Instinct offers Bell and Telus customers an iPhone wannabe
Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business
October 14-20, 2008; issue 990
High Tech Office column
With all the iPhone
hype, what are mobile carriers like Bell or Telus to do? Apple has an
exclusive contract with Rogers/Fido, and even an unlocked iPhone can’t
connect to Bell or Telus’ CDMA networks.
Instead, both companies
are offering customers an iPhone wannabe: Samsung’s Instinct. Bell
loaned me one for a week. Like the iPhone, it’s a slender rectangle
with a large touch screen and few buttons, dominated by a large
(240x432 pixel) touch sensitive display. A virtual touch pad pops up
when dialling and virtual keyboard appears for data entry.
impossible to avoid comparing the Instinct to the iPhone. In a number
of ways, it manages to beat Apple’s trendsetter. For instance, while
both phones ship with headsets, many third-party headsets can’t be
plugged into the iPhone’s recessed jack, but will work fine with the
Instinct. Both phones sport two-megapixel cameras, but the Instinct’s
can also be used to shoot video clips. While the iPhone’s data storage
and battery are built-in and non-removable, the Instinct allows users
easy access to both.
Unlike the iPhone, which syncs with both Mac and Windows systems,
however, the Instinct is Windows-only.
iPhone’s touch screen allows various intuitive multi-touch actions; for
example, pinching or moving two fingers apart zooms out or in on a
photo or web page. Turning the iPhone 90 degrees flips the view from
horizontal to vertical. The Instinct lacks these ease-of-use features,
and it lacks the iPhone’s WiFi capabilities; you have no way to get
online except using Bell or Telus’ EVDO mobile data networks.
Nicely, Bell is making that affordable, offering Instinct customers
unlimited data access for $10 per month.
while the latest iPhone adds features to appeal to BlackBerry-addicted
business users, Bell is aiming the Instinct at consumers. Its e-mail
application takes users to Microsoft’s Windows Live service, the latest
remake of Hotmail, for instance. You can access other webmail services
using the browser, but I would have preferred an e-mail application
that works with a range of providers.
GPS is built-in, but is an added-cost service. Bell lets users buy it
either by the day as needed or by the month.
“fun” menu screen offers games, media features and downloads for
additional software. Music, photos and video can be stored on easily
removable micro-SD cards, and can be transferred from a Windows system.
A two-gigabyte card is included, pre-loaded with music. Additional
ringtones and games are available for download, but the download areas
promising access to additional productivity applications were empty
when I checked. Hopefully more will become available later, but for
now, Instinct users don’t get the range and excitement of add-on
software accessible by iPhone owners.
The Instinct’s web browser
did a much better job of displaying standard pages than most mobile
devices, but was slow and not as easy to use as the iPhone’s Safari
browser. I had difficulty clicking on links much of the time and missed
the competition’s intuitive zoom in and out.
As with the iPhone,
when you tap on a data-entry field, the virtual keyboard pops up.
Unlike on the iPhone, when that happens, the web page disappears, so
you’re unable to see the question you’re answering.
custom operating system developed by Samsung, the Instinct is more
responsive than touch screen models like HTC’s Touch, which adds
touch-sensitivity onto Windows Mobile. It is, however, neither as
intuitive nor as expandable as Apple’s iPhone. But for customers
wanting to stick with Bell or Telus, it is a fun and usable
multimedia-capable touch screen phone in its own right. Bell’s pricing
starts at $150 with a three-year contract. •