If you think about it, there aren't many different form factors used for smartphones these days. There's the candy bar touchscreen-only form factor and the slider form factor. I think we're so used to those two that we're skeptical of a phone that uses some other kind. You always wonder if it's going to work as well or be as comfortable to use.
In terms of Android smartphones, the Replenish has a form factor that isn't used very much, though BlackBerry users will feel right at home. Due to the display and the keyboard being crammed onto one panel, they're both a lot smaller than what most people are used to. And let's face it, smaller is not the trend with cellphones today, especially when it comes to the display. So how does the Replenish stack up? Sure, it looks like a great business device, but does the form factor work for a touchscreen Android smartphone?
Design & Features
The design is probably one of my favorite aspects of the phone. So there, all of the suspense I built up in the opening paragraphs is diminished with the first sentence of the review. The hardware design is excellent. It's reminiscent of the professional-looking design Palm and RIM discovered years ago. The display is larger than recent BlackBerry devices but still small by normal standards, 2.8-inches to be exact. I first thought that the display was too small or that Samsung should have used more real estate for the display instead of having an overly thick bezel. However, after much use, I became comfortable with the size and even enjoyed it. It never hurt my eyes or caused any headaches. The display does have a low resolution, 240x320, but this is a mid-range smartphone with an affordable price tag so that's to be expected. Text is pixelated and graphics are rough around the edges.
The device as a whole is slim and light. It measures 4.84-inches tall, 2.36-inches wide, and .45-inches thick. The phone weighs 4.1 ounces. Below the display are four physical buttons for Menu, Home, Back, and Search. The microUSB port is on the bottom of the phone and the camera shutter key as well as the voice command key are both on the right spine of the phone. On the top is the Power/Lock button and the 3.5mm headphone jack. The left spine contains only the volume rocker buttons. The microSD card slot is underneath the battery cover on the left side of the phone which makes it even more frustrating that there isn't a slot for it. I mean, it's already crammed into the side, why not just cut out a slit in the cover? The Replenish ships with a 2GB card and supports up to 32GB of additional memory.
The Replenish is actually an eco-friendly phone. The casing includes 34.6 percent post-consumer recycled plastic and 82 percent of the device is made from recyclable materials. The packaging is also fully recyclable, incorporates 80 percent post-consumer waste material and uses soy inks. The phone ships with a charger that meets the EC Code of Conduct on Energy Efficiency of External Power Supplies and Samsung has also made available an optional solar battery charger (sold separately). A lot of people try to be more environmentally conscious and the Replenish offers some help with that.
Usability & Performance
Though the Replenish ships with stock Android 2.2, it is equipped with Sprint ID. With Sprint ID, you can download "ID Packs" that are based around themes. An Entertainment ID Pack, for example, will include apps like E! Online, TweetCaster, Doodle Jump, and more. After downloading and switching to a new ID, your phone will be transformed with a new wallpaper, homescreen setup, and widgets. Personally, I don't see much use in Sprint ID. Just because I like music apps doesn't mean I want to transform my entire phone in order to access a few apps. The feature may be useful for new users who don't feel like hunting through the Android Market for hours to find new apps. Instead, you can download a few ID Packs and those apps will be in your app drawer, even without opening the ID Pack.
I was fairly impressed with the Replenish's 600 MHz Qualcomm processor. Though it scored pathetically low numbers in the Quadrant Standard test, I haven't experienced much lag in day-to-day tasks. Multitasking is smooth and pinch-to-zoom in the web browser was mostly seamless. Of course, it will take a few seconds to load an app or to switch between apps, but that's to be expected from a phone of this caliber. Overall, performance was smooth.
The physical keyboard is fantastic. It's literally one of the best keyboards I've used, and I can be pretty picky when it comes to physical keyboards. Samsung found a perfect balance in every physical aspect of a keyboard. The keys are plastic, but it's not slippery plastic. The keys are not soft and mushy, but they're not too firm either. Rather, they're easy to press. The keys are somewhat crammed because of the design of the keyboard, but they feature a bubble texture that offers some separation. All in all, it's a great keyboard. If you have larger hands, then it may be too small for you. If you feel comfortable with a BlackBerry, then this keyboard should suit you just fine.
Pictures taken with the Replenish's 2-megapixel camera actually came out better than I expected. Of course, without autofocus capabilities, the overall quality was still lacking, but color saturation was surprisingly decent and the shots were still clearer than what you would expect to get from a camera with such a low megapixel count. That being said, it is still a low-quality camera, but at least you can rely on it to take 'okay' pictures. The camera also captures video with CIF resolution, 352x288 - not useful for much more than an MMS.
I didn't experience the best data speeds when using the Replenish with Sprint's 3G network, at least not on a consistent basis. The Replenish uses EV-DO Revision A for 3G data which should offer decent speeds, but the numbers I got in speed tests were around the 300-500kbps mark for downloads. I didn't notice such slow speeds when I was actually using the web browser, but I did notice a lot of inconsistency. The signal strength indicator would jump from two bars to five bars down to three bars in a matter of minutes. These were my results from testing out the phone in the Dallas area of Texas. Speeds and consistency may vary depending on coverage in your area.
The Replenish's included 1600 mAh battery delivered great performance. I managed to get one full 24-hour day plus nine hours on standby and 21 hours with normal use. With these estimates, you should be able to easily make it through a typical 12-hour day with normal to even heavy use.
The Replenish is definitely a great option if you're looking for a mid-range smartphone with a physical keyboard on Sprint or if you're a long-time BlackBerry user trying to make the switch to Android while still staying in familiar territory. The small display and low resolution may bother some, but keep in mind that this worried me too when I first started using the phone and I quickly grew used to it. The keyboard is simply one of the best, making this an excellent mid-range smartphone.
What's Good: Excellent physical keyboard; professional-looking design; good processor performance, not much lag; good battery life; eco-friendly.
What's Bad: Cheap, plastic build; mediocre camera; inconsistent data speeds.
The Verdict: The great keyboard is enough to convince me, but the overall performance of the phone is what seals it. For a mid-range phone and for the price, you'll be hard-pressed to find something better on Sprint.