Review: Cricket MSGM8 II
In terms of the hardware design, the Cricket MSGM8 II is an odd mix of parts that feel cheap and parts that have a quality feel. The phone is not large, but it's thick and a bit bulky. It's comfortable to hold with its extra girth, but its light weight combined with the extra shiny metal and plastic bits make the phone feel cheap. That's fine, since the phone is launching for $60 with no contract agreement, and otherwise the build quality seems solid. The phone has a nice soft touch finish paint job on the back. The buttons all seem solid and the port covers for the miniUSB and 2.5mm headphone port feel sturdy enough to last more than a few months. The phone has no expandable memory, so there's no microSD card slot to find.
The phone has a full QWERTY keyboard up front beneath a 2.2-inch screen. In between, there's a set of navigation buttons. You get a 4-way button, two soft keys, Send and End buttons as well as Back and a dedicated speakerphone / voice dialing button. It's a fine assortment, I especially like having a voice dialing shortcut key. The soft keys have plastic decorative accents that extend downward and get in the way when you're trying to feel the buttons by touch.
Instead of a volume rocker, the phone gets a spring loaded switch that you can flick up or down, and press to click. It would be a nice addition if the phone interface was designed around fast up and down movements the switch can make. Instead, the main menu screen is a grid, better for the 4-way button, and the switch doesn't work on some of the other interface features. It acts as a volume key, instead.
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I wasn't a fan of the QWERTY keyboard. It's narrow, which made typing difficult, but even worse were the smooth letter keys. Each is raised in a dome, but they all sit flush with each other, so even with the slightly raised shape it was difficult to feel the keys apart. The space bar is also tiny, and pushed to the right to make room for punctuation keys. There are a few shortcut keys on the keyboard. You can jump directly into the Messages menu, or you can jump to the calendar. The period and comma get their own keys, as do the @ symbol and the "/", though I would have sacrificed the latter for a ".com" key, or maybe a smilies menu.
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