Cricket Wireless has one word to describe the inaugural year of its Muve Music rate plan for wireless customers: success.
What's more, the carrier signed on more than 500,000 Muve Music unique customers, or about 10 percent of its almost 6-million-person customer base (including broadband customers), and attributes much of its growth to luring in new subscribers interested in the unlimited voice, texting, Web, and music download service.
Cricket also implemented a national rollout plan in October, and now sells its Muve Music-eligible phones through Best Buy, Amazon, Wal-Mart, and the Home Shopping Network.
Overall, it counted 500 million songs downloaded by Muve Music users in total from its catalog of a "few million tracks," each customer listening to about 40 hours of music per month. By Cricket's own calculations, it also considers itself the second-largest digital music subscription service, behind Rhapsody.
So if the Muve Music plan is such a grand slam, why isn't it commanding more headlines? There are a few reasons. First, Cricket has situated itself in the prepaid market, which rarely grabs the spotlight. (However, Cricket has splashed out more to market Muve, which has evidently paid off.)
Second, while the music service is still unchallenged in the U.S., the phones themselves are typically more-modest entry-level and midrange devices that don't generate much excitement among most gadget geeks. While the company pushed out the Samsung Vitality, ZTE Score, and ZTE Chorus Android phones in fairly quick succession, Cricket doesn't expect its first Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich phone until "some point in 2012."
A third reason Cricket usually flies below the radar is geographical. While Cricket's partnership with national retailers is growing, its native foot print--the one with all the brick-and-mortar stores--is still limited, with retail shops in parts of 35 states.
Still, if Cricket's growth spurt continues into 2012, I wouldn't be surprised to hear if other carriers begin nosing around for a behind-the-scenes partnership or investigate a similar all-in-one model. The same goes for Cricket's Muve Music plan extending beyond Android smartphones into other operating systems, like Windows Phone or BlackBerry OS.
The wireless provider's senior vice president of Muve Music, Jeff Toig, admitted that picking up another smartphone OS is "something that we've discussed, but right now we're putting all of our developer efforts on Android."
So while some may scoff at the 500,000 new recruits to the pricier of Cricket's monthly rate plans--after all, Verizon added more than 800,000 subscribers last quarter alone--Cricket is walking proud.
"Being able to penetrate 10 percent of a customer's base...is a very big deal," Cricket's Toig told CNET. "In wireless, you don't see many of those success stories."