Samsung SPH-M810 Instinct S30, often referred to as the Instinct Mini in the rumor mill, is a new version of the very popular Samsung Instinct that includes most all of the same features, but packaged in a far nicer design. If the spec sheet of the original left you wanting for more, the Instinct S30 might not interest you, but if you were turned off by the original’s plain Jane design, then the S30 might be just the ticket.
The S30 features gently rounded corners, sweeping curves, and a new color scheme that makes it look quite different from the plain rectangular slab that was the original Instinct.
And while it appears to be smaller than the original, the Instinct S30 is actually both longer and thicker. The new curves make its 118mm x 14.5mm x 55mm (4.6in x .6in x 2.2in) dimensions look and feel smaller, even though they aren’t. At 109.9g (3.9oz), the S30 is quite a bit lighter than the older version, though. The Instinct S30′s 240 x 432 pixel resistive touchscreen display hasn’t changed, and it works well overall. The touch sensitive area below the display is used for the call send, home, and back buttons. Hardware keys, such as those on the Samsung Finesse, would have been better, but these still work adequately.
The hardware controls on the device are all located along its edges. The power/lock button is up top, voice command and camera shutter on the right edge, and volume on the left edge. The covers for the Samsung proprietary power port, the 3.5mm audio headphone port, and the memory card slot are also good. We really would have preferred a micro-USB power/data port, however.
Samsung Instinct S30 seems to be above average for a Sprint device, but call audio quality was very middle of the road, both for speakerphone and regular phone calls. Talk time is rated at a bit over 4.5 hours, and that seems reasonable based on our tests. Sprint doesn’t offer expected standby times, but left sitting on a desktop undisturbed, we expect that the phone would last well beyond a week between recharges.
The contact system in the Instinct S30 is fairly simple, but does have adequate support for multiple email addresses and phone numbers. The scrolling mechanism in the contacts list is good, but there is no obvious search functionality for those folks with a very large number of contacts. It does support Sprint’s Mobile Sync service, which means contacts can be edited on a PC instead of only on the phone. Individual tones can be set for the various notification types, but there is no real profiles system in the phone. The volume control can be used to easily change ring volume or to switch into vibrate or silent mode, however.
The built-in voice command app on the Instinct S30 is top notch. It is a speaker independent system that can be used to call contacts or launch applications within the phone. For example, pressing the button and then saying “Go to traffic” will bring up the traffic application. The S30 also has a speed dial panel in the phone app for accessing your favorite contacts.
The Instinct S30 has a good suite of messaging apps that include threaded SMS, picture messaging, and real email. There are three input methods on the device: QWERTY, ABC keyboard, and handwriting. The QWERTY mode can only be used when the device is held in landscape mode, while the oddball ABC ordered keyboard (1 key per letter, just not in QWERTY order) and the handwriting input methods work in portrait mode. The handwriting recognition works pretty well, all things considered. Instant messaging is supported through a separate application that features Yahoo!, AIM, and MSN support.
While the Samsung Instinct S30 is a 3G device, it lacks the faster EV-DO Rev A support of the older Instinct. It does have good Bluetooth capability, and ships with a Samsung USB cable in the box for connecting with a desktop PC.
Multimedia / Applications
One of our biggest complaints with the original Samsung Instinct was that it sported a lowly 2.0 megapixel fixed-focus camera with no flash. It took decent photos, but it was already behind the curve as far as then-current day multimedia devices were concerned. That the new Instinct S30 sports the same camera, with its same lack of configuration options, is somewhat difficult to comprehend. It still takes very nice 2 megapixel photos, but only if the subject is far enough away. The S30 has a fantastic photo viewer, though, which takes great advantage of the touchscreen.
The music experience on the Samsung Instinct S30 is pretty good. The app automatically scans any inserted microSD card for songs and adds them to the catalog. The phone ships with a 1GB card included, but we tested it with a 16GB card that was loaded with MP3 files, only to learn that the device can only support 1179 songs. Oops. Otherwise, the application performed admirably – even while running in the background. Access to the Sprint Music Store is at your fingertips, but doesn’t get in the way at all if you don’t need it. An included pair of 3.5mm stereo headphones in the box is a nice touch.
The web browser on the Instinct S30 is pretty good, and you can get a good feel for how it works by watching the video on the first page of this review. Opera Mini 4.2 is also pre-loaded onto the device, and is quite speedy to use – even with large websites. Parts 2 and 3 of the video review cover the many applications found on the Instinct S30, which include GPS navigation, location aware search, traffic, streaming TV and radio, online photo album support, and more.
There’s only 32MB or so of available built-in storage space on the Samsung Instinct S30, but the included 1GB card and support for large 16GB cards mean the S30 user will have options.
Samsung Instinct S30 is the same as that of the original Instinct. That’s both good and bad. The scrolling action and overall look and feel of the UI are good. The phone is pretty simple and intuitive to use, as well. But we really take exception with the lack of a standby or home screen. There really just seems to be no default resting place on the Instinct S30. The home key takes the user to the favorites menu, and because of the lack of a home screen, there is no wallpaper setting on the device. When was the last time you saw a device with no wallpaper setting?
Of course the lock screen has a background image you can set, but that doesn’t count for much. The lock screen itself is annoying, in that you have to hold the button for a second or two be able to use the device. It just seems like a small, but constant, hindrance to getting something done on the phone.
Overall, though, the system works. It is reasonably attractive, offers user configurable Favorites and Fun menus, and is consistently executed. The fact that what appears to be a call send button merely brings up another mode of the device, with its own menu, is a bit odd – but it basically works. In the end, that sums up the UI. It basically works. Not awe inspiring, but capable enough to get the job done.