As we mentioned earlier, we got a big box of (partially) recycled goods today. In just a few days, Sprint will be launching Samsung’s “Green” phone, the Reclaim. We put “Green” in quotes here because it’s somewhat questionable just how eco-friendly this phone is. It’s greener than most phones, yes. A step in the right direction, sure. We like that. But it’s marketed for it’s “Green”ness, in a cardboard box covered in birds and butterflies; when such a direction is taken, scrutiny is in order.
Read on for our impressions.
Is it really green enough for the marketing?
Look – as we mentioned above, we’re stoked that phone companies are at least trying to clean up their act a bit for the sake of the planet. But, considering the amount of weight Samsung and Sprint are throwing behind the “Green” aspect of this phone, it seems to have missed the mark.
- Shipped/Made in Korea: Just about every surface on the box proudly exclaims that the phone is manufactured in and shipped from Korea. Unless they’re shipping these things as packing peanuts in the empty space between other crates, that means a whole lot of fuel is being burned up shipping these things stateside.
- Huge box: This box is just as big as any other phone, and unnecessarily so. You need a bit of padding room in a box to protect the goods inside – but a huge percentage of this box (more than half of the bottom section, which holds the accessories) is empty, while around a third is dedicated to holding the manuals and pamphlets. Speaking of which..
- Five friggin’ pamphlets: “Getting Started” Guide. “Features” Guide. “Important Information” Booklet. “Important Sprint Information” booklet. “Terms and conditions of Services”. All in all, it’s about 100 pages of extra stuff that no one will read. This could have easily been stuck on the microSD card, with one simple page saying “Hey! Looking for the manual? Check the sd card!” Tada! 100 pages worth of paper and ink saved, and that whole chunk of the box could be lopped out. Even if the ink is soy (which it is) and the paper is recycled (which it probably is), that’s extra box space, extra shipping weight, and extra energy used in printing.
Still, it’s a step in the right direction. They’ve nixed all harmful chemicals, and are using recycled/recyclable products. That’s fantastic – but why dedicate one phone to it? If the “Green” goal is legitimate, why not focus on making small changes across the product line? By selling only one or two “Green” phones, nothings really being solved; you’re just catering to the niche that wants this.
Anyway – on to the phone:
The Samsung Reclaim is a feature phone. It’s running Sprint’s One Click user interface, which is actually pretty damned decent (at least in theory – see more in the software section below) piece of software for a carrier-made frontend. Don’t expect App Stores and endless expandability, as the thing does only cost 50 bucks on a 2 year contract.
The Hardware (3/5):
For $50 bucks, you could do a whole lot worse in the aesthetics department. However, that’s not to say it’s perfect by any means. The design is all over the place; the keyboard looks great, as do the sides and rear of the phone. The face, however, looks pretty tacky. The circular D-pad around the “OK” key is far too small, while the other, less frequently used buttons are quite large.
Samsung’s got the sliding mechanism down, as proven by the Reclaim. Even on a relatively cheap phone, the slide is quite smooth. We’d never pick up this phone and say, “Hey! This is made partially of recycled goods!”. It feels decent in the hand, if a bit on the light side.
In our endless war against non-3.5mm headset jacks, we’ve got to give Samsung a high-five for squeezing a 3.5mm port onto the reclaim.
The Keyboard (4/5):
For the space available for it, the keyboard is better than we expected. The keys have a fantastic squish to them. They’re far too small – but that’s a fault of the form factor, not this specific design.
The Software (3/5):
We really like the idea of Sprint’s One Click UI. Your homescreen is essentially a looping carousel, filled from left to right with “Tiles” of your choosing. They’ve got the basics covered: Facebook and Myspace are there for your social needs, quick (basic) access to just about every Google service is available, and customization is quick and easy. This thing is jam packed with bugs, though – in the first 10 minutes of playing, it locked up on us twice. Later, one of the applets decided our backspace key was now the “ÿ” key. Each time I pressed it, a “ÿ” would appear. Yeah, I’ve got no idea. There’s a half second delay with just about everything, which drove us bonkers; still though, it’s one of the better frontends we’ve used on a feature phone.
The Camera: (1/5)
Hot garbage. It seems to have a fixed focus outside of any known dimension; whether near or far, things are blurry messes.
In today’s day of incredible smartphones costing just $100-$150 bucks, we’d never, ever recommend a $50 feature phone. If we did, we’d consider recommending the Reclaim Not because of the supposed eco-friendliness – because, to be honest, we think that’s a bit of a sham. At the very most, it’s a well intended but way off the mark gesture. Samsung makes some 50+ phones a year; in the grand scheme of things, a few small changes across all of Samsung’s models would make more of a difference than one ultra-green phone.