There's no doubt that the Muve Music service is the handset's biggest draw, although the Vitality is a fully functioning smartphone in its own right. Like most Android smartphones, with support for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, text, e-mail, GPS, and a wide array of Google apps and services, like Maps, Navigator, Gmail, the HTML browser, and so on.
Another multimedia feature is the 3.2-megapixel camera. It takes photos in four resolutions, from a full 3.2 megapixels down to standard VGA (64x480 pixels). There's a fair amount of settings, such as three focus modes, six scene settings, spot metering, five white-balance settings, a 4x zoom, five color effects, geolocation, and three quality modes. The camera also shoots video in four settings and six color effects. Video length is determined by the available memory, but with a preinstalled microSD card limited to just 1GB storage, there's not much left over.
Like many Android 2.2 and 2.3 Gingerbread phones for prepaid carriers, the Vitality is without hot spot support. The service often costs an additional $30 monthly subscription fee with post-paid carriers, and cost reduction is a major reason that the hot spot is left out here.
In addition to the more than 250,000 apps available in the Android Market, the Vitality comes preloaded with several programs to get you started. Cricket has added its typical carrier apps, including a backup app, Cricket 411, a My Account shortcut, and Cricket-branded browser and e-mail. There's also ThinkFree Office and Poynt, for the practical, and Twitter, Uno (demo), and Midnight Pool 2 (demo) for the lighter times.
We tested the dual-band Samsung Suede (CDMA 850/1900) in San Francisco using Cricket's roaming network (national coverage courtesy of Sprint, thanks to a ).
Call quality was fair, but not stellar, with low volume on both sides. While we did hear some digital distortion on our end, voice quality otherwise sounded fairly clear and natural. Our friends on the other end also noted the low volume and garbling, and added that we sounded a little hollow and echo-y as well.
Samsung Vitality call quality sample
The hollowness and low volume intensified when we switched into speakerphone mode. In a perfectly quiet room with the volume fully raised, we could make out the conversation, but still wanted to increase the volume. We wouldn't feel confident turning on speakerphone in a noisier environment, or setting the phone farther away than waist-level. Low volume was a problem we also noticed on the Samsung Admire, the Vitality's twin, though the call quality wasn't as disappointing.
While it's no dual-core phone, or even steered by a 1GHz processor, the Vitality's 800MHz processor did fine, and the phone felt zippier than the Suede, which shares the same processing capacity. We didn't experience too much lag switching between the Muve Music mode and the Android Gingerbread OS, although there will be some load time. We were also able to swiftly navigate around. The speed with which you're able to download Muve songs and ringtones will depend on your signal strength, since you won't be able to download over Wi-Fi, as mentioned above.
The Vitality has a rated battery life of 6.5 hours of talk time and 10.4 days of standby time. (We're taking that with a grain of salt, since the nearly identical Samsung Admire has a rated battery life of just 3 hours and a standby time of up to 8.3 days, and since the battery seemed to die out quickly during the course of our testing.) According to FCC radiation tests, the Vitality has a digital SAR of 0.53 watt per kilogram.
In the Samsung Vitality, Cricket and Samsung finally bring to market a worthwhile vehicle for Muve Music's compelling monthly music package. To its credit, the Vitality runs the latest version of Android and has a pretty good touch screen. The handset is attractive enough and easy to navigate, and we appreciate both a hardware and a software path for getting into the music mode. Even without Muve, the Vitality can stand on its own merit, although the audio volume and overall call quality left us wanting more, and the proprietary microSD card hogs most of the external storage space.
For about $200 for the hardware and an additional $65 per month, the Vitality with Muve Music is hardly your most budget phone, although it is off-contract, so there's no service obligation. Still, those who wind up using the phone as their primary music listening device are in for a good deal at just $10 a month more than Cricket's usual $55-monthly smartphone rate.