Samsung S7550 Blue Earth review: Calling Captain Planet
A tree-hugging retail package
The Blue Earth phone comes in a small box made of recycled paper, which can - and we guess, must - be reused. As shown on a diagram under the cover, the retail box can be made into a photo frame, pen stand etc.
The box contents are quite obviously kept to the minimum - you'll find a detachable headset, a small user manual, and an energy-efficient DC charger, which uses less than 0.03W of standby power. The only gripe we have is that there is no USB cable here.
Samsung S7550 Blue Earth 360-degree spin
The Samsung Blue Earth stands at 107 x 53 x 13.9 mm and we find it quite decently sized for a 3" touchscreen. You'll appreciate the relatively compact appearance and feel of the phone but we guess you won't be expecting the solid weight of 118.9g. The plastic front might fool you but do keep in mind that the rear cover is unusual enough. It features a solar panel on the outside and a metal plate inside.
Design and construction
The Samsung S7550 Blue Earth has a lot in common with the Samsung S3650 Corby we just recently reviewed. The screen size of course makes quite some difference. The touchscreen form factor is more or less repetitive but the Samsung Blue Earth is a novel enough concept to be mistaken. The unique rear makes it really a two-faced handset.
The exterior of the phone does not give any clue that it uses recycled bottles of water as its main material. The oval shapes and smooth design with its shaded dark-to-light blue coloring makes the phone quite appealing. The build quality is commendable while the solar panel on the back looks quite tough too.
The front panel of the Samsung S7550 Blue Earth is understandably dominated by the touchscreen, all 3 inches of it. The 16M-color touchscreen display has WQVGA (240 x 400 pixels) resolution.
The S7550 touchscreen uses capacitive technology and it responds promptly to taps and sweeps. The resolution is not the best though with notable banding in some background images. Not that it's too much of an issue, but the Blue Earth's WQVGA screen stands no comparison to the WVGA AMOLED display of the Pixon12. Legibility suffers under direct sunlight but indoor performance is quite alright.
Below the display there are three regular keys - the Call and End keys, plus the Back key in the middle. The controls are well defined and have a solid press.
The top side of the Blue Earth is quite plain and features the lanyard eyelet only. The bottom section isn't crowded either - the mic hole and a thumb rest for removing the battery cover/ solar panel are the only things to note.
The shutter key and the Hold key are placed within a single long button but the camera key is tangibly raised to ensure proper handing and touch orientation. The microUSB headset port under a plastic lid is in the upper right corner of the handset.
The back of the handset is mostly taken by the solar panel, which is used for charging the phone battery. The rest of the rear accommodates the 3 MP camera lens, a charging indicator next to it and a loudspeaker grill under the Samsung logo at the bottom.
The tiny dot next to the camera lens is an indicator that glows in blue to show the battery is charging off the solar panel. Samsung claim that one hour of solar charging should provide 2 hours of standby and a little over 15 minutes of call time in 2G networks or alternatively 10 minutes of talk time via UMTS.
Releasing the solid rear panel reveals the 1080 mAh Li-Ion battery, the microSD card slot and the SIM card compartment. The 2 pairs of power connectors for the solar panel can clearly be seen around the memory card slot.
The build quality of the Samsung Blue Earth is really top notch. The styling and shape are commendable too. The screen sunlight performance is probably the only big issue with this phone. Another thing to note is that the solar panel at the rear tends to get quite greasy as you handle the handset longer and doesn't allow as firm grip as we would have liked.