For as green as Sprint is advertising their Reclaim phone
(made by Samsung), you'd think it were made out of gorp and tree bark. You might have seen the ads pop up on your favorite website, in most that I've seen the phone is joined by a singing bird, who looks happy as can be to be sitting next to such a paragon of environmental responsibility.
I've had a chance to test out the Reclaim and found that while it's not nearly as green as Sprint might have you think, it does make some good steps in the greener direction.
Fourty percent of the Reclaim's outer shell is made of bio-plastics and 80% of the total mass is recyclable. I'm not super impressed with the use of the bio-plastic, mixing it with conventional plastic renders it uncompostable, though it may still be recyclable. It's a baby step, hopefully one that will offer up some lessons for pushing the envelope further with the next iteration.
The Reclaim is PVC free and "nearly free" of dangerous brominated flame retardants. I think it's a clear statement on the current state of phone design that a phone can justifiably advertise itself as green because it only contains a little bit of hazardous chemicals.
The packaging is printed with soy ink and uses 70 recycled materials (why not 100%?).
Sprint takes credit for the phone charger being Energy Star approved yet the very same charger comes with a propritary dongle, making it available exclusively through Sprint and not usable for any other brand of phone. A vastly greener choice would have been to make the dongle a universal USB port which would help cut down on the mountain of chargers thrown into the trash every year. It's not a small issue given the billions of phones sold around the world every year.
Sprint is giving $2 for each phone sold to the Nature Conservancy's Adopt an Acre program. I would like to see that donation a lot higher. Assuming an average person spends $40/month on their plan, Sprint is looking at over a thousand bucks in revenue per subscriber and they're only kicking out a measly two bucks to adopt some Nature Conservation land? Come on Sprint, reach deeping into those deep green pockets, it should be $10/phone.
The Reclaim isn't a bad phone but it's not really a great one either. It has a pretty decent 2.0 megapixel camera, a bright and sharp display, and comes with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube installed, but is crippled with a terrible web browser. My connection speed in downtown Portland, Maine was anemic and the contols for browsing the web super clunky. Like any good news junkie, I used to wake up each morning to read news in bed in my Blackberry browser, an application that comes fully equipment with its share of clunky design and slow performance but one that still flies far and above the browser offered by the Reclaim.
The terrible browser is softened somewhat by the installed mail app that I had no problem setting up for my gmail. The same went for the Twitter and Facebook app- they worked well enough and updated fairly quickly.
The overall phone software isn't particularly awe inspiring and lack all of the thoughtful interface design of the iPhone, but I'm guess I shouldn't expect Samsung to design as well as Apple. The keyboard is a small QWERT pad that slides out of the bottom half of the split half body. Whoever came up with the idea for every keystroke to trigger spacy tripped out random bleeps and boops, by default, should look into getting a new line of work.
One feature Sprint has been eager to push in its advertising is "One Click access to eco-friendly applications". In reality, this is a link to a Planet Green guide to green. Four main options are served up, City Guides, Green Guides, Green Basics, and Green Glossary, all were links via the browser to special mobile designed content. The guides aren't bad, but again, aren't great enough for me to imagine every reading them on the phone with any regularity. It could be a different picture if they were actual in-phone apps and free of the need to connect to the web, but as is its too much waiting for not enough payoff.
Someone at Sprint got green eyes when the Reclaim campaign started being put together. It manages to take a few steps forward while also taking a few stumbles back. I'd much rather seem them continue to make green progress while underselling their work. Under promise and over deliver the greener refinements. They might be able to catch a few clueless green hungry consumers with their current campaign, but in the long run they'd do better to cater to the core set of consumers who want to see truly green phones. They'd do well to start understanding and applying the difference between green and greener
when writing their marketing plans.
Still though, the Reclaim is one of the greener phones on the market. If you're a Sprint customer and are in the market for a new phone, the Reclaim could be a good choice.