Do consumers care about green cell phones yet? The jury is still out, with little info available other than launch press releases, but that isn’t stopping phone makers and carriers from launching new “green” cell phone brands and services. The latest comes from Samsung and Sprint (s S), which this morning announced that Samsung’s “Reclaim” phone will be available to Sprint customers starting next week.
Reclaim is made with 80 percent recycled materials, with 40 percent of the outer casing produced with bioplastics from corn (fyi guys, corn isn’t sustainable) and lacking most of the toxic chemicals usually found in mobile phones. In addition, it’s got an energy-efficient charger. So for about $50 and a 2-year Sprint contract, you can buy one at Sprint stores, as well as Best Buy (s BBY) — if you want one.
One of the interesting things about the Reclaim is that it has some decent features and functionalities, like high-speed 3G network access, a slider QWERTY keyboard, GPS and accompanying location-based services, and a one-click button for mobile web access to sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube. The decent features make it more like the feature-rich high-end green phone from Samsung called the Blue Earth, which has a solar panel on the back, a pedometer and software to track the carbon emissions you’ve saved by walking. In contrast, some phone makers like Sony (s SNE) Ericsson and Nokia (s NOK) have taken the opposite approach and created green phones with bare-bones features.
Given that the phone makers are still experimenting with the green phone market, they’ll be learning soon enough if the eco-conscious consumer also wants a lot of rich features and is willing to pay higher prices. Different geographies will likely unfold differently (U.S, Europe, China, Japan, etc.), but my hunch is that the green aspect of a phone will always be just one characteristic of the device, and won’t be the selling point of the phone itself. So consumers who want bare-bones and cheap will stick with that, and consumers who want high-end and a lot of features will keep buying those phones, too. The green will just be a bonus.