When Cherry Mobile teased their then-upcoming CM Life a couple of months ago, a lot of people turned their heads in anticipation. And why not? At PHP 2,999, you’re supposed to be getting a 4-incher, 3G-capable phone. But now that it’s out, how good is it? Check it out on our full review.
Cherry Mobile Life Specs
- 4.0″ FWVGA display (480 x 800 resolution, 240ppi)
- 1.3GHz Dual-Core CPU with Mali-400 GPU
- 512MB RAM
- 4GB internal memory, expandable via micro SD up to 32GB
- 5MP camera with LED flash
- 0.3MP front-facing camera
- WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, HSPA
- Dual SIM
- Android 4.2.2 Jellybean
- 1,500mAh battery
That’s some note-worthy specs for something that costs so little. In fact, the specs look very similar to phones that cost 1,000 bucks or more, give or take a couple of differences such as processor, GPU, etc. Even the screen size and resolution weren’t skimped. That’s why it was a head-turner when it was teased. It seemed too good to be true. You’ll have to read on, but for now I can say that this is so full of surprises.
Packaging and Accessories
Packaging for this phone is standard Cherry Mobile fare, which means it doesn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, they haven’t changed the sparsity of their included accessories. It’s just the standard headset, charger, and manuals. What’s surprising is that, as opposed to the other phone models from CM that I’ve been reviewing, this didn’t come with a pre-applied screen protector. Given the price point, however, I won’t complain. I won’t even complain that it didn’t come with a microSD card. Just remember to look for a screen protector upon purchase since it doesn’t come with any.
Design and Build
I had low expectations from the phone’s aesthetics, but when I took it out of the box, the first word I uttered was “Wow!” Barring the likes of Cosmos S, Razor, and Cherry Mobile Cosmos Z, this is probably the best looker, besting even my current CM favorite, the Cherry Mobile Burst 2.0. It’s a dual-tone phone with the front encased in shiny black plastic, while the the back plate is made of an elegant matte pearl white plastic.
Words can’t express how much I love the aesthetic. And this is coming from someone who’s really not fond of white for phones (all my phones have either been black, grey, or of similar color). But I like the shade of white in this, and it being dual tone with black worked great. If I own one, I won’t buy a case for this. Ergonomically, CM Life feels good in the hand, and the back being matte is much appreciated since there are no problems with fingerprints and whatnot.
Button placement follows the seemingly standard convention, with the power button at the right and the volume rocker on the left. The face contains three soft buttons arranged in the standard Menu, Home, and Back button placements. The microUSB port is placed at the top, along with the 3.5mm headphone jack.
The rear of the Cherry Mobile Life houses the phone’s main 5MP camera with LED flash and the loudspeaker. It’s all standard fare (the placement, I mean), 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. Placement is good, with the two SIM slots snugly separated, meaning they’re easily accessible. Same goes for the microSD card.
Display and Touchscreen
Cherry Mobile Life’s 4.0″ display comes with a 480 x 800 screen resolution. It’s bright and clear and you won’t have any problem using it. Color reproduction is still the same as phones of this caliber, with colors being inaccurate and muted. But compared in account with its contemporaries, it’s quite acceptable.
Touchscreen controls are smooth and responsive, and should you want to play games on this device, you won’t encounter any problems (provided the phone meets the game’s minimum requirements). It’s also accurate enough that you won’t have problems typing. Yup, I was half expecting that this is where the compromise would be. I was pleasantly proven wrong.
Something’s gotta give with the specs-price ratio, and so I probed deeper in the hardware. However, I got stellar performance out of the hardware. Its performance was akin to pricier budget phones, meaning it was lag-free for the most part, and you won’t have any problems using it. Of course, you will expect a limit to its performance, given its CPU. Playing Dead Trigger 1 was a lag fest. I would suggest sticking to casual games.
