Editors' note: Portions of this review are taken from the Samsung Admire for MetroPCS, which is a nearly identical handset.
Last January, Cricket Wireless' bold leap withbrought Cricket customers music downloads, ringtones, ringback tones, and other music tools, along with the prepaid carrier's all-inclusive talk, text, and Internet plan. The experimental plan was great in theory, but it debuted on the chunky and unremarkable , and ran into .
All that makes the second Muve Music phone a welcome sight. The Samsung Vitality, which sports Android 2.3 Gingerbread, is the first of Cricket's Muve Music smartphones. Although the Suede was an original design that included a dedicated Muve Music hardware button on its face, here Cricket and Samsung repurposed the Samsung Admire, originally for MetroPCS, by turning the camera button on the phone's right spine into a convenience key that launches the Muve Music interface.
At this stage in the Muve Music story, Cricket sorely needed to introduce a competitive Android device to entice new customers to its music plan. The Samsung Vitality isn't flawless by any means, but it is worthy of Muve's package deal. The Samsung Vitality costs $199.99 with an instant $20 rebate, but without a contract. Cricket's Muve Music plan for Android phones costs $65 per month for unlimited access to music, talk, text, and Internet.
The Vitality is an almost identical rebrand of the Samsung Admire for MetroPCS. It has a fairly typical smartphone design with rounded ends; it isn't nearly as rectangular as many of today's Android handsets and there's a ribbed texture around the edges that adds some visual and tactile interest. At 4.6 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick, the Vitality fits easily into a pocket. It's a tad heavier than it looks at 4.14 ounces, but it won't weigh you down. The plastic skin doesn't feel entirely sturdy, so we'd take care not to drop it repeatedly on a hard surface.
The 3.5-inch HVGA screen takes up most of the front of the phone. Though its resolution is pretty average, it's still bright with vivid colors and sharp graphics. You get five home screens, which you can customize in usual Android fashion with shortcut icons, widgets, and folders. Of course, you get the Google search bar, but we're disappointed that the stock-Android Vitality doesn't offer a shortcut on the home screen for turning on features like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Fortunately, the phone runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which offers a number of usability upgrades. Read our Samsung Nexus S review for a full analysis of Gingerbread.
The virtual keyboard counts Swype as an option, though you don't have to use it. The default keyboard is about the same as on other Android phones, though it may feel a bit cramped if you're accustomed to using a phone with a larger display. Because there are only four rows of keys, each letter shares space with either a number or a punctuation mark. Alternatively, there's a second keyboard for just numbers and symbols. The dial pad has a standard design as well, and both had a responsive and accurate touch interface.
Below the display are four raised physical keys for the menu, back, home, and search. The accessible volume rocker sits on the left spine above the microSD card slot, and the power control and dedicated Muve Music button sit on the right spine (you can also access Muve from a shortcut icon on the Vitality's home screen). On the bottom of the phone is the Micro-USB port, which is used for both the charger and a USB cable. We were glad to see a standard 3.5mm headset jack up top. On the back of the phone are the camera lens for the 3.2-megapixel camera and a small speaker.
The music features and platform are unchanged from the Samsung Suede. We encourage you to read our . In addition to understanding the phone's music features and tools--including the music download storefront, the MyDJ radio app, and Shazam music ID--it's essential to know that Muve won't let you download music over Wi-Fi, only over the phone's data connection (you'll still be able to play downloaded music, however). Toggling back and forth in order to download new songs and ringtones isn't as convenient as we'd like.
Most importantly, Cricket isn't selling you songs with Muve; it's renting you access to digital files. So long as you pay your monthly bill, you can use all the phone's functions, from texting to playing tunes. Skip a payment, and suspend your head-bopping, too. In addition, the microSD card holds the tracks, but the music files aren't transferable to any other device. Muve Music takes up 3GB of the 4GB that come with the preinstalled card (there's room for about 3,000 Muve Music downloads), but you can purchase a Muve Music card with 8GB total storage if you'd like 2GB of storage for your own discretion, like photos and videos. Without the Muve-formatted microSD card, Muve won't work.
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.