Samsung Suede SCH-R710 (Cricket Wireless) review:

Samsung Suede SCH-R710 (Cricket Wireless)

Cricket also plans to add Web tools to its Muve Music Web site, so you can start manually adding tunes and transfer songs you already own from your computer to the Suede. This wasn't available at the time of the review.

Cricket is also working on a known issue in which Muve won't always work seamlessly outside of the 14 markets in which the Suede is currently available at the time of this review. Cricket hasn't announced plans to pair Muve with any other phones. While it's understandable for Cricket to gauge Muve Music's popularity before pushing out piles of compatible handsets, at the end of the day we wish Samsung had offered up a better flagship device to match such an interesting new service.

Muve Music is obviously the Suede's most compelling feature, but strip that away and you get a decent enough, if unremarkable, midrange feature phone. There's room for 2,000 friends (or frenemies) in the Suede's address book, with fields for multiple phone numbers and e-mail addresses. You can assign a photo ID, a calling group, and a customizable ringtone. Samsung provides 16 of its own plus a silent mode, but you can convert many of the Muve Music songs into ringtones, or sideload your own through a microSD card. Missing from the list are fields for a home address, notes, and a birthday reminder.

The Muve Music service's monthly plan makes for an amped-up music player.

Essential features on the Suede include a calendar, a calculator, an alarm clock, a world clock, a notepad, and a stopwatch. There's also a tip calculator, a timer, and a unit converter. You'll find voice search as well, plus Bluetooth and an accelerometer. Cricket has installed a few of its own apps, as carriers often do. Fortunately, Cricket keeps it modest with a backup app, a My Account shortcut, and Cricket-branded e-mail to complement the handset's texting and multimedia messaging. Should you want for diversions, demos of Bubble Bash 2 and Guitar Rock Tour will get you started. You can shell out for the full versions or buy other games and apps from Cricket's online store.

Most feature phones are only so-so at browsing, and the Suede's Internet connection sure falls into that camp. Widgets help navigate to popular sites from the default Cricket home page (you can change this in the settings) and the browser also supports RSS feeds, bookmarks, and favorites. CNET's Web-optimized site loaded in 13 seconds. The New York Times' mobile site rendered in 7 seconds, but without any images.

Although our studio shot was a bit dark, other photos were decent with the Suede's 3-megapixel camera.

The Suede's 3-megapixel camera was easy to use, thanks in large part to the two columns of touch-screen controls that frame the viewfinder. Pressing them quickly switches between camera and camcorder settings. On the camera, you can easily access four shooting modes, six resolutions (including a convenient preset to create a photo ID), brightness, night mode, and a timer. A separate settings menu conceals options for quality and white balance, plus effects. A convenience button transports you to the photo gallery to review past shots, and helpful onscreen buttons save, delete, or send photos immediately after you shoot. Photos were moderately sharp, and indoor photos captured colors moderately well without the benefit of a flash.

Camcorder settings were similar, except the resolution was lower than that of the camera--that's typical--and there's an equally common setting for restricting the video length for the sake of video messaging. Video quality was also pretty good for this type of camera. There was a little noise, sure, but colors remained strong and the playback was fairly smooth, without jerking or skipping. A 32GB-capable microSD card slot supplements the Suede's 135MB onboard memory.

We tested the 3G-capable Samsung Suede (CDMA 850/1900) in San Francisco using Cricket's roaming network. Call quality was clear and strong, with natural-sounding voices and robust volume levels. We experienced some mild breaking up and distortions during one call, and voice clarity was often slightly muffled, but not enough to impede conversation. On their end, callers agreed that volume and voices were substantial and that the connections were clear. They rated the call quality "good to very good."

Speakerphone also delivered, a pleasant surprise considering that most times this feature is hollow, tinny, and uncomfortable on the ears. Instead, the Suede produced a nicely loud, strong audio magnification devoid of the usual voice distortions. Our callers agreed that it was one of the most natural-sounding speakerphones we've heard.

Samsung Suede call quality sample Listen now:

Although it runs on an 800MHz processor, the Suede feels slow. It takes a moment to swap between the phone and music modes and there's a noticeable delay when typing, turning the phone, and performing other essential tasks.

The Suede has a rated battery life of 5 hours of talk time and 13.75 days of standby time. Our tests revealed a talk time of 5 hours and 36 minutes. FCC radiation tests measured a digital SAR of 0.94 watt per kilogram.

When all is said and done, the Samsung Suede with Muve Music delights and disappoints. The all-you-can-eat music plan is a bright idea, and a useful one. However, we still have a hard time looking past the Suede's cumbersome and outmoded TouchWiz 2.0 interface. What's more, we hope Cricket's software team will streamline the Muve Music OS to make it easier to use, expand the service to other handsets, and get its house in order so that all its supporting products and services are immediately available to the Suede's customers.

That said, Muve is a compelling service that's priced right and offers a full basket of features to its target audience, young audiophiles who may wind up using the phone as their primary source for tunes. At $55 per month, Muve Music is just $10 per month pricier than a regular unlimited plan. The handset itself costs $199 without a contract, but it's available for a limited time for $99 after in-store and mail-in rebates. The Suede is currently available in 14 of Cricket's markets, with more cities on the horizon.

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