LG's Muziq is the follow-up to the Fusic, which was the first handset I ever used with the Sprint Music Store. While Fusic received mixed reviews, I happened to really like the phone's cheery, compact design and straightforward functionality. Muziq picks up where Fusic left off, with a thinner, sleeker body, enhanced multimedia functionality, and integrated GPS.
Beyond its thin clamshell design and solid feature set, Muziq brings something else to the table: Access to Sprint's industry-leading Music Store. I say industry-leading for a specific reason: Nobody else offers Sprint's combination of selection and price for over-the-air downloads. While the Sprint Music Store software leaves something to be desired, it's hard to argue with 99-cent per song downloads direct to your cell phone. Combine that with Muziq's attractive design, and you've got the makings of a very appealing mid-range flip phone.
Where the Fusic was cute in a compact but chunky sort of way, the Muziq tries to be sleek and sexy. The glossy black finish helps the cause (though it is a bit of a fingerprint magnet), as does the longer, narrower body and rounded edges. And losing the external stub antenna? Excellent move. At 97 x 49 x 15 mm, Muziq isn't the absolute slimmest flip phone out there, but it certainly slides into a pants pocket with ease. It also weighs a scant 89g, and feels entirely feather light - though the flip snaps shut with a solid 'thwack,? giving the device a more solid feel overall.
Muziq's gloss black exterior is smartly accented by bands of matte grey along the sides, hinge and interior borders (of the display and keypad), and silver accents on the hinge and front-panel media controls. Said controls - a circular arrangement like those found on LG's Chocolate models - feature red backlights that lend a hip, hi-tech feel to the look. Muziq's front panel also houses the sensor for the 1.3MP camera and two LEDs: a status indicator and a flash assist light for the camera. The back of the device is blank save for an LG logo and the slide-off battery cover.
Dedicated music and camera buttons and plastic-capped ports for microSD memory cards and headphones (2.5mm) grace the right spine of the handset, while a volume rocker switch and capped charger/accessory port can be found on the left side. Oddly, all side-mounted buttons are built into the top half of the phone (the part that flips open) - I found them less comfortable to use than similar controls mounted on the lower portion of other flip phones I've tested.
Open Muziq and you?ll find a fairly standard layout - screen on top and keys on the bottom - finished in matte black with grey borders. The control layout on the lower half is noticeably easy to read and use, especially considering it makes use of flush-mount keys. Raised silver ridges separate the twelve alphanumeric keys and talk, back, and end keys above them, making for easier blind dialing. The five-way directional pad is enclosed in a silver ring and flanked by two softkeys and dedicated buttons for camera and speakerphone. All of the buttons are responsive and provide good tactile feedback; in other words, they?re nice to press on.
Overall, Muziq's look is sleek and just a bit dark and futuristic (in a good way) - a worthy upgrade to Fusic.
As you might have guessed from its name, Muziq is meant to be a music phone. The handset is compatible with Sprint's Groove Mobile Music store, from which tracks can be purchased and downloaded for 99 cents each. Your dollar gets you two versions of the selected song: a low-quality mp3 that comes straight to the Muziq and a higher-quality version available for download to a PC. While the phone didn't come with stereo earbuds (a 3.5mm headphone adapter is included instead), it does feature an internal transmitter for broadcasting your tunes to an empty space a nearby FM dial. The transmitter performed better than the one on the Fusic I tested awhile back, but I?d still recommend placing the phone as close as possible to your radio/antenna for good results.
My feelings on the Sprint Music store are mixed: On the one hand, they?re doing what iTunes does - selling music for a buck a track - but going one better by enabling instant purchase and download from a mobile phone. It's perfect (and addictive) for when some song or another pops into your head while you?re out and about. The system is also now compatible with the excellent Pandora online radio system, which lets you create and subscribe to custom radio stations based on your musical tastes. In this regard, Sprint's really pushing the mobile music industry forward - at least in America.
On the other hand, the Music Store/Player application needs a serious makeover. It works, but it just doesn't look very good, and the UI is a little funny. You can sort by Song, Artist, and Genre, create playlists, and even view album art for your tracks, but it's not nearly as attractive and flexible a solution as those found on music phones from Apple, Nokia, or Sony Ericsson. This isn't an issue with Muziq or even LG, as the Music app is the same on all compatible Sprint handsets. Also, a phone named for music should come with more than a 64mb memory card; that's barely enough to store a full album's worth of mp3s. And purchased tracks cannot be used as ringtones, which is par for Sprint's course. Still, the combination of Sprint's per track pricing and wonderfully fast data network makes using the Music Store worthwhile -- it just could be so much better with a UI overhaul.
