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Best Buy intros ZTE Score, Chorus for Cricket

Cricket Wireless will work in concert with Best Buy to bring two new Muve Music phones to market: the Android-based ZTE Score and the simpler ZTE Chorus.

ZTE Score
ZTE Score with Muve Music
Cricket Wireless

Cricket Wireless isn't wasting any more time turning up the volume on its Muve Music service, which adds all-you-can-eat music downloads to its talk, text, and data plan rates.

Almost two weeks after introducing the Samsung Vitality, its first Muve Music smartphone, Cricket is announcing the launch its second Android act, the ZTE Score. But this time Cricket won't be orchestrating the sales; Best Buy will.

In an effort to acquaint a greater audience to the Cricket brand, the prepaid carrier has partnered with national retailer Best Buy to exclusively sell the ZTE Score later this month, as well as a medley of other handsets.

The ZTE Score, which will not be available in Cricket's own stores, is an entry-level Android smartphone that will cost $129.99 at Best Buy. Cricket isn't sharing many more details just yet; however, it's apparent that the Score (pictured) runs a variation of Android that has five home pages by default and a stylized skin.

Best Buy will also be the first to sell the ZTE Chorus, a $99.99 feature phone. The Samsung Vitality smartphone ($199.99), which is also available in Cricket's retail stores, rounds out Best Buy's three Muve Music offerings. The Vitality and Score smartphones will have $55 unlimited text and Web plans attached to them, while the Chorus will cost $45 a month. Each plan tops out at 1,000 nationwide minutes per month.

In addition to the Muve trio, Best Buy will also conduct sales for the simpler Huawei Pillar texting phone ($69.99) and the Samsung Chrono ($39.99), a basic flip-phone we first saw for U.S. Cellular. Both phones are available for a $25-per-month plan that includes 300 minutes of domestic calls plus unlimited messaging and Web surfing, or the $35 monthly plan that includes 1,000 calling minutes along with the unlimited data perks.

Both the Vitality and Score will begin going on sale in Best Buy on Sunday, September 25, with the Chorus to follow.

Cricket's push with Best Buy, starting with a presence in 1,300 stores, is part of a larger thrust to band together with other national retailers like Wal-Mart and Dollar General. The partnerships, combined with an MVNO agreement with Sprint to fill in Cricket's coverage gaps, are meant to drum up support for Cricket's network and phones. An important result of Cricket's dependence on Sprint's network to distribute these phones, rather than its own home network, is differential pricing. Handsets may cost a hair less through Best Buy, but gone are the unlimited voice minutes.

As for Muve Music, Cricket isn't shy about singing its own praises. "With the launch of the Vitality phone, we have begun the process of moving...to some really solid, Android-based smartphones," said Doug Hutcheson, president and CEO of Cricket's parent, Leap Wireless, in a recent phone interview. "The download volume has been outstanding. [Customers] listen to the product over three hours a day."

Although Best Buy will exclusively sell the Muve Music-enabled ZTE Score and Chorus for now, it's a good bet that we'll see them come to Cricket's home network--5.7 million customers in 35 states--as an encore.