Hands-On: Cricket Muve Music on the Samsung Suede
Jan 7, 2011, 8:03 PM by Philip Berne
Cricket gave us an extensive walkthrough of the carrier's new over-the-air music download service, Cricket Muve. The subscription service is available now on the new Samsung Suede.
Cricket has stepped into the music download ring, and the carrier has come out of its corner swinging. Though the service might generate comparisons to existing music plans, it borrows from almost every other smartphone music idea and isn't exactly like any of them.
The Muve service is an over-the-air download service. You pay for a monthly subscription, just like you pay for the Rhapsody service that Verizon Wireless uses. But Verizon Wireless either requires you to download tunes on your computer, or you can pay through the nose to download individual tracks on your phone. Microsoft's Zune Pass on its Windows Phone 7 devices also gives you a monthly subscription, but you need to use the Zune software on a Windows PC to take full advantage of Zune.
Muve, on the other hand, is not only part of your monthly plan, it's part of the most reasonably priced monthly plan on the market. Cricket is offering unlimited voice, data and messaging for $55 per month.
That would be remarkable by itself even without the Muve service, but Muve comes as a free add-on if you have the right phone. For now, only the new Samsung Suede works with the service, but Cricket reps said they expect to launch Muve-enabled Android devices in the future.
Cricket gave us a thorough walkthrough of the Muve service and its key features, and you can check out our video below. But here are the basics.
First, the tracks are encoded as AAC enhanced files. They are compressed at 32 Kbps, which is extreme compression. Apple's AAC tracks are usually 160 Kbps. Verizon offers tracks that are 64 Kbps, but they sound lousy and obviously meant for portable listening.
I listened to Muve tracks using my own Shure SE420 headphones, a high-end set of earbuds, and I was very impressed with the sound. It wasn't as great as a high-bitrate recording, but it was on par with downloads in the 128 Kbps range.
That low bitrate means you can store the same number of tracks in 1/4 the space, or less. It also means that songs that would weigh in at 5 MB on iTunes will only take up 1 MB on Muve. So, when you go to download a song, it will download up to 5 times faster on Muve than on iTunes, because you are downloading a much smaller file over Cricket's 3G network. You could easily download an entire song in about 8 seconds.
Muve also offers some impressive sharing capabilities. You can see what your friends are listening to, or other Muve users in the area. If you want to recommend a song to another Muve user, you can send a text message with a special link to download the song on their phone.
I was very impressed by the Muve interface. It isn't as polished or complicated as iTunes or Amazon MP3, but instead it's simple and effective, without looking plain. It is leaps and bounds better than the horrible Verizon Wireless V Cast Music Store that The Network has been using for ages.
Of course, there are some restrictions. Besides only working on the Samsung Suede at the moment, the Muve service will only work on proprietary microSD cards from SanDisk. You can't pop in any old microSD card to store music, you have to buy a specially branded Muve card from Cricket. The Samsung Suede comes bundled with a card that offers 3GB of music storage space.
Overall, though, between the pricing, the interface design and the innovative extra features, I think Cricket has a winner on its hands with Muve Music.