Beyond its Music player, Muziq offers a host of other features including access to the world of online goodies known as Sprint's Power Vision Network. If you?re willing to pay for it all, you can watch TV clips, browse the ?mobile Web,? get On Demand information updates, and manage your Email from Muziq. Sprint TV is novel - and actually boasts a much better UI than the Music Store - though whether or not it's worth the monthly subscription fee (and your time) to watch streaming video on a 2? screen is another story. Surprisingly, while I had some major qualms with the quality of text and images on Fuziq's menu screens, the bits of Cartoon Network I watched on the phone looked pretty good. Weird. A landscape-orientation full screen mode is also available when watching Sprint TV, though it stretches the image and results in noticeably poor quality.
An integrated A-GPS receiver allows for location-based services. While ?GPS? isn't an entry in any menus I could find on Muziq, choosing the ?Get New? option under Applications took me to the Sprint website. There I was presented with a GPS category filled out with a handful of subcategories of apps available to me for around six bucks each - including GPS-enabled fitness programs. GPS-assisted fitness trackers on your cell phone. What will they think of next?
Fuziq offers a solid contacts manager with good search functionality, Calendar and Alarm Clock apps, and access to a selection of free and for-fee ringtones, wallpapers, games and other Java applications via Sprint's portal. My review sample came with a few demo games pre-installed, and it?d didn't take me long at all to purchase, download, and start playing a pretty good version of Texas Hold ?Em poker. A melody composer app allows for the creation of custom MIDI ringtones, and the phone also offers Voice Command and a scaled-back version of multitasking that allows you to listen to music while using certain (but not all) applications.
Muziq's front-mounted 1.3 megapixel camera features an LED assist light and a video recording mode with audio. The camera performed pretty well for a mid-range cameraphone, yielding pictures that tended to be just a little muted in indoor lighting and just a little overexposed in bright sunlight. Adjusting software settings helped compensate for both situations, though as with almost all cameraphones, photos taken in natural light came out better overall. Either of the phone's two displays can be used as viewfinders for the camera, and the combination of a front-mounted sensor and front-mounted external display made it all too tempting to take self-portrait after self-portrait.
A variety of adjustments and settings are available, though it should be noted that digital zoom doesn't work when capturing photos at full 1.3mp resolution. Photos can be used as wallpapers and caller ideas, sent off in MMS and Email messages, printed via USB on a PictBridge-compatible printer, and saved to onboard and online albums. With a Sprint Picture Mail account, you may also order color prints of your snapshots directly from the phone, as well.
The camcorder is best used with a very, very steady hand. Relative to the low expectations that should come with a mainstream phone's camcorder function, Muziq actually yielded some pretty good video clips when the handset was kept as still as possible during shooting. Moving the phone around even a little bit resulted in a lot of grainy, blocky footage. A nifty bit of UI magic happens when you browse through a gallery with video clips in it: select a clip's thumbnail and it expands to play back a second or so preview of the movie.
Like Fusic, Muziq packs two displays, a 2.25? main screen and a 1? external LCD. Both screens left a little to be desired, and were not at all on par with the stunning, higher-res displays that have become more and more prevalent on high- and even mid-range handsets as of late. As mentioned, the main screen actually displayed some Sprint TV content pretty well ... but basic text and icons were another story.
Text and images on the internal LCD were viewable, but kind of jagged and pixel-y. Perhaps I've been spoiled by looking at so many QVGA displays as of late, but Muziq's main screen was something of an unwelcomed contrast to its hip, sleek body. While it's the way the thing looks that matters, the spec sheet backed up my findings: Muziq's internal display has a resolution of of 176 x 220 pixels, which is quite a few dots less than the 240 x 320 that's become the standard for ?media phones.? While the display is rated at a respectable 262,000 colors, in many cases those colors failed to pop or otherwise impress - Web pages and the music player's album art display particularly suffered.
A fair amount of customization is available to Muziq users, including a handful of preinstalled themes and a bunch more available for purchase online. While the phone's default home screen is uniquely themed to Muziq (it actually reminds me of an iPod ad), the Main Menu is the basic Sprint grid. A semi-customizable favorites list lets you set up shortcuts to a handful of apps, and another feature I really liked was the pop-up On Demand status display on the handset's home screen. Placing the cursor on the On Demand icon brought up a mini-window that displayed the weather along with a ticker-like scroll of News, Sports, and other headlines. While it's a small thing, I liked being able to access this information without having to click or otherwise an application.
