Instinct smart phone to require Sprint data plan at $69.99 per month

But purchase price for the iPhone-like device, which goes on sale June 20, is still unknown

When the Samsung Instinct smart phone goes on sale exclusively by Sprint Nextel Inc. on June 20, buyers will be required to purchase Sprint's unlimited data plan for $69.99 per month to support the device's various functions, Sprint officials said today.

Although Sprint officials described the monthly service requirement for the Sprint Simply Everything plan, they still could not reveal a price for the phone, which was first announced at the CTIA trade show on April 1.

David Owens, director of product commercialization at Sprint, said consumers who have tested the Instinct were concerned that Sprint might "nickel and dime" them on added data services, which led to the decision to include all functionality for a set price.

Owens also emphasized that Instinct will run over Sprint's EVDO Rev A network, but he refused to give an average data rate. He instead described that network as offering speeds similar to a wired home-based DSL experience, but not quite as fast as a cable modem speed. He said it would take 12 to 15 seconds to load a standard Web page on the Instinct.

Significantly, he answered concerns raised by some early critics that Instinct will not offer Wi-Fi connectivity, explaining that users will see that Sprint's Rev A speeds satisfy their needs for downloading video, audio and Web pages.

Owens spoke during a live webinar as he demonstrated features and functions of the Instinct. During a question-and-answer session, he was asked how Sprint responds to comments that Instinct is a clone of Apple Inc.'s iPhone, which is sold exclusively for use over the AT&T Inc. network. Owens said the Instinct and many other devices being introduced in the market are part of a new broad category of handheld devices that rely on touch-screen technology, and the "iPhone started that revolution."

The Instinct differs from the iPhone in its touch-screen technology in a few ways, including its addition of haptic technology that gives a "buzz" sensation to a person touching its screen. The iPhone has no tactile response, Owens noted. The Instinct's on-screen keyboard also loads in some functions in landscape mode, instead of portrait mode, making its keyboard larger than the iPhone's, which testers have said helps limit so-called fat-fingering, said Owens and spokeswoman Michelle Mermelstein.

Even though the touch screen is vital to Instinct, Owens said its voice activation technology merged with GPS and other functions will give a fuller experience than other devices, including the iPhone. In an example, he said a user could say, "Go to search," and then say, "Pizza" to get a street map of nearby pizza shops as well as the option of receiving voice turn-by-turn driving directions after one of the shops is selected.

Samsung's Instinct smart phone with Sprint service is being compared with the iPhone.

While Apple is expected to announce an array of new features on June 9 to make the iPhone more business-focused, Owens said the Instinct will also have the ability to provide access to both business and consumer e-mail. He said a customer could use Google's Gmail product for personal uses and then toggle easily to Microsoft Outlook. He added, however, that business users would not have calendar functionality with Outlook and would be using Outlook Web Access to reach their e-mail.

Owens noted that the Instinct is following a trend toward openness in applications. The device is built on Java Brew, for which there are already many developers who can port applications to Instinct with a software development kit. Still, he said Sprint intends to support phones based on the Android open-access platform in late 2008 or early 2009.

When the device goes on sale on June 20, it will come equipped with a carrying case, a 2GB micro SD card expandable to 8GB, a second battery, headphones and a stylus. Although its purchase price was not disclosed, Owens said its price will be similar to the cost of devices in its class. The next-generation iPhone will reportedly be heavily subsized by AT&T, dropping its price potentially by half, to $199.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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