In a world where unlimited data plans are not quite so unlimited, it’s worth it to take a look outside the big providers.
Discount wireless provider Cricket, ranked as the seventh largest wireless company in the country with 5.8 million customers, offers unlimited phone plans without contracts, and its products can be found in retail chains, such as Best Buy and Dollar General. One feature it’s been boasting is Muve Music, a music service developed for mobile phones, that includes ringback tones (everyone has those obnoxious friends who decide to express themselves via their favorite songs when you call instead of the oh-so-boring conventional ring-ring) as well as music on demand. Cricket announced Monday morning that Muve Music passed its 500,000 customer mark within a year of launch.
Greg Lund, the manager of corporate communications at Cricket Wireless, told me that since Muve launched back in December 2010, the service has taken off, especially since Cricket’s user base is young, diverse and scales lower socioeconomically. Many, without credit cards, aren’t able to purchase tracks from iTunes, so Cricket decided to create an unlimited, text, talk — and now music — plan for $55 a month. The service has a base of almost 300,000 customers who can download music from Sony Universal, Warner, EMI and other labels directly to their phones. As part of their agreements, the labels provide music solely to phones, so there’s no way to transfer songs from that Samsung Vitality to your computer. SanDisk even worked to create a proprietary card that can hold 3,000 songs but can only be used in the phones. Like many other services these days, there are social features as well, including the ability to share with fellow Muve customers. Playlists and tracks are also stored in the cloud.
Among the lineup, there are a couple smartphone options, including the Samsung Vitality and ZTE Score. I got a chance to try out Muve Music on the Samsung Vitality, and I found it handy to create playlists on the go, useful when you’re in the passenger seat and the giant book of mixed CDs for road trips is back at home. However, the phone itself didn’t behave quite as I expected. Two units I was sent had the same issue of restarting itself spontaneously. Even after getting on the phone with a technician, the issue didn’t resolve, so I sent two units back. I’ve been told this is an unheard of problem, so perhaps it’s my bad luck.
The biggest appeal to me about Cricket is less the music service and cheap phones, but more the price point. For $55, you get unlimited everything. Lund also told me that you can use its plans on other unlocked phones, so when time comes that my contract expires, I’ll likely be shopping outside AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.