written by: Shawn Drew•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 6/1/2011
The new Samsung Suede SCH-R710 available through Cricket Wireless offers the Muve Music feature which is really revolutionary for a mobile device. Will the rest of the phone live up to the promise shown by this feature or will the device fall flat?
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The Samsung Suede is Cricket's coming out party for the new Muve Music service, which has earned raves based on speculation alone. As for the device itself, there are some good aspects to it and some bad, but really this is just a vehicle to test out the new music service. Cricket has made a name by offering dirt-cheap plans and respectable phones, but they now seem to be trying to differentiate themselves by offering low-cost services that could drive a number of users to them. The Samsung Suede isn't meant to blow anyone's socks off. It lacks many of the features of the iPhone or top Android devices, but it was never meant to compete with those devices. The Suede seems to have just enough features to make it viable as a mobile device in today's market, so that Cricket can gauge the market's reaction to their new music service.
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The Samsung Suede has a design similar to almost all the smartphones on the market today, with a large touchscreen dominating the front of the device, with a few dedicated keys underneath the screen. The device measures 4.44 inches tall, 2.19 inches wide and 0.5 inches thick, making it a little smaller than many smartphones, but not so small that it feels strange. The front of the device features a 3-inch capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 240 pixels by 400 pixels. The screen looks pretty good in low light, with images and icons being very sharp, but doesn't hold up too well in sunlight. There are five buttons directly beneath the screen: speakerphone, back, call, end call and a large button dedicated to launching the Muve Music feature. On the sides and across the top you will find a volume rocker, a dedicated camera key, a lock button, 3.5 mm headset jack, and microUSB charging port.
There really isn't anything amazing about the design of the Samsung Suede. It's a fairly standard design, and while it feels good in your hand, it won't be anything you haven't held before. The back of the Suede has a nice-looking black-on-black design, but again it's nothing to write home about. With a screen that's decent and a camera that's below most camera phone specifications these days, at best the Suede's design can be considered average.
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The Suede uses Samsung's TouchWiz 2.0 interface to operate the device. The main menu is a set of two icon screens that you can choose between by running your finger across the screen. The home screen is fairly customizable, letting you add shortcuts to whatever applications you need quick access to. Outside of the four buttons at the bottom, all interfacing with the device is done through the touchscreen. This includes typing on the two touch keyboards, which alternate based on the way you are holding the Suede. The interface itself is fairly intuitive, with most applications and settings in the area you would expect them to be. Overall, the TouchWiz interface on the Samsung Suede isn't all that great, but it won't leave you lost.
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The big deal about the Samsung Suede is the inclusion of the new Muve Music program. This program requires a $55 per month plan, includes unlimited calls, text, web and e-mail, and also includes unlimited music downloads, including ringers and ringback tones. The music is stored on the device, and you will only own it as long as you own the device and continue to pay your bill, although hopefully you will be allowed to keep your songs if you upgrade to another Muve Music device, once more become available. The idea of an all-you-can-eat music service on a phone is a novel one, and it is definitely attracting attention to the relatively small carrier. The actual program itself is a little buggy and has an interface that is not all that intuitive. Song selection is decent, but certainly not all inclusive, although I'm sure as time goes on Cricket will be able to get many more songs in to the program. The overall experience is kind of bleh, although this could be the start of something great, once Cricket irons out the kinks.
Apart from the music service, the rest of the Samsung Suede's features are all fairly standard. The 3.0 MP camera is decent, with easy to use controls, and the camcorder mode works well. There are a host of minor applications, like a calculator and alarm clock, that are all pretty standard for phones these days. Cricket doesn't load their devices with bloatware, thankfully, but there is a Cricket e-mail application. Overall the features are pretty average, but even with the bugs the Muve Music service is a great new service.
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Simply put, outside of call quality, there isn't anything good about the performance of the Samsung Suede. Phone calls sounded excellent, as did the calls while on the speakerphone, but I can't remember the last time a new phone had terrible call quality. This is just one area where manufacturers and carriers have more or less perfected the cell phone. Navigating around the Suede, however, is a different story. The Suede supposedly has an 800 MHz processor, but I can't see how that can be true. The device stalls constantly, even when you are just flipping back and forth between the main screens. Key presses aren't always even recorded, making for a fairly poor experience overall. Battery life was decent, but again that is fairly standard, especially with new batteries.
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The Verdict for the Samsung Suede
There is no doubt about it, the Samsung Suede is a one trick pony. Of course, if the idea of unlimited music downloads on a phone appeals to you, this might be enough to overcome the Suede's other faults, but that's really a personal decision. For most of us, even if the Muve Music program sounds interesting, we'll want to wait until some of the kinks get worked out and the service appears on some stronger devices. Another drawback is that the Muve Music service, and the Suede, are only available in 14 markets. This will certainly change over time, but it is a bit frustrating right now.
Overall, the Samsung Suede doesn't offer much other than a hot new service. If you are enamored with Muve Music, it will probably be enough to make you like the phone. If you aren't, there are plenty of better options on Cricket right now.