Of course, cellphones have kind of emerged as the industry standard "gadget," and as such, they're deservedly taking the lion's share of the heat for cleaning up their act. Companies like Nokia, Samsung, Motorola, and Sony Ericsson have started to step up to the plate with eco-friendly models -- but the next challenge is to make them appealing. Manufacturers can't lose site of the fact that these are still gadgets, after all, and people still need to use them (and to love them, for that matter) day in and day out.
Enter the Samsung Reclaim
. The name -- which, like the names of many recent Samsungs, doesn't really evoke the image of a cellphone in your mind -- serves as an in-your-face tribute to its environmental tweaks ranging from a corn-based shell (please don't try to eat it) to recycled packaging printed with soy-based inks. It's not the first highly eco-focused phone to launch in the States -- that title might very well belong to the Moto Renew
-- but it's the first to take an honest stab at the midrange of the market, and really, that's where Samsung (and everyone else) needs to go if they want to sell a country of consumerism on greener electronics.
Does the Reclaim succeed in that regard? The answer's an unqualified "yes." At $49.99 on contract, it genuinely feels like a $50 phone without compromise. You're not constantly reminded that you're using a PVC-free device (though the "Eco" badge on the back certainly does its best), you're just using another basic text-centric QWERTY slider in Sprint's lineup, and ironically, that sense of anonymity might be the Reclaim's strongest suit.
That said, what Samsung has put forth here is a solid package. The interface is simply Sprint's standard One Click
UI that's found across its entire dumbphone range, so anyone upgrading from another phone on the network will feel immediately at home here. The navigational controls work quite well; it's awfully hard to miss the gigantic OK button, and the presence of a dedicated speakerphone button will be welcomed by frequent conference callers and anyone that can't be bothered to hold their phone to their ear. Speaker volume wasn't the loudest we've ever heard, but at max, it should be audible in cars and in close proximity to chatter.
Actually, turning our attention to the sides of the phone, you actually find that you're getting more
with the Reclaim than you do with many $50 Samsungs. First off, there's an honest-to-goodness micro-USB port, and for a company that's been more resistant than even Nokia to adopting some semblance of a charging standard, that's a truly miraculous sight. And you don't even have to worry about a proprietary port for your headset, either, because there's a real 3.5mm headphone jack. Yes, honest, on a $50 Samsung. Trust us, were just as shocked as anyone else.
The weak spot might be the keyboard, which is surprisingly difficult to use well despite its generous proportions. The blame can be placed squarely on the fact that they've failed to dome the keys at all -- it's just a perfectly flat sea of buttons from one end of the phone to the other, and unless you've got erase heads for fingertips, that's a problem. We suffered from a lot of mistypes (both with text messages and phone numbers) because of it, and truly, all Sammy needed to do was to give each key a little shape and texture.
Then again, you're saving the world one corn-based handset at a time -- so maybe you can let the keyboard's faults slide. If you can, the Reclaim is as good a way to drop $50 on Sprint as any other, and you can feel a little bit better about yourself in the process. What's next on your shopping list: organic fruit? A Prius?