The external display performed similarly to its big brother, but the effect was less negative given its smaller size. While it's lower-res at 128 x 160 over 64,000 colors, it's also half the size of the internal screen so text looked a bit smoother overall. A fair amount of functionality is programmed into the external screen, from wallpapers/screensavers and status information to music player and camera applications. Unfortunately, accessing and switching between these functions was a bit confusing. While the display directed me to press and hold the camera button to unlock the phone's keyguard, it left me on my own to figure out how to move between the camera and music apps and the home screen. Best I could tell, you can get from ?anywhere? to the camera with Muziq's flip closed but switching out of camera mode required opening the phone.
I tested the dual-band CDMA Muziq on Sprint's network in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Reception and voice quality was solid throughout my testing, with nothing noteworthy to report. Muziq's internal speaker was plenty loud and clear, and voice-activated dialing also worked well.
The handset comes with a wired mono earpiece, and while it worked well for hands-free calling, I was kind of surprised to see a music phone - let alone one named ?Muziq? - not come with a stereo headset in the box. The inclusion of an adapter allowing standard stereo ?phones to connect to Muziq's accessory port is a nice touch, but actual earphones would have been better. Better yet, turn that built-in 2.5mm headphone jack into a standard 3.5mm port ...
The device also supports Bluetooth earpieces, including stereo Bluetooth. Sprint sent along a set of Motorola S9 ?phones for the review, and while I had a bit of trouble initially pairing them, once the connection was made it stayed strong for both music and calling applications.
Muziq features a surprisingly handy Email application featuring an easy-to-use setup wizard. A ?Get your email!? icon on the home screen leads to the wizard, which is preconfigured to easily access AIM, Hotmail, Yahoo!, and GMail, though it also supports Sprint PCS mail and standard POP/IMAP accounts. While Muziq's screen makes reading lots of text a less than beautiful experience, the software combined with Sprint's fast data network made for a pretty good way to stay on top of Email on the go.
The phone also supports SMS and MMS messaging (though Sprint calls the latter Picture Mail), as well as VoiceSMS. Muziq's iIM application supports AOL, Yahoo!, and MSN instant messaging.
On the one hand Muziq works with Sprint's Power Vision Network, so data flies across the EV-DO airwaves at pretty amazing speeds. On the other hand, Muziq's Web application is a WAP browser, so you wind up limited in terms of what content you can access. Between the Sprint portal and the On Demand application, Muziq can get you lots of basic information - and a ton more possibly useful infotainment - in a hurry. Just don't be disappointed if you can't access all of your favorite Web pages on this handset. WAP pages were quick to load when I was within EV-DO network coverage.
Purchasing music from the Sprint Store was amazingly fast. Granted, the tracks you download to your phone are smaller files than the higher-quality versions available for your PC, but going from ?choose? to ?listen? in 20-25 seconds is still pretty impressive. I?ll say it again - Sprint does such a great job with their network, and now with their Music Store pricing and selection, they really owe it to their customers and accountants to upgrade the user experience portion of browsing and playing music on their handsets.
The LG Muziq 8800 is a dual-band CDMA phone that is locked to the Sprint network. The phone is capable of high-speed data transfer via Sprint's EV-DO network. There is no 802.11 WiFi support on the handset.
Bluetooth implementation on Muziq is version 1.1 and supports mono and stereo audio as well as laptop tethering. The phone also supports location-based services via A-GPS technology.
LG's Fusic was a cute mid-range flip phone with enhanced music player capabilities including an FM transmitter and the ability to purchase and download music over the air from Sprint's Music Store. Fusic's successor, Muziq, is more or less the same phone in a thinner, sexier body. The stub antenna's gone, the matte white finish has been traded for a glossy black, and the external media controls gained vibrational feedback.
Beyond that things are more or less the same, save for an main display that's somehow more frustrating than the one found on Fusic. Maybe I just expect more these days, or maybe Muziq's sexy exterior set the bar higher for its display, but text and icons look a little ragged in many places. Then again, Sprint TV didn't look half-bad in my tests.
But the display isn't Muziq's focal point; its focal point is music. Sprint seems to have the hard part of mobile music down pretty well: they've got a robust network that supports over the air purchases and a growing catalog of tracks at industry-best pricing. It's the little things that are holding them back from really providing an amazing music experience. First and foremost, the Music Store needs a UI overhaul. UI isn't a ?little thing,? per say, but it doesn't cost as much to fix as a slow network does. Next, throw some stereo earbuds and a decent-sized memory card in the box with your music phones, Sprint. People like to start rockin? as soon as they open the package, even if they?ll dig out their own headphones a little while later.
Despite those flaws, Muziq packs a good amount of features into a sleek phone with a mid-range price point. The addition of a surprisingly good Email client makes this a worthy choice in an all-around handset compatible with Sprint's multimedia offerings. It might even be good enough to upstage the UpStage - it's a more practical choice, anyway.