So long Instinct. So long Sprint

Samsung Instinct

Samsung Instinct

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time for me to end my 8 year relationship with Sprint.  This is actually kind of painful to think about. Everyone knows that for the Los Angeles area, Sprint has the best coverage. I’ve only lost coverage high up in the mountains or in far-flung reaches of the desert.  I’ve never hit pockets of deadspace driving around the inhabited areas of Southern California, unlike those poor AT&T or Verizon users who can’t even use their phones on Sunset Blvd. or driving up Normandie.  Price-wise, there’s really no other carrier who can touch Sprint.  I’m paying $69/mo with unlimited texting and 1500 minutes vs. my husband who’s paying the same amount at T-Mobile (he ended his 13 year relationship with Sprint back in October to get a G1), but gets way less minutes than I do and is limited to only 400 text a month. I could complain about the small storage size (only expandable up to 8GB), but then not only do I have a phone that can be used for almost 5 hours on one battery charge, but I also can access my battery and have an extra one.  I don’t know how iPhone users live with a phone where they can not access the short-lived battery.  I could complain about the strangely useless shopping application, but then I remember that not only does my phone have voice turn-by-turn GPS, it’s incredibly accurate unlike the G1 and the iPhone, neither of which even have voice turn-by-turn.

With all this in mind, you’re probably wondering why I would want to drop Sprint.  The reason is that I am unhappy with what was Sprint’s bait-and-switch regarding the Samsung Instinct.  Keep in mind that my previous phone was a PPC-6700.  I could email work files, shoot videos that uploaded to several sites, and view most of the websites I needed on my phone.  Admittedly, my husband modified my phone with the HTC OS, which made it infinitely more usable for our work situation.  Syncing our Google calendar, emails and tasks were no problem.  I could modify items in Windows Office, view PDFs and still had games.  The only problem I had with the phone was its heft. I needed something lighter, so I bought the Instinct.  The only reason I purchased the Instinct was that it shot video (something the iPhone and G1 don’t do), it was light as air, and Sprint had made promises about what it was going to do.

I have no problem purchasing first-gen tech and I’m willing to put up with some glitches here and there. What I can not abide is lying and lying is exactly what Sprint has done.  When I purchased my phone in July, I, along with other Instinct users, many of whom have broken their contracts and moved on, were told that applications that would increase usability would be available “soon”.  The only problem was that in June while we were told what kind of apps would be available, Sprint was also sending out press releases for an App Developers contest.  This contest was to find the person/group who would get the job of making these promised apps. By the end of July, after some waffling and unfounded rumors, we were given a late date in September. This was to coincide with the strangely secret developers contest.  How they planned to release apps before the winning developers actually worked on them became a great source of amusement among Instinct users on forum boards and blogs.  This was the pebble that started the avalanche of disenchantment among Instinct users.

As the date of the contest winners announcement drew closer, the G1 was getting ready for release.  People were getting antsy and there was a wait-and-see attitude spreading.  Some users had already decided to cut their loses and go get a G1 as soon as it was available for non-T-Mobile customers.  Others had talked their spouses or friends into getting a G1 so they can make side-by-side comparisons.  The date of Sprint’s announcement of the winner of the App Developer’s contest came and went. It wasn’t until the day AFTER the announcement was supposed to have been made that Sprint put out a release.  The release didn’t announce a winner. Instead it stated that the announcement was being pushed back to late October.  That’s it. A slide started where Instinct users fed up with Sprints lies, decided that breaking their contract would be in their best interest and most of them went get T-Mobile’s G1, which has a lot more functionality than the Samsung Instinct. Incidentally, it’s now Dec. 31st and Sprint has never released the names of the winners of their supposed contest.  This could be because they quietly opened a page for Java Mobile developers, but even more interesting is that most Instinct users no longer care because they’re all leaving Sprint.

Now keep in mind that despite all of this, I was actually using the phone.  I found that I couldn’t use a lot of sites I had grown used to using on my PPC for two reasons: 1) the Samsung Instinct is a JAVA-based phone and most 3rd party app developers aren’t willing to waste the time to make their features available to us and 2) because of Sprint’s “contest” developers who were willing to do something for the phone couldn’t because they couldn’t get specs from Sprint.  So there was no more Yahoo-To-Go which made my PPC so easy to use. No more Shozu which made sharing video and photos so easy.  No more just about anything that made keep appointments, schedules and notes.  Add in that most of these 3rd party sites were scrambling to be the first to release iPhone apps, and the Instinct may as well not exist.

