As previously mentioned, the Score M comes preloaded with Rhapsody's music subscription service. You can search and download thousands of albums and artists on major U.S. record labels. Despite the fact that you can't play songs offline unless you add it onto a playlist, the service is pretty neat compared with Muve Music. Its UI is intuitive, songs downloaded without any hiccups and played continuously. Most importantly, audio playback was solid. When I plugged in my headphones, music sounded rich and full of depth. Songs played on speakerphone weren't as clear as in-ear, however. The bass wasn't as rich and instruments bled together, but the volume was still loud and ample.
The 3.2-megapixel camera features a few photo options. It can digitally zoom up to 4x and has five white-balance options (auto, incandescent, daylight, fluorescent, and cloudy); a brightness meter; 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 various levels of quality. If you choose to shoot in high quality, a video recording can last up 30 minutes. If you decide to shoot something to send over MMS, you can only record for a maximum of 10 seconds. You can also record a low-quality recording for 30 minutes, or a high-quality video optimized for YouTube for 10 minutes.
I tested the tri-band (CDMA 850/1700/1900) ZTE Score M in San Francisco using MetroPCS' services. Although the call quality was good and there was no extraneous buzzing, voices sounded muffled on my end. To compensate for the stifled sounds, I cranked up the volume and found that its max volume level could have been louder. As for the receiving end, my friend told me that I sounded extremely tinny and that my voice sounded so harsh at times that it "hurt her ear." The others I talked to said that although I did sound too sharp at times, it wasn't too intolerable.
Listen now: ZTE Score M call quality sample
The photo quality of this handset was adequate enough. For pictures taken outdoors and in the sun, photos weren't "blurry" per se -- however, colors did bleed into one another. Especially after viewing them on a computer, some photos looked almost like paintings that were drawn with broad brush strokes. Indoor shots looked a little grainy and colors were not as vibrant as they appeared in real life, but objects were not impossible to make out.
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 be very fuzzy.
The quality of the videos was subpar. Recordings were pixelated and grainy, and voices sounded 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.
MetroPCS' network isn't the most robust network, and a few of general speed tests show that. Although it occasionally runs on EV-DO 3G technology, most of the time the device went down to 1X. Loading the CNET mobile site, for example, took an average of 20 seconds; loading the full site took 2 minutes and 35 seconds. The New York Times' full site took slightly shorter on average, clocking in at 2 minutes and 16 seconds, and its mobile site took 19 seconds to load. ESPN's mobile site took 1 minute and 4 seconds, and its full site loaded in a minute and a half. Ookla's Speedtest app showed me an average of 0.09Mbps down and 0.05Mbps up.
During our battery drain tests the phone lasted 6.43 hours. Anecdotally, the battery performed pretty long. After a day downloading a bunch of songs, making calls, and watching videos, the device still held onto about a third of its battery. Charging up didn't take long, either. Plugging it in for 10 to 15 minutes gave me a third of the battery life back. According to FCC radiation tests, the ZTE Score M has a digital SAR rating of 1.45W/kg.
The ZTE Score M on MetroPCS is better than the model on Cricket's network, but only slightly. Its touch screen is more responsive, the network isn't as spotty as Cricket's, and the extra 300mAh of battery power doesn't hurt. Then again, when you don't have a lot to begin with, these small improvements won't mean anything much. The handset is still slow and its narrow viewing angle makes it hard to handle unless it's directly facing you. If you're looking for a reliable device from MetroPCS, it'd be best to save an extra 100 bucks and get the instead.