Just like its nationwide brethren, regional carrier Cricket Communications has added a number of messaging phones to its stable this year. They include the Cricket TXTM8, the Motorola Hint QA30, and last but not least, the Cricket MSGM8. While both the Hint and the TXTM8 are slider phones, the MSGM8 has a simple slate design with features to match. It's not a high-end phone by any means, but if all you want is a basic texting phone with a camera, the MSGM8 is not bad. The Cricket MSGM8 is available for $119.99 without a contract.
The MSGM8 reminds us a lot of other candy-bar messaging phones like the Pantech Slate and the Sanyo SCP-2700. Measuring 4.2 inches long by 2.3 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick, the MSGM8 has a very simple straightforward design with straight lines and rounded corners, plus it's only available in black. It is clad in a soft touch plastic material and is comfortable to hold in the hand. It's also quite lightweight at 3.7 ounces.
The 2.2-inch display is quite colorful with support for 262,000 colors and the text is large enough to be legible. However, it only has 220x176-pixel resolution, which results in rather blocky images and a lackluster look overall. You can change the menu style, the clock format, the brightness, the backlight time, and the image that appears whenever there's an incoming call. Like most Cricket phones, there is a series of widgets along the left side of the screen. You can add more by accessing Cricket's widget catalog.
Underneath the display is the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a square toggle with a middle select key, a Talk key, a Speakerphone key, a Back key, and the End/Power key. We found the two soft keys to be a little skinny for our tastes, and the rest of the keys felt quite flat and squishy. The QWERTY keyboard beneath feels cramped as well, but at least the keys are all raised above the surface for easy texting. The keyboard also has a dedicated text messaging key and a dedicated calendar key. The number keys are marked in red.
On the left spine are the charger jack, the 2.5mm headset jack, and a jog dial, while the camera key is on the right. On the back is the camera lens.
The Cricket MSGM8 has a 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for five numbers, an e-mail address, a birthday, and a memo. You can place them into caller groups; pair them with a photo, or one of six polyphonic ringtones. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, a schedule, an alarm clock, a memo pad, a world clock, a tip calculator, a stop watch, and a unit converter. Advanced features include voice command, e-mail, a voice recorder, a wireless Web browser, and Bluetooth.
The MSGM8 has a 1.3-megapixel camera that can take pictures in four resolutions (1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120) and three quality settings. Other settings include a self-timer, mirror view mode, five white balance presets, four image color effects, nine fun frames, and three shutter sounds plus a silent option. Photo quality was quite disappointing. Even though colors looked good, images looked blurry and weren't as bright as we would like.
You can personalize the phone with a variety of wallpaper, screensavers, and alert tones, and you can get more Cricket's online store. The MSGM8 also comes with a few games like Where's Waldo and Super Street Fighter 2, and you can also get more of those from the Cricket store.
We tested the Cricket MSGM8 in San Francisco using Cricket's roaming service because the Bay Area is not part of Cricket's home coverage. Call quality was quite good on the whole despite some voice quality issues. We heard our callers loud and clear, but there was a little bit of static and warble at times.
On their end, callers also heard us clearly, but they did say our voice sounded quite mechanical and not as natural as they would like. It was worse with the speakerphone on, since it adds a heavy echo effect to our voice. For us, we heard our callers fine with the speakerphone, though it does sound a little tinny.
The Cricket MSGM8 has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 10 days of standby time. Our tests revealed a talk time of 4 hours and 18 minutes. According to the FCC, the MSGM8 has a digital SAR of 1.27 watts per kilogram.