Review: Samsung Replenish for Sprint

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The Samsung Replenish for Sprint isn’t the first phone on the market boasting eco-friendly components. But unlike its “green” predecessors, the Replenish is a true smartphone complete with 3G and Wi-Fi capabilities, and it’s the first U.S. phone with a solar battery charging option.

If you’re in the market for an “eco phone,” it’s a great deal. But how does it stack up against other smartphones?

Design

My first impression when holding the Replenish in my hand is that it just feels good, as it’s extremely lightweight for a smartphone – just 4.1 ounces. As for appearance, it’s not your typical treehugger phone. It’s downright sexy. And that’s high praise considering that 82 percent of the device is made from recyclable materials.

To the touch, its backing feels similar to rubber, but it’s actually a durable recycled plastic. That said, its front is completely different – the standard QVGA display is glossy and sleek. Like any other touch-screen, maintaining a scratch-free display will require extra attention.

The bottom half of the front is tougher with a Touch QWERTY bar keypad reminiscent to that of a BlackBerry Curve 8520.

Interface and hardware

The touch-screen is used for phone calls, Web and phone browsing and switching from screen to screen on the sliding desktop. Located above the keyboard are four convenient call keys – a quick bar button that pulls up six commands (which can be personalized), home, back and search buttons.

Your notifications are displayed in a small pull-down bar located at the top of the screen. Emails, texts, chat messages and the like are tucked away here, but they’re easy to miss if you’re in silent mode – both a pro and a con.

The Replenish runs Android 2.2 Froyo, with access to more than 150,000 apps on the Android Market. Froyo is really easy to use, and it supports Flash content. For an additional monthly fee, it runs Sprint Hotspot, which turns your phone into a wireless connection for nearby devices. It’s expectedly slow when loading media-rich content, but fast enough to be convenient in a Wi-Fi-less coffee shop.

The Replenish is equipped with a 2-megapixel camera and camcorder which conveniently connects to both Facebook and YouTube. It has 256 MB of RAM, but it comes with a 2 GB microSD card slot that supports up to a 32 GB memory card.

Features

The Replenish supports Sprint ID Packs – downloadable programs that include applications, widgets, ringtones and wallpapers designed to interests of the specific user. The Replenish comes preprogramed with the Green ID Pack to support its overall environmental theme. [Editor’s Note: Earth911’s Android app iRecycle® is featured in Sprint’s Green ID Pack.]

If you’re like me, you may not want to get married to a specific ID, which is why the ID button located in the launcher is a major plus. In just two steps you can completely change your phone’s interface. While that may seem unnecessary, I find it helpful that I can create an ID with only the basics – email, calendar, messaging and maybe a calculator – that I can implement during work hours when I need to stay focused. I may be less inclined to mindlessly browse Twitter and Facebook if it requires switching IDs.

Web browsing and email

When it comes to surfing the Internet on the Replenish, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices because of its 1.8 inch x 2.6 inch screen. The upside is that it’s still a touch-screen, so you can zoom in and out of pages for better visibility. Websites with versions optimized for mobile browsing look great. The screen also switches to landscape when turned – a nice feature for watching videos, but awkward for browsing while using the vertical keyboard.

The Replenish comes equipped with a Sprint email application. I imported my personal Gmail account, and it successfully pulled all of my new, old and archived emails from that account. Switching back and forth from inbox, to outbox, to archives, is fairly easy. However, I experienced some waiting time when opening an email with a company logo, as it took a good 10 seconds to download.

Battery life and solar charging

The Replenish comes standard with a 1160 mAh battery that posts up to 5.4 hours of continuous talk time, which is a little less than other Sprint smartphones averaging 6 hours of talk time. But the Replenish’s claim to fame is its optional solar charging battery cover, sold for $29.99. This was unavailable for my initial review, but according to Sprint, 1 hour of direct sunlight will give you 20 minutes of talk time.

Battery drain is unavoidable with extended Web browsing while leaning on a 3G connection. But I wanted to see how much heavy lifting the Replenish could handle. Starting with a fully charged battery, I connected to the 3G network and streamed video content for 15 continuous minutes and downloaded seven applications ranging from 1.46 MB to 3.37 MB.

The Replenish shut down without notice, and I had to remove the battery, wait a couple of seconds and replace it in order to reboot (this is a common problem reported with similar Android devices). On the plus side, once restarting the phone, my interrupted apps finished downloading, and I still had about 80 percent battery life. The biggest battery drainer was turning on the Sprint Hotspot feature.

Summary

The Replenish is your standard smartphone. The real bells and whistles here are the eco-friendly features – recycled content, energy-efficient charger and post-consumer packaging. Aside from its small screen, the Replenish is perfectly capable of meeting the needs of an average smartphone user. The game-changer is its solar-powered battery charging case, which really makes it a practical purchase for treehuggers, tech savants and everyone in between.

Release date: May 8, 2011

Price: $49.99 (after $100 rebate with new activation)

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