ZTE Chorus (Cricket Wireless) review: ZTE Chorus (Cricket Wireless)


Cricket Wireless hopes to attract music lovers with its Muve Music feature.

The idea to integrate a phone with a music service is a neat idea, but during my time with the feature, I felt as if Muve Music was in some sort of beta stage. Getting music only works when you're connected to Cricket's 3G network, which was spotty in San Francisco. The good thing though, is that when you're not connected to 3G or even on a Wi-Fi network, you can listen to the music you already loaded.

Furthermore, you can't access the music you have on any other device, so it's pretty much stuck in your phone. And once you stop paying your phone bill, access to your songs will also stop. With all this in mind, it's best to think of Muve like a music rental service than anything else.

This passing sense of ownership over these songs wasn't my main issue with this, however. Instead, it was the horrible user interface. Menu items were confusing, and the constant clicking I had to go through (again, on an unresponsive screen) just to download and then play one song was cumbersome. Also, it was unclear at first when a song or album finished downloading, as there is no progress bar. I only started realizing when something was ready for playing when the song title's text appeared in white instead of gray. Talk about subtle.

Pausing a song also presented issues. For a while, I had to go through numerous menu items just to return to a song that was playing and pause it because there is no designated shortcut "now playing" sort of option. It took me a while to figure out, but I learned that if you to hold down the menu key on the left for a couple of seconds and wait for it to get back into the Muve Music menu, you can select the Music Player icon in the center to get to the song and then pause it. In the end, I still thought that that required one too many steps, and it isn't intuitive.

The 2.0-megapixel camera features a few photo options. It can digitally zoom up to 4x, has five white balance options (auto, incandescent, daylight, fluorescent, and cloudy), photo size and quality adjustments, and color effect menu items that include none, mono, sepia, and negative. You also can change the saturation level of the camera across five different levels.

The video camera includes the same color effects, a white balance meter, and a choice between shooting in high or low quality. If you choose to shoot in high quality, a video recording can last up 30 minutes. If you decide to shoot something in low quality, you can only record for a maximum of 10 seconds.

Performance
I tested the tri-band (CDMA 850/1700/1900) ZTE Chorus in San Francisco using Cricket Wireless' services and the call quality was good. When I used the device indoors and outdoors, voices sounded clear and there was no extraneous buzzing in the background. It was reported to me that I also sounded crisp both in-ear and through the speakerphone, and there was no noise pollution. My voice came off as easy to hear.

ZTE Chorus call quality sample Listen now:

Unlike the ZTE Score, the Chorus features SRS WOW HD technology for higher-quality audio playback. I definitely had to give props to the device for this aspect--the output sound and volume was great, especially when playing music from Muve. When I listened to songs with my Klipsche s4 earbuds, they sounded full and the bass was rich. If you flip the phone over and play music from the speakers on the back, the sound was superb too--it was loud, clear, and didn't sound tinny at all.

For a 2-megapixel camera, the photo quality was adequate enough. Pictures taken outdoors and in the sun were easy to make out, but objects did appear blurry and colors appeared paler and bled together. The colors for indoor shots were not as vibrant as they looked in real life, and photos were grainy and smudged.


In this outdoor picture, you can see how colors blended into one another.


This shot of our CNET lobby featured some pretty washed-out lighting.


In our indoor test shot, colors were not as vibrant and appeared grainy.

Unfortunately, the camera lagged a lot. After pressing the shutter button, I'd have to stand very still for a few seconds until I heard the shutter sound go off. If I moved at all in between those few seconds, the picture would have motion blur.

The quality of the videos was also subpar, as expected. Recordings were pixelated and grainy, and although the sound playback was loud, the voices that were recorded came off muffled. Feedback lagged significantly behind my moving of the camera. Since there was no focusing feature, windows were washed out, and it was hard to distinguish dark or black objects.

Browsing the Web on Cricket Wireless' 3G network isn't the fastest thing on Earth, but I found typing in URLs with the unresponsive keyboard to be more frustrating than the speed of the browser. Loading the CNET mobile site, for example, took an average of 40 seconds, while loading our full site took 56 seconds. The New York Times' full site took shorter on average, clocking in at 53 seconds, and its mobile site took only 23 seconds to load. ESPN's mobile site took 18 seconds, and its full site loaded in 52 seconds.

Using the phone's battery doesn't take a lot of time; its reported talk time is a mere 250 minutes. During our battery drain tests, the phone lasted about 50 minutes shy of that, at 3.35 hours. I couldn't go a full day downloading songs, making calls, or playing games, with at least one charge to bump up the battery. According to FCC radiation tests, the ZTE Chorus has a digital SAR rating of 1.29W/kg.

Conclusion
The ZTE Chorus is perfect for anyone who isn't interested in a smartphone and just wants to make calls. For music lovers, Muve Music also lends itself toward the Chorus' favor--sound quality both through the headphone jack and the speakers is superb and rich. Plus, for $49.99 and unlimited music downloads, this is a great deal. Unfortunately, the touch screen gets extremely frustrating, especially when it comes to texting or entering numbers. And on the days when you might want a smartphone to browse the Web or look up directions, you can't count on the device to do those kinds of things quickly.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Talk Time Up to 240 min
  • Combined with With digital camera / digital player
  • Service Provider Cricket Wireless
  • Weight 3.7 oz
  • Diagonal Size 3.2 in
  • Technology CDMA
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