Then there’s the small problem of Sprint not fixing anything.  Why have a phone with video capabilities in this day and age that can not play on YouTube?  Anyone who has seen my YouTube videos made on my phone have heard that weird industrial music sound. That sound is because Sprint’s audio codec is messed up.  Sprint is aware of this and has been since August.  It’s now December and they’ve still done nothing to fix that.  What that means is that I can not use the most popular video sharing service on the internet.  Instead, I can only send my videos to and hope that that time is the time the industrial music sound doesn’t play, as sometimes the audio is okay and others it isn’t.

As always, there’s the little things that add up, like the native ability to send photos to Photobucket, but not to Flickr.  Or that I’m actually limited to being able to only have 7 notes.  Or how I can not import/export my Google calendar, making me have to duplicate appointments.  Or how there’s no voice record, forcing me to use video which in certain situations is not feasible. Or how when I had the PPC, getting my contacts into my phone was so simple. I just synced the phone with the online address book of choice and there they were.  With this phone, I’ve spent the last 5 months trying to get my addresses that are on the Sprint website (closing down today, by the way) into my phone.  About 9 of them made the trip.  The other 60 are not budging.

Or the sadness that is the browser.  Don’t get me wrong, there is no phone out there with a faster browser, but looking at websites on the Instinct is so painful when you can actually access the site, that it’s almost not worth it.  Most AJAX-based sites will come up, but I can not log in on them and the chance of me being able to read them is nil. I have my news sites pointed to the mobile site, but in the past 5 months, I will get the full site on my tiny screen.  Oh, and and all three (3) of the wonderfully useless Sprint updates have wiped out my bookmarks and login details, which meant that I’ve had to waste a few hours bookmarking and rearranging sites.

With the exception of the long-lived double battery and the lightness, my PPC-6700 had all the positives of the Instinct and none of the negatives. The negatives are pretty bad, considering I spend so much time duplicating efforts from my phone back onto my computer.  I’ve been trying to convince myself that I can deal with it, but with what I’m paying per month in time and money, I really can’t.  Sprint already broke their contract with me by lying and not giving me the phone they said they were selling.  It’s time I returned the favor.

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  • Your blog post reveals a lot of insight on the mindset of couriers like Sprint.
    I (through a company I was affiliated then) attempted participating in several U.S. telco developers program around 2001. A lot of them have been confusing and inconsistent with their developer programs that I guess caused a lot of us to give up in pushing our application ideas further in the U.S. and tried our luck in other countries which were more open to new app ideas (e.g. Indonesia, China, South Africa, etc.).

    Nevertheless, hope you'll find the better deal that suits your needs.
  • And that's what most iPhone users like about it: it works as advertised, no less — and no more in many cases, but there are no unpleasant surprises. Many of the features like video or voice recording can be addressed with free or paid apps.

    AT&T may suck in general, but here you can't count on much besides AT&T and Verizon. The latter may have better coverage, but they also have a real control-freak attitude.

    Anyway, I hope you find a phone & a carrier you like!
  • Wow, thanks for the mini-review (if that's what you intended it to be). Great to know that it's not just their el-cheapo models that have awful usability problems. I've tried 3 of their models, and I've been frustrated with all of them (I still have a Samsung SGH-C300 sitting in a drawer above my desk).

    They have weird quirks like shoddy "bolted-on-feeling" JVMs that refuse to close connections made by MIDlets until the phone is rebooted, and having no more than 4 different text entry interfaces (each offering a smaller subset of characters, for no unfathomable reason) for the web browser, messaging apps and Java applications.

    Not to mention completely illogical menu systems that vary wildly between models (i.e. the "Alarm Clock" application is in the "Extras" menu, but the "Date and Time" option is in "Organiser", buried God knows how many menus deep), useless restrictions like only being able to select from about 12 grating ringtones and floral wallpapers (at least on 2 of the models I've tried), and features that really don't make sense (i.e. having support for sending and receiving MMS messages but no camera, WTF?).

    I could also go on about things like text input systems that get progressively slower as you type, and displays that fade in mildly cool-cold weather (I've never seen that happen on other phones), and their proprietary charger port/connector designs that require specifically designed chargers that break every few months), but at the risk of rambling I won't...

  • Brand loyalty is less and less rewarded. I gave up verizon after more than a decade with them and haven't looked back. I hope your next phone makes your toes curl.

    Happy New Year to you and your beautiful family Anika!
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