Can Sprint make a cheaper iPhone?

Sprint is taking on Verizon Wireless' LG Voyager as well as AT&T's Apple iPhone with a new touchscreen phone that launched yesterday: the Samsung Instinct.

"This is certainly the biggest device that we will launch this year," David Owens, director of product commercialization at Sprint said. "We built it through a partnership with Samsung and even hired an expert to help us with UI design."

Sprint sought out the European design experts at Icon Mobile, because the current approach has not worked, Owens said.

"Icon Mobile helped us with the icons and other parts of the UI, but Sprint took a more aggressive role than we ever have in designing this device," Owens said. "It's the most aggressive push into UI I've seen by a carrier, and I spent 18 years at AT&T." Sprint conceded that the iPhone exposed a weakness in the market: user interface, so the carrier decided it needed to build a UI consistent with the iPhone experience, while creating a device that leverages the capability of Sprint's Rev. A network.

The carrier plans to launch the device in June and the marketing campaign surrounding the launch will be the biggest campaign Sprint has had by a factor of two or three times, Owens said. It's clear Sprint is banking its success in devices on the Instinct, but the device still has a few bugs to work out before the summer and the carrier has yet to announce a pricepoint.

A spokesperson for Sprint said the carrier has decided to sell the device for less than $299.99 and wants to push it as close to $200 as margins will allow. That would make for a mid-range iPhone clone with nice touches like localized haptics feedback (powered by Immersion), visual voicemail, a 2MP camera and an included 2GB microSD card.

"Sorry, Voyager. [Sprint's] not going to sell our subscribers a $299.99 phone and not give them any memory," Owens quipped. -Brian

For more on the Instinct:
- check out this slideshow over at FierceMobileEnterprise
- check out other new technology on show in this photo slideshow