The new green-themed Reclaim made by Samsung is more than your standard phone with slick green branding — though there's a bit of that too.
What's green (or blue), smaller than a deck of cards and will remind you to unplug the charger from the wall after charging? The Reclaim, the new green-themed smart phone made by Samsung for Sprint, is loaded with a bunch of green content, a handful eco-conscious accessories and an attention to sustainable packaging that make it more "green" than most other phones out there.
But you can't just slap a case made from forty percent corn plastic, dip it in green paint and call it green, can you? The folks at Sprint sent me the new Reclaim so I could answer those questions myself.
Out of the box, I was first struck by the small size and light weight of the Reclaim. As I test-drove it, I barely noticed the 3.5-ounce phone in my pants pocket. I even found myself looking for it a couple of times even though I had it right there on me. But for a small phone, it packs a pretty good punch.
Easy to navigate and operate, with Sprint's one-click navigation which brings features like GPS navigation, messaging and web portals like Facebook and Google to the front and center of your interface.
While some like this stuff front and center, an electrician friend of mine who recently got the phone told me he didn't want all of the shortcut keys on his main screen, telling me they were too big and that he just wanted a picture of his daughter up there.
The phone had good sound and video quality on an especially large screen for such a small device. The 3G speed was a little clunky at times, but that can at least be partially to be explained by the weakish Sprint signal at my house where I did most of the tinkering with the features
A 2.0 megapixel camera with portrait mirror for capturing mobile video and the ubiquitous twenty-first century self-portraits. The Reclaim is also smart enough to ask you if you want to share the pic you just took on the internet via flickr, facebook and YouTube. Have other digital media? A well-placed Micro SD memory card slot on side makes transferring digital audio and pictures a snap.
It took me a little while to get accustomed to the slide-out QWERTY keyboard—particularly the fact that it didn't need to stay open after dialing a phone call and that closing the slider wouldn't end a phone call—the functionality of the slider was smooth and well-engineered.
The green parts
Built from 80 percent recyclable material with 40 percent of the phone casing made from corn-based bio-plastic. The Reclaim is 80 percent recyle-able material, not recycle-ed material. That is fairly normal. The bulk of material in most other cell phones can also be recycled and that's why there is a market for used cell phones.
To Sprint's credit, included in the box is a postage-paid cell phone recycling bag for you to drop your old phone in the mail to be scrapped for e-waste (which I filled three old phones sitting in a drawer I've been meaning to recycle).
Sprint has committed to recycle ninety percent of the phones they make by 2017. With current recycling rates at roughly one-third, Sprint admits they have a long way to go but are also quick to point out that they have collected roughly 18 million phones thus far and have increased recycling rates substantially over 2007.
I like the idea of the green content portals. Easily-accessed content from Planet Green including Best of Green, Five Simple Things, All Things Green and a Green Glossary from Planet Green. These shortcut keys access fast-loading pages of green content and info. Don't expect links, images, flash, etc. These are fast-loading pages that provide quick access to basic green info, and for that purpose they are excellent.
I was also too-easily amused by the chirps, ribbits and other preloaded eco-sonic ringtones that keep with the Reclaim's green theme.
Fortunately, the instruction manuals were not big, glossy tomes reprinted in seven languages. Only the "essentials" in manual literature were included in the package, but considering that several pages were filled with full-color images of people enjoying their new phone way too much, even that seemed a bit too much.
The paper that was included in the package was printed with soy inks on a paper stock that clearly had some percentage of recycled content in it, but nowhere on the package was that clearly labeled or otherwise discerned. Other than the plastic FedEx package the phone arrived in, the package itself has very little plastic, only two small bags.
Festooned with a litany of certification labels and brands, Sprint has clearly made some attempts to get the Reclaim some green cred — and most of it is deserved. Overall, I think Sprint has done more than pull of a green marketing coups. They have taken real steps towards cleaning up an industry that contributes an incredible amount of material into the global e-waste stream.
That is not to say there isn't any room for improvement. Cutting back even more on printed materials and packaging waste and giving more attention to labeling and transparency would make the Reclaim even greener.
If this phone does anything, it helps show an industry that little steps can make a big difference when they are being manufactured at thousands of pieces at a time. Hopefully leading us to the day where a phone that pays attention to sutainability and cradle-to-cradle principles will become the norm, rather than the exception.