Battery life is also good enough for the specs but not too stellar. I was able to take a day’s worth of heavy use out of the phone, though, consisting of my standard heavy calls and texts, occasional casual games, and always-on WiFi and internet. Everything else worked well, and that includes GPS and Bluetooth, though I found the former a wee bit slow to get a lock.
Storage space is good enough when compared to its contemporaries. Of the 4GB internal storage space, you get 1.27GB to do with as you please for your apps and games. That would get filled up pretty quick, though, and that’s where your microSD card would come in.
The Cherry Mobile Life makes use of Android Jellybean 4.2.2 and it seems to have been optimized for the hardware since it is very stable. Normal operations yielded an almost lag-free experience.
For out-of-the-box software, It’s standard Cherry Mobile fare, meaning there’s minimal customizations other than the contacts and messaging to accommodate dual-SIM capability, and some pre-loaded Cherry Mobile apps, such as the software Updater that lets you update the firmware OTA. So, if you’ve used any of their phones before, then you’ll feel right at home.
Some apps don’t come pre-installed, though, such as Google’s Chrome, which is Android’s standard browser since ICS. In its place is Opera Mini. Regulars like Facebook and Twitter are there, though. However, it’s not a biggie since you can opt to download these missing apps from the Play Store if you wish.
As a phone, it does very well. Audio clarity is great, provided you have good reception. Microphone also does well. I’ve also hadn’t encountered any difficulty sending text messages. Dual-SIM integration is pretty much stable and you won’t have difficulty using that feature. So, no compromises there as well.
As an entertainment device, it’s pretty usable, and you’ll be satisfied just as long as you keep your expectations low. I was able to play high-def videos, though, and the screen does an acceptable job at rendering your video files, or when watching YouTube, etc. Other than that, if you’ve had Cherry Mobile phones before, then there’s nothing new to see here. Yup, no compromises here, too.
Gaming is as good as it gets on a budget phone, although expect some high profile (i.e. resource-intensive games) to lapse from time to time. However, touchscreen sensitivity is tight, and I never encountered any problem whether it be in casual games or the high profile ones. But as mentioned, it would be unfair to expect too much. Stick to casual and semi HD games and you’ll be fine. It can run some of the top end games out there though, so that’s really nice considering the low price.
Camera performance of the Cherry Mobile Life is terrible. Finally, I found the compromise! Something’s gotta give, and what gave was the camera. Then again, I hope you’re not actually gonna buy this phone thinking you’ll produce great snaps. You’ll be sorely disappointed. And, yes, it doesn’t matter what lighting condition you use. You’ll simply get sub-standard photos. You could get away with well lighted environments, but anything less than daylight, and you’d vomit. Here’s a sample indoor pic:
My room is lit by two fluorescent lights, so it should be ambient enough, but the first time I used it at that environment, the picture came out very, very dark. I had to adjust its exposure compensation (2.0, its maximum) just to be able to get a decent pic. And it still came out dull, bland, and unflattering. For comparison, here’s the same subject at the exact environment using Cherry Mobile’s own Flare 2X which we also reviewed before.
I didn’t even have to adjust anything but colors came out more vibrant and sharper. What’s more, you can’t select the focal point. You’ll have to rely on the phone’s autofocus mechanism, which is, for the lack of a better word, utterly crappy.
AnTuTu Benchmark puts it at a respectable 10,604 points. You simply can’t ask for anything more from the specs.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the Cherry Mobile Life. It’s the little phone that could, as the saying goes. As a daily driver, it’ll give you stellar performance. The fact that its looks can give some significantly pricier phones a run for their money is just an icing on the cake. It has a premium look and feel to it that I’m sure you would appreciate. I know I did.
For PHP 2,999, you’re getting more than your money’s worth, IMHO. It just too bad that the camera performed the way that it did, otherwise it could have been the BEST budget phone.
However, I will have no qualms recommending this for purchase. You’re getting so much for so little cost that any caveat that you may experience would be forgivable. IMHO, it deserves its name because LIFE is good.