Around a month ago, Cherry Mobile launched their update to their hugely popular Cherry Mobile Flare, the appropriately named Flare 2.0. Well, the first one seemed to have been a sure it, since they’ve turned the brand name into a series, coming out with the Flare 2x and just recently, a Flare S has been spotted.
Having the same price as the original Flare, though, the Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0 is its successor (the other Flares costing PHP 500 more). With such a small price difference, you get double the RAM and more powerful rear camera in the 2X, and a more powerful processor, camera, and a free phone case in the Flare S, how would the otherwise vanilla 2.0 stack up? Is the barely lower price point able to make it a relevant option? Before we move on, here’s a refresher on the specs of Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0.
Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0 Specs
- 4″ WVGA IPS display (480 x 800 resolution, 233ppi)
- 1.2GHz quad core Qualcomm MSM8225Q processor
- Adreno 203 GPU
- 512MB RAM
- 4GB internal storage
- 3G/HSPA, WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1
- FM Radio
- 3.5mm headset port
- Dual SIM functionality with dual standby support
- 1,550mAh battery
- Price: Php3,999
What about the aforementioned GPS Support? Well, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is, Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0 comes with Google Maps built in. The bad news? It takes too long to lock in (can be area specific though). I’m not sure if this is just on my review unit (Update: Yes). Ain’t that a hoot?
Packaging and Accessories
If there’s absolutely one thing you can’t fault Cherry Mobile, it’s in the packaging. Personally, I’ve been fond of their packaging. It gives you a premium feel for their products, even for budget phones such as this.
Unfortunately, you get sparse accessories with the package, amounting to just the now-requisite headset with microphone. Quality of the cans is so-so, which is on par with every other free cans from even most of the high-end manufacturers (except for HTC, or at least back when they were still chummy with Beats). It would’ve been nice if they at least added a silicone casing or more importantly, an extra battery. More on that later. Heck, I also wish they included a free microSD card, but between that or a battery, I’d go for the battery.
Design and Build
For a budget phone, its design is surprisingly good, especially when compared to other budget phones where you know the design seems like an afterthought. Being an all-plastic build, it’s understandably very light in the hand. The review unit we got was the white version, and it sports a dull silver trim on the sides. Actually, I found this particularly apt. I’m glad they went on the dull silver route instead of a plastic trim coated in chrome. If I were to recommend anything to make it better, I would suggest an aluminum trim, as the silver trim does look plastic-y. But that would have needlessly driven the price up, I would assume, so as it is, it’s good enough.
On the upside front of the unit is covered with a thin film of plastic, which I would assume, acts like a screen protector. It’s a good thing that it does because the unit scratches easily. There are some QC issues on the screen protector’s application, though. On my Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0 review unit at least, I could see some “bubbles” on the seams at the top, particularly around the speaker, front camera, and sensor.
The coating does look peel-able, and if it’s indeed an integrated screen protector, then I hope it’s replaceable. The front of the phone scratches easily. Indeed, only a few times in my pants pocket and it’s already rife with scratches. Well, it does reside with my other phone, though like with the phone that it temporarily replaces (my Lumia 620), I make sure that either screens face opposite direction. I would definitely recommend another screen protector if the sight of hairline scratches disgust you.
Button placement is standard fare, with the power button on the right side and the volume rocker on the opposite end. The face contains three soft buttons arranged in Menu, Home, and Back button placements. I would’ve preferred on-screen buttons, but kudos that they used soft buttons, especially for the Home button (Samsung, I hope you’re taking note).
One thing I didn’t like is the placement of the microUSB port at the top, along with the 3.5mm jack. I prefer my charging ports to be at he bottom of the phone for easy handling in car mounts. I have absolutely no idea what advantages there are in placing the charging port at the top (at least I see the logic when they’re placed on the side, even though I completely disagree with that logic).
The rear houses the phone’s main 5MP camera with double LED flash and the loudspeaker. It’s all standard fare, so there’s no point getting much about it. You can yank the rear housing off to get to the battery tray, as well as to the two SIM trays and the microSD slot. I give kudos to the design team for the placement of the SIM trays and the microSD. Even though you need to remove the rear cover to access them, you don’t need to remove the battery to place them. Personally, I would’ve preferred microSD ports accessible externally, but this arrangement will do.
Display and Touchscreen
Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0 uses a 4″ WVGA IPS display with 480 x 800 screen resolution, which is acceptable as far as budget phones go. It’s bright and clear enough that you won’t have any problem using it.
Understandably, though, color accuracy is extremely lacking. It has a washed-out look to it, and if put side-by-side with a good screen you would really see how inaccurate the colors are. But again: price difference. That said, you won’t be using this as a media device.
As an e-reader or document reader, though, it’s adequate, though I try not to do it often because of the small screen (Remember, I’m used to phablets, so this is just based on personal preference).
Touch sensitivity tend to be good for the most part, though I found it to be a bit unresponsive at times. Sometimes I found touch inputs inexplicably not register which didn’t fare well when I was fighting zombies or popping those diamonds. With no way to calibrate touch sensitivity, I guess I have to live with it. I do hope that it’s an isolated case (i.e. I got a lemon for a review unit). I wasn’t the only one to have noticed this, with my GF and sister both remarking about it when I let them use the phone.
