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.