As popular as smartphones may be, there are still customers who want a phone primarily for making calls and sending out text messages. For Cricket customers who want just that, they could opt for the Cricket TXTM8 3G. It has a slate design similar to the MSGM8, but has relatively advanced features like mobile e-mail, a music player, stereo Bluetooth, and, of course, 3G speeds where available. We do think it's hampered by a less than stellar design, but for just $59.99, it's not a bad deal. The Cricket TXTM8 3G is manufactured by ZTE.
Unlike the original TXTM8, the TXTM8 3G has a candy bar design instead of a square slider. This gives it a slim and simple appeal, with straight lines on both sides and slight curves at the top and bottom. It's clad in silver and black, with hints of copper on the front plate. Measuring 4.5 inches long by 2.36 inches wide by 0.55 inch thick, the TXTM8 3G has a rather cheap feel in the hand, as if it were a children's toy instead of a genuine working phone. At the same time, it's lightweight at 3.58 ounces and won't weigh you down.
On the front of the phone is a 2.2-inch display with 262,000 color support and a QVGA 320x240-pixel resolution. The screen appears bright and colorful, with bold graphics and clear text. You can adjust the menu style, the wallpaper and theme color, the clock format, the graphic for incoming calls, the greeting banner, the backlight time, and the display's brightness.
Along the left side of the home screen is a series of widgets that are part of Cricket's MyHomeScreen display. They can act as shortcuts to certain functions like the browser, or as information pop-ups for items such as breaking news headlines, sports scores, or the weather forecast. You can have up to 10 widgets listed, and you can add more via Cricket's widget catalog. Scrolling through the widgets felt rather sluggish and clunky, though.
The navigation array underneath the display consists of two soft keys, a speakerphone key, a Back key, the Send and End/Power keys, and a round navigation toggle with the confirmation key in the middle. Beneath that is a full QWERTY keyboard, with the number keys highlighted in copper orange. There are dedicated shortcut keys for the calendar, the message inbox, and the music player. The keyboard is quite small when compared with most messaging phones, but the keys are raised sufficiently above the surface that we could still type out messages easily.
On the left spine are the volume rocker and Micro-USB charging port, while the headset jack and camera button are on the right. On the back is the camera lens and external speaker.
The Cricket TXTM8 3G 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 organize contacts into caller groups, pair them with a photo for caller ID, and customize contacts with any of six polyphonic ringtones. There's also a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, a calculator, a tip calculator, a schedule, an alarm clock, a world clock, a memo pad, a countdown timer, a stopwatch, and a unit converter. Slightly more advanced features include voice commands, GPS with Cricket Navigator support, stereo Bluetooth, and a wireless Web browser powered by Polaris.
As for messaging features, the TXTM8 3G has the usual text and multimedia messaging as well as mobile e-mail. Messages are displayed as threaded conversations much as in instant messaging. Unfortunately, however, the phone doesn't have an instant-messaging feature. As for mobile e-mail, you'll have to download the free app, as it doesn't come preinstalled. You can set up e-mail from a variety of online providers like Yahoo Mail and Gmail, or you can enter in your ISP's e-mail log-in and password, too.
The TXTM8 3G has pretty basic multimedia options. There's a music player which can play AAC and MP3 file formats, with the usual music player controls like play, pause, and changing tracks. Settings include repeat, shuffle, and mute. You can add songs via a microSD card--the phone supports up to 16GB cards.
The TXTM8 3G has a 2.0-megapixel camera, which can take pictures in four resolutions, three quality settings, five white balance presets, and four color effects. Other settings include a self-timer, brightness, fun frames, and three shutter sounds plus a silent option. Photo quality was on the mediocre side. They were a little grainy for the most part, though colors looked decent. Low-light photos were terrible though, because of the lack of night mode and LED flash. There's a camcorder function for shooting videos as well.
You can customize the phone with a variety of graphics and alert tones. Either use your own or download new ones from the Cricket store. The TXTM8 3G comes with a few apps and games--they include Fifth Grader 2010 and Street Fighter Alpha--and if you want more, you can get them via the Cricket store as well.
We tested the Cricket TXTM8 3G in San Francisco while on the Cricket Wireless roaming network. Call quality was average on the whole. Incoming calls sounded loud and clear, with a bit of static and hiss in the background.
Outgoing calls, however, suffered from quite a bit of crackling and hiss. Callers could still hear us clearly so we could carry on a conversation, but the noise was a little distracting. Despite the static, though, callers said we sounded much louder on speakerphone than not, which is a good thing.
Unfortunately, Cricket doesn't offer 3G roaming in San Francisco for feature phones like the TXTM8 3G, so we couldn't test EV-DO speeds. 1xRTT served us well for the most part though, as we were only surfing on WAP versions of Web sites. The mobile version of CNET took around 30 seconds to load.
It has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 13.75 days standby time. The tested talk time is 5 hours and 34 minutes. According to the FCC, the Cricket TXTM8 3G has a digital SAR of 1.13 watts per kilogram.