The Rise of the Superphone

With vastly better performance, desktop-grade web browsing, and high-resolution displays, a new category of mobile devices is emerging: the “superphones” and their impact on the wireless business is difficult to overstate.

Do You Samsung Instinct?

As part of my get-well regimen, I spend a lot of time at the local gym. The upside (or the downside) of being on the treadmill or the stair-master is that you spend a lot of time watching lots of basic cable television. Switching channels, I found myself running across advertisements of Sprint touting Samsung Instinct, the iPhone-competitor, popping up way too frequently.

Sprint must be spending mucho dinero on these ads (they are pretty darn good) and made me want to take a second look at the Instinct, even though Stacey wasn’t too impressed by the phone when she checked it out earlier. I wondered if there were others who were taken in by this new ad-campaign. According to the results of our previous poll, 60 percent of Sprint customers thought it was the best option on that network — a good sign.

So I dropped the folks from Sprint an email, asking them how they were doing with the Instinct, and how many units they had shipped. Sure enough, I was being optimistic about getting a right answer. “Sorry but we do not provide these numbers as they are considered proprietary. I can simply tell you that we are very pleased with the sales and it continues to be incredibly successful,” a spokeswoman emailed me back. I asked Sprint to disclose the monthly data usage on this device but was turned down as well. Oh well…as I was saying, I was being optimistic.

Question: Are you one of those people who owns Samsung Instinct and what has been your experience with the iPhone rival?

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.

iPhone vs. Instinct

Not your animal instinct, but the new Samsung Instinct, offered by Sprint. We will have some embedded video on Thursday hopefully, but until then, hit this link to go to Kansas City’s video site to see a side-by-side comparison of Apple and Sprint’s “find my location” features. The video is one of five that will be launched before the Instinct is launched, and will compare the two phones among their internet surfing speeds, capturing video, streaming TV, and downloading music.

The $100 million advertising campaign kicks off on Thursday on those hip, new video websites. TV ads are so passé. You would think that kind of change could have bought some better quality, even the YouTube iPhone commercials look better than this. It will be interesting to see if this $100 million budget is killed before by the rumored new features of the 3G iPhone, allegedly coming out in June, also. If it has GPS, 3G, and other great features (renting movies from the phone, anyone?), this could be a wasted advertising campaign. The Instinct will supposedly have live streaming TV as well, and I don’t think Uncle Steve will be throwing that in to his “One more thing…” part of the keynote.

The Instinct site starts with “Finally, an amazing touch-screen phone with the network to back it up.” So, from that it looks like Sprint is saying that the iPhone still rocks, but the network (AT&T) stinks. I don’t think many people will disagree with that statement. I know that I would buy an iPhone in a second if I could have it on a different network.

The other thing that gets me about this campaign is that it was probably created in Overland Park, KS, at Sprint Headquarters. That means that the coverage for Sprint in that area, where nearly everyone is on Sprint, is exceptional. The screenshot below shows AT&T’s coverage for Sprint Headquarters.

AT&T’s coverage viewer claims that they have “good” reception in this area which means

GOOD: The areas shown in the medium orange should be sufficient for on-street or in-the-open coverage, most in-vehicle coverage and possibly some in-building coverage. This AT&T owned network provides GSM, GPRS, and EDGE service.

Even with 3G, it would be hard for AT&T to have better times if they have “possibly some in-building coverage.” I wonder if Sprint thought about that and intentionally set it up for them to do better, or if the Sprint network really is that much better than the AT&T network. Both carriers don’t work at all in my basement. Anyone had any experience with both that would like to vouch for either one?