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printed October 20, 2014
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Review: Cricket MSGM8 II

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The menus on the Cricket MSGM8 II are the standard cheap carrier phone fare, with a few extras thrown in that don't quite deliver. The homescreen features Cricket's MyHomeScreen ferris wheel of widgets. To check the weather or read your horoscope, you scroll down to that widget and press the 4-way button. This seems like a perfect job for the rocker switch on the side, but that switch controls only volume on the home screen. The MyHomeScreen wheel moves very slowly. Think 'romantic carnival ride' more than 'Price Is Right showdown spinoff'. When it takes a few seconds to select the widget to read my stock quote, that's hardly a shortcut. Worst of all, though, is that the widget selection is highly limited. There are a scant 10 to choose from, which is odd because there are 12 widget slots that you can customize. You can customize the weather widget or the sports scores, but there are no social widgets for popular social networks.

The main menu screen is a three by three icon grid. You can also arrange the menu as a series of tabs with a big icon up top, or as a list of menu choices. In all cases, the organization is the same, and it falls into the usual phone menu trap, which is menus that lead to more menus. It's easy to find menus with only one option, or only one that's useful. You can't customize the menu items, but at least Cricket doesn't waste any on pay stores and services.

Even pressing the shortcut keys take you to menus, not actual actions. Press the messaging shortcut on the keyboard and you get the Messages menu. Press the camera button on the side and you get the multimedia menu, where the only interesting choice is the camera. The only shortcut that is truly proactive is the Web browser. Press left on the 4-way button and the Web browser opens right away. That's too bad, because this phone will be popular among buyers who want to skip the data plan. It's too bad you can't customize the right and left d-pad shortcuts (up and down controls the MyHomeScreen widget bar).

Navigating the interface, I found a problem with the keyboard. It can be inconsistent about the behavior of the shift and Fn keys. Sometimes, you press shift and get a single capital letter. Sometimes you get CAPS LOCK. Sometimes you're toggling sentence case. The same happens with the Fn key. Often, the phone doesn't show you what mode you're in, which makes it difficult to enter passwords.

 

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