What exactly is a “green” phone? If you asked me, I’d say an energy-efficient, long-lasting phone with low radiation risks that’s made with safe, recycled and recyclable materials.

Sprint’s Samsung Restore meets some of those criteria — partially. Which is to say that while Sprint’s greener phone is one of the most eco-friendly ones out there — and likely greener than the one you’re holding, unless you got yours refurbished or held on to an oldie for at least a few years — it’s easy for an environmentalist to be disappointed with Restore simply because even the greenest new cell phones on the market are still far from truly green.

Basically, the Restore’s a phone in greener packaging. The phone casing’s made with 27 percent post-consumer recycled plastics — and the device itself is 77 percent recyclable, according to its website (84 percent recyclable according to Sprint’s Environmental Sustainability Communications Manager). And the whole product comes in almost all recyclable packaging — an all-recyclable box made with 70 percent post-consumer recycled paper and a few unfortunate small plastic baggies.

Eco-purists may already wonder why Sprint’s box isn’t 100 percent recycled and the phone 100 percent recyclable. They’ll be further disappointed that the Restore still “has low levels of PVC, BFRs, Phthalates, Beryllium,” according to Sprint’s communications manager. And while the Restore has an Energy Star certified AC adapter, the adapter’s specific to the device — and not usable or reusable with any other phone.

5244924966 22c85e6031 Samsung Restore: Good basic phone in greener packaging

But to be fair, most phones have worse recyclability rates, come in very plasticky packaging, and contain higher levels of dangerous materials. And most phone companies make only minimal attempts to disclose — much less address — these green shortcomings. In that sense, Sprint’s ahead of the pack — even if it’s still not exactly a shining green beacon of sustainability.

Since most of the eco-features simply have to do with Restore’s packaging, the phone itself works pretty much just like other, less green phones in its price range. The full QWERTY keyboard makes texting and tweeting easy — though the Facebook and Google buttons are simply shortcuts to the mobile websites. The flashless 2.0-megapixel camera doesn’t take the best-quality photos, but will serve most people’s Facebooking needs well enough. According to CNet’s comprehensive, techier review, the phone’s call quality could be improved — but I had no issues calling in the L.A.-area. The speakerphone feature worked especially well for me — I used it for over an hour while trying to troubleshoot my Blackberry with Credo’s tech reps!

The Restore’s a pretty basic phone — so fancier phone users who like to run apps likely won’t want to downgrade to this one. But for the less app-happy public who still like to text and tweet, the Samsung Restore is available for $49.99 (after a $50 mail-in rebate) with a new two-year service agreement.

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