Barring the touchscreen issues above, I could say that hardware performance of Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0 is average at least. The quad-core processor really does come into its own. Which is a good thing because having that so little RAM really does affect performance. While stuff like Facebook, phone calls, text messages, etc. run well, I found resource-intensive apps chugging down. It’s apparent when I played Dead Trigger. It’s able to run well when there were a few zombies on the screen. Once they do a Zerg on you, the phone had a hard time keeping up. Same is true when you started opening a lot of apps. You would feel the controls lag, as if it’s trying really hard to compensate for the lack or RAM.
As for the internal storage, you get 4GB, of which only 1.39GB is available to the user. Fortunately, it’s expandable via a microSD card for up to 32GB.
As opposed to its predecessor, Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0 now uses an AOSP-based version of Android Jellybean 4.1.2 out-of-the-box. There are minimal customizations to it, such as dual-sim support in the messaging and contacts app, and making use of TouchPal X, a free third-party keyboard, as its default keyboard. You can change it to the default AOSP keyboard, though. For the most part, TouchPal works well, but is infinitely inferior to SwiftKey. But, hey, it’s free and it does give you more features than the AOSP keyboard. But aside from the incomparable text prediction of SwiftKey, something I really missed when I used either keyboards are the arrow keys. IMHO, they whould become standard fare in all on-screen keyboards.
Other than that, everything else is vanilla Android fare, including the stock launcher. That’s good since that means that there’s no bloatware taking space on the already cramped internal storage.
As a phone, it does pretty well. Audio clarity is above average, provided you have good reception, of course. Microphone also does well. I’ve also hadn’t encountered any difficulty sending text messages. Dual-SIM integration is pretty much fleshed out and you won’t have difficulty using that feature.
As mentioned before, it’s not meant as a media device, though you can use it as such. The loudspeaker is adequate for the price point, though if you want more oomph in your audio experience, then an external speaker is highly recommended. Lacking that, however, that’s provided is serviceable at least. There isn’t much we can do about the screen’s quality, but it’s adequate for standard videos and such. I would suggest downloading a third-party video application, though. The built-in video app won’t be able to play all video formats, sticking to the most common ones, like MP4, in addition to some open-source ones. Less common videos, like WMV, won’t play. This is understandable since codecs for these usually entail licensing agreements. That said, it has no problem rendering compatible videos, even high-definition ones despite the screen resolution not being high definition. I was able to play a video set in 720p and it didn’t have any problem.
It’s useful for gaming for the most part, but I gave up on it because of the problem I encounter on the touch response. Again, this may be an isolated case. I’m just basing it on what I experienced. If you don’t get the same deficiency I experienced, then the phone can handle casual games, though like I said in the Hardware section, it becomes cumbersome on resource-intensive games.
Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0’s camera isn’t stellar, but good enough for everyday pics. What did surprise me was the image quality when the LED flash is used. Normally, picture quality tends to be better when taken in ambient lighting conditions. However, colors also seem to be washed out on this one, and greatly improved when the flash was used (on certain lighting conditions, of course. Normally, it’s blearrrrhh).
One category that I do find it personally lacking, though, is battery performance. On a full charge, I used the phone extensively, having Wi-Fi open, surfing, downloading apps, watching YouTube and a few rounds of Diamond Dash (not non-stop use, mind you, just my normal use of a smartphone). I was able to squeeze in around 5 hours before the phone begged me for a power outlet. So, if you plan to make full use of the phone for something other than calls and texts, I’d suggest investing in an external power soruce, either an extra battery or a power bank.
I used AnTuTu for my benchmark, since it’s the only tool I trust right now. Considering the specs, its score of 10,213 is okay. This puts it slightly behind the venerable Galaxy S2, but way above LG’s Optimus 2X. Of course, benchmark scores aren’t everything, as I’m sure overall experience is still better on either devices.
Overall, I do find Cherry Mobile’s Flare 2.0 as a very capable device. It doesn’t perform beyond its means and you do get what you pay for. Yes, I ran into more than a few snags here and there but no device is perfect. Those deficiencies may not be enough to ruin your overall experience, but they’re enough to be noticed. So, I’m giving it a passing mark overall.
Now, as for recommending it, well, that’s kinda tricky. If basing it on its own merits, you do get your PHP 3,999’s worth. Unfortunately, it’s simply outclassed by its own younger siblings. Adding a few hundred bucks more and you get anywhere from double the RAM (believe me, that’s a Godsend!) to a slightly faster processor and more powerful camera sensor.
If this was priced PHP 500 lower, then there’s more incentive to recommend this. But for only a few hundred more? I say just save a little more and get either the 2X or the S. Both will be able to give you an experience worth much more than the addition to the asking price. If you’re seeking to upgrade from the original Flare, either the 2X and the upcoming S are the true spiritual successors. This phone seems to be more like Flare 1.5 and should be considered only if you can’t spare an additional PHP 500.