Sprint's Instinct goes on sale Friday for $129

Device to ship at lower price than $199 iPhone 3G, but with one-fourth the storage

The new Instinct smart phone, compared by many to the Apple Inc.'s iPhone because of its similar touch screen, will go on sale Friday for $129.99 with a two-year voice and data contract from Sprint Nextel Corp. and a $100 rebate, Sprint officials announced today.

While that price is considerably less than the $199 iPhone 3G coming on July 11, the Instinct has a 2GB microSD card, just one-fourth the storage of the iPhone 3G, which has 8GB. There are other differences between the iPhone 3G and the Instinct, and individual users will want to judge what features they care about most, analysts noted.

Still, the Instinct price is "pretty aggressive," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J.Gold Associates. He said that shows that the $199 threshold set by iPhone will put pricing pressure on all kinds of devices. Gold further noted that carriers still will make up the subsidized price with two-year voice and data contracts in the U.S., while most of the rest of the world pays more for a device and less for a data plan.

Sprint didn't set the price of the Instinct based on recently announced iPhone 3G pricing, Sprint spokeswoman Michelle Mermelstein said in an interview. "We always planned to price it as aggressively as possible," she said. "It is an incredibly competitive market, and we wanted to make it affordable to customers."

Sprint previously said the device must be activated with an unlimited data pricing plan starting at $69.99 per month. That price includes 450 voice minutes or a family-sharing plan starting at $129.99 per month for 1,500 voice minutes (and unlimited data) shared between two lines, Sprint officials said today. Sprint's basic Simply Everything Plan on one device for unlimited nationwide voice and data costs $99.99 a month.

While the service requirements had been announced before, the cost of the device was not announced until today, and it follows by nine days Apple's announcement of the iPhone 3G. Sprint and Samsung Telecommunications America LLP in Richardson, Texas, built the phone together, but Sprint holds the intellectual property to the user interface.

The Instinct smart phone, a competitor to the iPhone 3G, goes on sale for $129.99.

The phone will be on sale through Sprint retail stores, on the Web, through phone sales and at Best Buy Co. stores from June 20 to Aug. 28.

The Instinct features an operating system based on Java and BREW, and it runs on Sprint's EV-DO Rev. A network, providing peak download data rates of 3.1Mbit/sec. and peak upload data rates that can reach 1.8Mbit/sec. On average, download speeds will be 600Kbit/sec to 1.4Mbit/sec., and average uplink speeds will be 350Kbit/sec. to 500Kbit/sec., Sprint officials said in April.

The EV-DO Rev. A network from Sprint has five times the footprint in the U.S. as the 3G network that AT&T Inc. is advertising for the iPhone 3G, Mermelstein said. "It's important to know whether the iPhone will always be operating in a faster network," she said.

She said that the Instinct will operate at "blazing fast speeds" and that putting Wi-Fi on the Instinct would have been redundant. As a result, unlike the iPhone, there is no Wi-Fi radio in the Instinct, which would have raised costs, Mermelstein said. Having that speed over a cellular network also means a user doesn't have to find a Wi-Fi hot spot for fast operations.

The device is designed to handle smooth streaming of music videos, for example, she said.

When announced on April 1, the Instinct had several notable differences from iPhone, including a 3.1-in. touch-screen technology called "haptics," which provides tactile feedback when a user touches the screen. It also has video capabilities that allow a user to hold the device and navigate through a Web site. However, it does not use an accelerometer, which can be used to change an image from landscape to portrait, as the iPhone does.

The Instinct also relies on a single Speech to Action button, which means a user can use voice activation to make a call, start a text function or browse the Web. It also has GPS applications, which is a feature coming in the second-generation iPhone.

Correction: Due to a reporting error, a statement from a Sprint spokeswoman on pricing of the Instinct was incorrect. The statement should have said the Instinct pricing was not based on pricing of the recently announced iPhone 3G. The error has been corrected in this article.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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