Sprint Nextel is hoping to knock the iPhone off its lofty perch with the launch this month of Instinct -- a new smartphone it codeveloped with Samsung Electronics. Like Apple's new 3G handset, Instinct combines full touch-screen functionality and fast wireless speeds with live TV, stereo Bluetooth, and GPS with turn-by-turn navigational capabilities.
In response to Apple's announcement earlier this month of a reduced 3G iPhone price of $199, Sprint will offer its new "iPhone killer" for $129 when existing subscribers sign up for a new two-year service contract.
Sprint clearly wants to use the new smartphone to help stem the rising tide of subscriber defections to rivals AT&T and Verizon. Last month, the company reported a loss of 1,070,000 post-paid subscribers in its first business quarter -- equivalent to a subscriber turnover or churn rate of 2.45 percent.
The fact that the network operator is making the Instinct "available to existing Sprint customers first rather than to new customers speaks volumes about how we are reorienting our marketing toward improving the Sprint customer experience and reducing churn," Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse said during a conference call with analysts last month.
Unlike Apple, which no longer allows its customers to buy iPhones online, Sprint said it will make the Instinct available for purchase over the Web as well as through Sprint's own brick-and-mortar shops and Best Buy stores nationally. The Instinct will also be marketed in tandem with Sprint's popular Simply Everything subscription plan, priced at $99.99 per month. Simply Everything combines unlimited nationwide voice capabilities with premium data services such as music and TV downloads, GPS navigation, e-mail and Web surfing.
Under the Hood
The Instinct integrates a Bluetooth 2.0 radio, a GPS navigation chip, a two-megapixel camera/camcorder, and a microSD card slot capable of accepting up to 8GB of storage. It also incorporates the latest haptics tactile-feedback technology, which transforms the handset's virtual QWERTY-style keypad and other touchscreen interactions into more sensory-based operating experiences.
The Instinct has a "speech to action" button that allows users to place calls, send text messages, and search for information on the Web by means of voice commands. And just like the iPhone, the Instinct integrates Visual Voicemail technology, which enables users to listen to incoming voice messages in their order of preference and manage them with a simple tap on the touch-sensitive screen. Additionally, the two standard 1,000mA-h batteries that ship with the handset each provide up to 5.75 hours of continuous talk time.
Support for both corporate and consumer (POP3 and IMAP) e-mail accounts is provided. The Instinct also features Live Search for Sprint, a Microsoft-powered search engine that provides simplified access to interactive maps and directory information. Moreover, the Instinct features multitasking capabilities that will enable users to play music in the background even as they surf the Internet, play games or exchange text messages.