Earlier today, Sprint held a small press event at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco and CEO Dan Hesse took the stage to promote several eco-friendly initiatives. The most notable was the upcoming Android-powered Samsung Replenish smart phone. While a powerful green device sounds exciting, it also raised a few concerns as it follows my recent piece entitled “This is why you should not buy a cheap Android smart phone” regarding the carrier’s own Sanyo Zio.
“We want to make it as simple as we can for our customers to go green with a robust selection of products and competitive pricing,” said Dan Hesse, Sprint CEO. “Samsung Replenish is as green as we could make it with more than 80 percent recyclable materials, housed in partially recycled plastics, energy-efficient and built with fewer environmentally sensitive materials. As if this is not enough incentive, we are also lowering the monthly rate for this phone by $10 for new or existing customers so it pays for itself within just five months.”
Before I share my thoughts, here is a rough break down of the Samsung Replenish. It sports a candy-bar single piece design with a QWERTY keyboard below the display. It runs on Android 2.2 Froyo and comes with Sprint ID Pack integration. A 2 megapixel camera on the back doubles for video capture. WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth are inside. A 2 GB microSD card ships with the phone. Everything runs on a rather outdated 600 MHz single core processor and users need to deal with a rather low resolution 240-by-320 pixel 2.8 inch screen.There is only 256 MB of RAM inside and a 1160 mAh battery powers the phone.
It Costs Too Much
For those keeping up to date with smart phone hardware, these specifications are much worse than the year and a half old Motorola Droid. While this phone may retail for just $49 with a two-year contract, the monthly fees start at $69 per month, which makes the total cost of ownership overwhelming. A little math and the HTC EVO 4G adds up to be just 18% more expensive over the length of the commitment. For not much more, customers can enjoy video calls, 4G connectivity, a kickstand for movies, a large 4.3 inch display, HD video capture, an integrated hot spot and much more.
A Bad Eco-Friendly Device
Before that gets misinterpreted, I should state that Sprint is taking great steps to stay green with recyclable packaging, reused materials, and even an efficient charger. It is actually an awesome initiative. Unfortunately, there is another underlying issue that the carrier overlooks. The Samsung Replenish is a fairly low-end device that will probably never get software upgrades. Playing games or multitasking is not easy with a sub-par processor. This phone is already outdated and it is not that much cheaper than a more robust smart phone.
Subscribers who pick up this handset will probably end up tossing it sooner than later for a reliable device. This completely defeats the purpose of the entire eco-friendly initiative. While a smart phone such as the upcoming HTC EVO 3D is not entirely green, a buyer will stick with it for at least two years. Over the air software updates extend the lifespan even further. My point? Buying a high-end smart phone is a better investment and it will not end up in a landfill within a few months.
What I Want To See
Customers should not have to sacrifice features to make conscious environmental choices. For instance, take a look at the Tesla Roadster. This electric car is as green as you can get, it offers impressive performance, and looks gorgeous. I think Sprint is approaching the problem incorrectly. Although initial efforts to push “eco-friendly” on high performance handsets might come with a price, there are definitely more benefits for customers in the long run.
I had a chance to handle a prototype Samsung Replenish for a few minutes. The display was dull and unattractive. Build quality felt cheap and brittle. The Android OS looked sad on such a low-resolution display too. I hope that the production model, which is only a few weeks away, will get a little better.
Links: Sprint – Samsung Replenish