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Roundup: 5 Smart Phones for Summer

Samsung Instinct S30

Samsung’s original Instinct was marketed as an iPhone killer—a promise to which it obviously didn’t live up. Sprint’s aggressive advertising has changed course, but the Instinct unfortunately has not. The S30, Samsung’s latest version of the Instinct, is a slim, modest phone. Our initial impressions of the thinnest phone in our roundup? It’s anorexic.

The S30 has no physical keyboard—just a touchscreen. The thin design keeps it light and easy to hold in your pocket or hand. A lock button on the top right of the device is easy to press one-handed. Next to it is a 3.5 mm audio jack, which is necessary for today’s cell phones.

The left side has volume control and Samsung’s proprietary power connector, which we’re disappointed to see, though this standard may change in the near future thanks to the European Union’s new law requiring cell phone manufacturers to use USB-Micro connectors. Hey, if it’s good enough for the European market, we can hope it is good enough for the U.S market, too.

The right side of the phone has a microSD slot and dedicated voice command and camera buttons. The back access hatch slides off easily, revealing a very clean back and the battery.

The S30’s resistive touchscreen relies on single-touch feedback for its 3.1" display. Under it are three touch-sensitive buttons: back, home and phone. Unlocking the S30 opens the phone menu, which offers speed dial, a contact list, phone history, and keypad tabs.

The main menu functions similarly, with tabs for favorite Applications, Main, Fun, and Web. Navigating the menus is easy and intuitive, as is assigning applications to the favorites list. Most importantly, pushing the main menu or phone button instantly returns users to the selected menu screen.

Sadly, the 3.1" display is not efficient. Touch sensitivity is low and requires a heavy push to register. Tapping on it will not work and some force is required. The screen is also too dim. In bright light, the screen is all but invisible, even on maximum brightness.

Many streaming applications on this phone carry subscription fees through Sprint, such as Sprint Radio and Sprint TV. The quality is as expected of streaming applications (blurry and pixellated for video), but the data connection streams well enough and is acceptable for watching either live or recorded shows. The slower EVDO Rev 0 data standard is a disappointing setback for the S30, especially when the original Instinct used the faster Rev A. However, I was able to watch "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" in its entirety on the S30, with limited commercial interruption.  Action and fast-moving scenes were especially blurry, but otherwise the quality is sustainable to watch.

Sprint’s onboard GPS navigation application works very well. In various locations in the greater Los Angeles area, it performed excellently each time. Traffic information is not available in all regions, sometimes for 10 miles. Hundreds of businesses, restaurants, and other locations are available either by search or browsing the extensive lists.