. A network, which delivered reasonably quick speeds in my travels around Boston. But the addition of Wi-Fi means that you don't have to rely on the availability of the cellular data network for speedy Web access.
The Instinct HD boasts a 5-megapixel camera that captures very good still photos. Colors were bright, and most subjects looked sharp and clear. You get a flash, as well as a bevy of extras, such as a self-timer, various scene modes, autofocus, face detection, 4X digital zoom, a choice of resolutions, and more.
The camcorder itself is more impressive. It captures video in three resolutions: HD (1280×720), VGA (640×480) or QVGA (320×240). You can zoom in and out while recording, which is a nice touch. The HD clips I captured looked great, too, even when viewed on a big screen.
Unfortunately, though, the big screen was my 20-inch computer monitor. The Instinct HD allows you to view your clips on an HDTV -- a capability that is mentioned several times on the phone's box -- but when I sat down to do this, I was disappointed to learn that the necessary cable is a $30 accessory. It's too bad that it wasn't included with the Instinct HD itself, which is already pricey at $250.
The Instinct HD features some pretty cool multimedia features. For one, you get support for Sprint TV, which offers a mix of live TV and pre-packaged video clips. You also Sprint's NFL Mobile Live service, which allows you to watch live NFL football games on your phone, and a mobile NASCAR application, which allows you to follow drivers and standings.
For music, the Instinct HD offers Sprint's Radio service, as well as a built-in music player. You can transfer songs from your computer, or download them directly to the phone from Sprint's music store.
The Instinct HD offers an excellent camera and camcorder, plus some of the best multimedia features that you'll find on any mobile phone. But it lacks any real productivity software, and, at $250, it's expensive.