ZTE Chorus (Cricket Wireless) review: ZTE Chorus (Cricket Wireless)

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MSRP: $79.99

The Good With Muve Music, the ZTE Chorus has great sound quality both through the headphone jack and the output speakers. It also makes decent calls.

The Bad The Chorus' resistant touch screen is hair-pullingly frustrating. The UI of Muve Music is cumbersome, and the phone is a little bulky.

The Bottom Line If you have no interest in smartphones but want an audio player with unlimited song downloads, the budget-friendly Chorus delivers great song and call quality, but its display is extremely unresponsive.

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5.7 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 6
  • Performance 5

Editors' note: Portions about Muve Music and the camera speed in this review are taken from our review of the ZTE Score for Cricket.

Along with the ZTE Score, the ZTE Chorus is another phone from Cricket Wireless that features the music service called Muve Music. Users of this device can search and download an unlimited number of songs and albums from thousands of different artists.

Unlike the Score, however, the Chorus isn't quite a smartphone. Although it sports a familiar Android Gingerbread UI and has a touch screen (and a very unresponsive one at that), you can't check your mail, look at a map, or even download apps from the Android marketplace. The only thing you can do on Cricket's 3G network is browse the Web, play some games, and of course, download music.

For people who don't need all those fancy features, but still want access to music, the Chorus is worth considering.

Although the ZTE Chorus is 0.6 inch thick, it has a very lightweight feel and weighs only 3.7 ounces. Back in the day when smartphones weren't the norm and candy bars were ubiquitous, this device might not have been considered "bulky." But now that phones are as thin as razors (or Razrs?), slipping this guy into a pocket gets cumbersome. The good news is that at 4.4 inches tall and 2.2 inches wide, however, holding it in your hand is comfortable.

All around the edges of the black handset is a thin, shiny chrome finish. To the lower left side of the phone is the Micro-USB port where you can charge your phone. It's protected by a little door for an added layer against the elements. Above that is the volume rocker, which bumps out just enough for easier tactility. At the top of the phone in the dead center, is the 3.5mm headphone jack. Next to that, on the right-hand corner, is something I haven't seen in years: two little holes you can slip a phone charm or lanyard through. On the right side of the phone there is the sleep/power-off button.

The side of the phone is thicker than most phones of today, and it sports a silver edge.

The device has a 3.2-inch WQVGA TFT display with a resistive touch screen. If you don't know what "resistive" means in this context, you can probably guess it isn't good. Although I won't go into the technical details, it essentially means you'll have to press extra hard to access anything on the touch screen. And you can just forget about fast and easy texting--I had to use the tip of my pinky nail to type in a phone number, and even then it wasn't so accurate. By the time I entered in the contact info of the person I wanted to text, I was already too exhausted to write a message. It was one of the most frustrating things about this phone.

Otherwise, I had no qualms about the screen. It can display 262 thousand colors, and although videos and graphics looked a little grainy and pixelated (as expected), I thought the crisp appearance of the icons and menu items, plus the brightness of the display, prevented the Chorus from looking outdated or low-quality. Sure it isn't a smartphone with the latest LCD, Nova, or AMOLED screen, but I thought the slight graininess wasn't overly distracting or unattractive given the class of this device.

Above the display are the Cricket logo and a thin opening for an output speaker. Below is one physical shortcut button with a music note on it that accesses Muve Music. On either side of the circle are two touch-sensitive spots that do double duty. The left area is your menu and speakerphone key and the right is your home and back button. Both spots dimly light up in white when the display is on.

The back of the phone is plastic and has a glossy finish, so it does feel and look a little cheap. It traps fingerprints and oils easily, and it also sports a slight glitter pattern that doesn't help it any. Thankfully, this unfortunate speckle is extremely subtle--I only saw it after I held the device under a lamp.

If you look carefully, you can see the shiny freckles on the back of the phone.

At the upper left, you'll see the camera lens indented into a nice teardrop design. There are also two groups of grid lines that look like four tally marks on the back, which expose two additional rear speakers. The back easily pops out when you use your finger to push in a small notch on the bottom left-hand corner. When removed, the 1,000mAh lithium ion battery is exposed. It's a little difficult to remove the battery, but when you do, you'll gain access to the included 4GB microSD card underneath. Three of those gigabytes are dedicated specifically for storing your Muve Music.

The ZTE Chorus has 600MHz of processing power and runs on Cricket Wireless' 3G network. It comes with some basic functions that you'd expect on any device, smartphone or not. These include texting, Bluetooth, voice recording, a calendar, a calculator, a clock (that has an alarm, stopwatch, and timer feature), and a music player that's separate from Muve Music.

It also has features that you would expect on a smartphone, such as a mobile Web browser, a Documents To Go app for viewing Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files on your device, and a My Account app where you can manage your phone bill. There's also a Games and Apps icon that you can press to buy games, two of which are already included: Uno and Block Breaker 3 Unlimited. The latter is a basic ball and brick game set to electronic dance music that likes to unmute itself whenever possible, despite my efforts to lower the volume.

This phone isn't a Google Android phone per se, although the design of the user interface looks like it was lifted from its source code. With that in mind, you won't find any standard Google apps, like Gmail, Maps, or YouTube. There isn't even an Android marketplace. Instead, there's Storefront by Cricket. Here you can buy desktop pictures ridiculously priced at $1.99, and Applications. For the large part, the apps in the store are just games (Tetris, Bubble Bash 2, Solitaire, etc.). I also spotted the "Fast Five" movie available for purchase, but as for task-managing apps and the like, there aren't any.

As mentioned, the Score's biggest selling point is the Muve Music service. Developed by Cricket, Muve Music lets users download an unlimited amount of music onto your device. The app comes with a My DJ feature, which gives you access to premade playlists organized by musical genres, and Shazam, the popular music searching app. There's also the obligatory social networking feature called Get Social, where you can set up your user profile, search for friends, and keep track of your Shout Outs, where you post songs you're listening to for public viewing. For a more in-depth rundown of Muve Music, be sure to read CNET's review.

Cricket Wireless hopes to attract music lovers with its Muve Music feature.

The idea to integrate a phone with a music service is a neat idea, but during my time with the feature, I felt as if Muve Music was in some sort of beta stage. Getting music only works when you're connected to Cricket's 3G network, which was spotty in San Francisco. The good thing though, is that when you're not connected to 3G or even on a Wi-Fi network, you can listen to the music you already loaded.

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