By Sean Captain – In a room paneled with old-growth wood at Manhattan’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Sprint and Samsung today announced the latest move in each company’s green efforts, the Samsung Reclaim — an eco-oriented quasi smartphone.
Samsung reduced the eco footprint of Reclaim in several ways. Forty percent of the phone – mainly the back portion, is made of “bioplastic” derived from corn instead of petroleum, and it eliminated some environmentally suspect substances, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Samsung also says that 80 percent of the materials in the phone itself can be recycled. And Reclaim cuts energy use with a new charger that, per Sprint, is 12 times more power-efficient than EPA’s Energy Star program requires. The charger has a light that alerts you when the battery has been filled and you can unplug it. (Of course, you can do this with many phones just by checking the charge icon on the screen.)
Feature wise, the Reclaim is a cousin to Samsung’s Exclaim model. Though not true smartphones (their apps run on BREW and JAVA rather than a full OS), both offer rudimentary Web browsing (via an EV-DO, Rev B 3G connection – alas, with no Wi-Fi option), email, Sprint’s GPS navigation, and access to social networking sites Facebook and Myspace.
Navigation is fairly straightforward using Samsung’s One-Touch interface — you can place up to 15 “Tiles” (icons) for applications or info feeds (such as stocks or news) in a “Carousel” bar at the bottom of the home screen. Samsung and Sprint pre-load the phone with basic tiles, including the Web browser, Google search, and a page of links to green-themed Web sites such as “Five Simple Things” for advice on living greener and a glossary of green terms. A four-way directional pad gets you through the carousel and pop-up menus pretty quickly. You do all this on a fair-sized 2.4-inch (320 x 240 pixels) LCD screen (without touch capabilities).
And when it’s time to type, the screen slides up to reveal a petite QWERTY. This is certainly no Palm Pre keyboard. The keys are smooth, flat, and a bit slippery – so you need good aim and finger control to stay on the mark. But using my fingernails, I could peck out a legible message. Entering numbers – including dialing – is a hassle, as the phone has no dedicated number pad. You have to press the “Fn” key that allows some of the alpha keys to do double duty as numbers, then aim very carefully.
Other hardware is pretty respectable. The phone has a two-megapixel still/video camera, a micro-SD card slot (a 512-MB card is included) and a 3.5-mm jack to take standard headphones (handy for accessing the Sprint Music Sore, Sprint Radio, or Sprint TV services). At just 3.5 ounces, the phone feels improbably light. You can order the phone in two environmentally themed colors: Earth Green or Ocean Blue.
The Reclaim is a quasi business device. It can access Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Domino servers for corporate email and calendars, but only via their Web interfaces, not via a full-fledged email client.
Clearly, the Reclaim involves a lot of performance and feature compromises, but they are more palatable when you consider that it sells for a mere $50, with a two-year contract. (And $2 of that sum goes to The Nature Conservancy to purchase land for preservation.) Combine the two kinds of green savings – financial and eco – and you’ve got a pretty good deal.