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.
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.
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.
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.