Instinct vs iPhone 3G: Speed Test!

Noah Kravitz
 from Oakland, CA
Published: July 17, 2008

A few months ago Sprint unleashed a media campaign for the Samsung Instinct that pit Instinct against Apple's iPhone in a series of head-to-head tests.  Now that both Instinct and the new iPhone 3G are out on the market and in the PhoneDog "labs" I figured I'd pit the two against one another in a few head-to-head tests of my own (UPDATE: Check out the video of the test, if you like). First up?  Speed.

I ran a few speed tests on both phones using the free tools at dslrpeports.com/mspeed.  The tests took place in Oakland, CA on a weekday afternoon; the Instinct showed EV-DO connectivity and the iPhone had its 3G on.  The winner? Instinct blew iPhone 3G out of the water.  First I ran the 400k download test and Instinct was the clear-cut winner, if not quite in a landslide.  Then I ran the 1Mb test twice: Instinct was more than twice as fast as iPhone both times around in terms of both kbits/second and total download time.  It wasn't even close.

Then I ran a few Web page load tests using three popular sites: NYTimes.com, ESPN.com and, of course, PhoneDog.com.  The NYTimes test ended in a disqualification as I couldn't get Instinct to load the desktop version of the page - no matter what I tried (switching from mobile to desktop mode, hand-entering the URL, etc) Instinct would default to mobile.nytimes.com.  Oh well.

The next two tests ran without a hitch, and iPhone was the clear winner.  I loaded up the ESPN home page and also an interior page (a blog article) and while Instinct seemed to grab the early lead in terms of downloading data, iPhone actually rendered the page faster and finished well ahead of Instinct on both pages.  Same with the PhoneDog.com home page: iPhone by a wide margin. 

I'm posting the video of the tests as I write this so you can check it out for yourself.  And if you have either phone I encourage you to run your own tests using Dslreports.com or another tool and share the results here in the comments section.  What do I make of my own results?

Well, first off your mileage will vary depending on the network coverage and conditions during your test.  Location (geographic and indoor vs outdoor, etc), time of day, and other factors can definitely impact network performance.  That being said, the results weren't particularly suprising to me.  AT&T gets a lot of flack for their network performance while Sprint is generally considered to have an excellent network - particularly when it comes to moving data over EV-DO Rev. A, which Instinct supports.  On the other hand, iPhone has one of the best mobile Web browsers on the market, and Apple build iPhone using one of the most powerful processors you'll find in any mobile device.  As such, it's not suprising that iPhone 3G's Safari Web browser renders complex pages faster (and more accurately) than Instinct.

The takeaway here?  Opera Mobile on Instinct would be a godsend!  Okay, beyond that it looks like if you're more interested in downloading/streaming media than browsing Desktop versions of Web sites, Instinct's the way to go.  It's got the raw network speed which means that downloading tracks from Sprint's music store should be zippy (which it has been in my tests).  And mobile versions of Websites load quickly, as do Sprint's Web-aware apps like Weather.  On the other hand, Safari's Web browser provides a much more "Desktop-like" experience on the go, and it makes up for some of AT&T's 3G sluggishness. 

Things will hopefully get better for both camps.  Sprint is working on a firmware update for Instinct and also trying to drum up developer support for more Instinct apps.  I know Sprint and Samsung put lots of work into Instinct's HTML Web browser, but I'd love to see an Opera alternative all the same.  Meantime iPhone 3G owners can hope that AT&T's simply feeling the strain of those one million new iPhones (or whatever the real number is) hopping on the network in the past six days.  Some network tuning and reinforcement will hopefully boost 3G data speeds in the weeks to come.

But don't just take my word for it.  Got an Instinct or iPhone 3G of your own?  Tell us what you've got, where you use it, and what you think of Web and data speeds on your device.  Post your experiences in the comments section below.