- Review Date: 12.27.10
- Bottom line:
The Samsung Evergreen could have been an excellent choice for a midrange messaging phone, but AT&T's expensive required data plan and mountain of bloatware turned us off.
Pleasing size and shape. Comfortable keyboard. Responsive UI. Genuine green cred. Loud speakerphone.
Mediocre voice quality. Too much bloatware. Monthly fees are too high.
Samsung has been pushing environmentally friendly cell phones ever since the Reclaim. The Samsung Evergreen (Free-$179.99) is the company's latest "green" phone for AT&T. It's a virtual clone of T-Mobile's excellent Samsung Gravity 3 ($49.99-179.99, 4 stars), except with more recycled bits. Samsung says the Evergreen is made from recycled plastics, is free of hazardous substances, and comes with a slew of eco-themed apps. It also has packaging made from 80 percent recycled paper with soy ink. As a result, the Evergreen easily qualifies for our GreenTech Approved award. But we're docking it a point because of AT&T's consumer-unfriendly practices with texting phones.
Design and Call Quality
The Evergreen measures 4.6 by 2.2 by 0.6 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.5 ounces. It's made of glossy, somewhat cheap feeling plastic—possibly a consequence of the environmentally friendly manufacturing techniques. Regardless, it's a pretty big phone, with a roomy, four-row QWERTY keyboard and a 2.4-inch, 240-by-320-pixel display. The LCD is bright and colorful, and typing on the keyboard was suitably comfortable for extended periods. I particularly like Samsung's way of using all four rows for letters and punctuation instead of using a row for dedicated number keys, though that's admittedly a personal preference.
The Evergreen is a quad-band EDGE (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) and dual-band HSDPA 3.6 (850/1900 MHz) device with no Wi-Fi. That means it hits 3G data speeds in the US and 2G data speeds overseas. Voice quality was mixed; callers sounded loud and bright in the earpiece, albeit with distortion at higher volume levels. Callers said my voice sounded computery, and some syllables were tough for them to understand. At least the Evergreen hung onto 3G mode even in a rural part of Massachusetts, so it wasn't terrible.
Calls sounded fine through an Aliph Jawbone Icon ($99, 4 stars) Bluetooth headset. The Nuance-powered voice dialing worked perfectly over Bluetooth without training. The speakerphone sounded clear, full, and loud. Battery life was fine at 5 hours and 15 minutes of talk time.
Apps, Messaging, and Bloatware
Navigating the Evergreen's menu system was a pleasure, with super-fast response times. The att.net browser is actually Opera Mini, rebranded; as a result, both WAP and HTML Web pages looked sharp and colorful, and also loaded quickly thanks to the 3G data radio. AT&T Social Net aggregates Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace updates on one screen, and also lets you update your status from the phone. There's also a somewhat redundant Star Tweets app for following celebrities. The TeleNav-powered AT&T Navigator offers voice-enabled, turn-by-turn directions for $10 per month; there's also a 30-day free trial and a $2.99 day pass.
A main problem, though, is the astounding array of bloatware on this phone. It seems no matter where you click, the phone launches some variation of an AT&T-themed portal or monthly fee-based service that you can easily, accidentally opt into. Worse, for reasons that remain unclear, AT&T is requiring a minimum $20 messaging and data plan over your Evergreen's voice plan with the Evergreen. That puts the monthly cost of the Evergreen equal to an Apple iPhone 4 with the $15 data plan and 200 text messages. Accidentally opt in to some of AT&T's useless, extra cost bloatware, and the Evergreen will cost you more per month than any number of more powerful smartphones.
Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions
On the multimedia side, the non-standard microUSB headphone jack was a real disappointment. My 16GB SanDisk microSD card worked fine in the side-mounted slot; there's also 105MB of free internal memory. Music tracks sounded a little too thin and bright over Motorola S9-HD ($129, 3.5 stars) Bluetooth headphones. The music player was responsive and displayed small album art thumbnails. As with some other phones, cuing up multiple tracks caused the first second of each song to be chopped off thanks to Bluetooth power saving circuitry. Standalone, low bit rate 3GP videos played smoothly in full screen mode, but none of my other test videos would play.
The 2-megapixel camera has no auto-focus or flash capability. Test photos were good overall, with fast shutter speeds and surprisingly vibrant color both indoors and out. Some details were smeared, such as tree branches about 100 feet away, and books on a shelf indoors, but the results were generally always acceptable. Recorded 320-by-240-pixel videos were smooth and colorful at 15 frames per second.
AT&T continues to ruin its feature phone lineup with a combination of required monthly fees and bloatware. It's as if the company wants you to avoid phones like the Evergreen. If you can be careful what you click on for the next two years, and you were planning on getting at least a $20-per-month texting or data plan anyway, the Evergreen is a fine choice. Otherwise, we'd strongly recommend springing for a budget-priced smartphone like the Apple iPhone 3GS ($99, 4.5 stars) or the keyboarded Palm Pre Plus ($49.99, 3.5 stars). The iPhone 3GS is a stellar multimedia device that gives you access to over 300,000 third-party apps, while the Palm Pre Plus has a slick interface and a small but very usable hardware QWERTY keyboard.
Continuous talk time: 5 hours 15 minutes