The smartphone market just keeps on evolving each day. More and more devices, and even new smartphone brands are popping up each time. Survival is getting really hard.
However, it seems like Cherry Mobile has still maintained its poise. A recent study hailed the local company as the top smartphone vendor in the Philippines, thanks to their vast product portfolio and beefed up marketing.
But, Cherry Mobile isn’t just stopping there. Considering how aggressive the competition is, there’s a chance that our local dog can be easily dethroned. That’s why they should remain creative in coming up with new ideas to stand out.
One of these “bright ideas” is the Cherry Mobile Taiji. One of the first smartphone ever to sport a secondary E-Ink display. A device aimed for the avid e-Book reader.
The question is, is the second screen enough to entice the bookworms? Should you get an e-book-reader-smartphone-hybrid? Or you’re better off getting the two devices individually? Let’s figure that out.
Cherry Mobile Taiji Specs
- Android 5.1 Lollipop
- Dual SIM
- 5.2-inch FHD IPS display, 1920 x 1080 resolution, ~424ppi
- 4.2-inch E-INK qHD rear display, 960 x 540 resolution, ~262ppi
- 1.7GHz MediaTek octa-core processor
- 3GB RAM
- 8-megapixel front camera
- 13-megapixel rear camera, LED flash
- GPS, A-GPS
- 2500mAh battery
Hardware and Build Quality
The Cherry Mobile Taiji is not a budget smartphone and its build quality is a testament to that. It’s a well built smartphone with metal all around it. Even though it’s metal, it doesn’t have a really noticeable weight to it. The side panels also have this stylish metal look which I really like.
Overall, the Cherry Taiji feels good in the hands. Despite its boxy look, the indentation at the sides makes a good place to sit my fingers ergonomically and provides better grip. The side panel also houses the antenna bands on all sides except the left.
At the front, we have the 5.2-inch Full HD display. And just below it, we have the breathing LED notification light. This form of LED provides an aesthetic flair to the almost boring face of the device. Embedded to it is a capacitive Home button, with the Menu button on the left, and Back button at the right.
It would have been way better if they went with a Recent Apps instead of a Menu button, though. Tap and holding a button to quickly switch between apps is not that quick at all. Also, it would have been nice if the other two buttons have backlighting. Sure, you can easily get used to it. But still, a little signage wouldn’t hurt.
The right side of the Cherry Mobile Taiji houses the lock/power switch below the volume controls. The buttons doesn’t provide the most tactile experience of all when pressed. Also, since they are situated right inside the indentation, they are kind of hard to press.
At the top, we have a built-in microphone for noise cancellation and an IR Blaster. The addition of the Infrared sensor was bizarre, but still a welcome inclusion. When partnered with the pre-installed app called ZaZaRemote, I now only need a single remote to control my TV and soundbar.
At the bottom, we have the 3.5mm headphone jack where it should be, a microUSB port, and two speaker grills. The grill on the left is where the real speaker drivers are. Meanwhile, I suspect that the one on the left houses the primary microphone or it’s just there for aesthetic purposes.
The loudspeaker’s quality was decent. It can easily fill a small, quiet room with an average sound quality.
You might already know that the Cherry Mobile Taiji has a secondary display. And most probably, that’s the reason why you are here reading this review. But let me just tease you for a second so we can have the primary display out of the way.
The screen on the front is a 5.2-inch FHD IPS display, with 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, and 262 pixels-per-inch. The quality was as expected. Colors are decent, without any noticeable over saturation. Blacks were also deep with nice contrast. But on the downside, I have noticed some light bleeding at the bottom left of the screen. However, this might be just an isolated case with our review unit. It is also barely noticeable unless the screen is completely black.
The 1080p panel on this 5.2-inch screen also made everything look sharp. Details are crisp and reading texts isn’t straining in the eyes.
And speaking of reading texts, let’s now head on to the screen on the back. What we have here is a 4.2-inch E-ink screen with a resolution of 960 x 540. The Taiji is being marketed as a smartphone for the eBook readers — and it really is.
The secondary E-ink screen is really meant for reading. This kind of display technology is dubbed as an “electronic paper”, and it lives up to its name. This thing only projects black and white colors, mimicking a newspaper. The texts appear like they are printed, which makes reading a breeze in the eyes.
And since it’s only black and white colors, it only requires power when there’s an activity happening on the screen which is perfect for battery-saving. Once the battery reaches the critical level, you can switch to the secondary display to conserve power.
You can enable the secondary display by holding down the lock/power switch. Tapping the “Switch to secondary screen” lets you use the e-ink screen to display a straightforward dashboard that shows the time, date, news, and iReader. You can also check and reply to texts, missed calls, and alarms. All these are can be configured on the pre-installed app called EDP Menu.
On the other hand, you can also choose the “Open mirror mode”. This lets you access everything from the primary screen to the e-ink display.
However, I have noticed a few hiccups on using the secondary screen of the Cherry Mobile Taiji. For one, the device would sometimes switch displays for some reason. Maybe it’s because of an accidental press when it’s in my pocket, but still worth noting.
Also, the secondary screen will continue to project the last frame you used it with. For example, when you switch to the primary display in the middle of typing a text, the whole conversation will then be left displayed on the back of your device. Hence, you want to make sure you head to the home screen first before going back on the front.
Hardware and Performance
Other than the back-to-back displays, the Cherry Mobile Taiji also has a pretty beefy hardware inside that’s powering it. What we have here is a 1.7GHz MediaTek MT6752 octa-core processor, with 3GB of RAM and a Mali-T760 GPU.
The performance was decent. I have noticed a few stutters and hiccups while navigating through the interface and inside apps, but nothing too alarming. The processor would have been more effective if it runs on a more dated version of Android, but more on that later.
Furthermore, multitasking was also mediocre on the Cherry Mobile Taiji. Some applications would tend to restart when you get back to them, but some would stay right where you left them. Again, this might be the OS struggling, but at least the generous 3GB of RAM was able to put it together.
And yes, you can also game with the Cherry Mobile Taiji. I was able to play SIM CITY: Build it, a game title that can be stressing the to the CPU. The gameplay experience with the NBA Live 2017 was also seamless. However, the device did heat up after a few minutes of intensive gaming, but it’s not really that much.
The Cherry Mobile Taiji also has 32GB of internal storage that is expandable via a hybrid SIM tray. Out of the 32GB, 25.48GB is usable, with the other piece of the pie reserved for the OS. But despite the chunk reserved for the device, the 25.48GB of storage left is still plenty enough to store all your media and applications.
Benchmark test results
Probably the biggest downfall of the Cherry Mobile Taiji is its operating system. For some reason, it only runs on Android 5.0 Lollipop — not Nougat, not even Marshmallow. In most cases, I would say that it is just fine since it’s coated with a manufacturer-made skin anyway. But this time, the device is dressed in a stock-Android interface. Result? All you’ll see is a blast from the past.
But what’s worse than that is, you’ll be missing out on all the improvements that the more recent version of Android offer. From the performance and battery efficiency, improvements in notification system, and more. And by judging by Cherry Mobile’s track record, we’re not expecting them to deliver an update anytime soon.
But if you can live without the new features, the Taiji’s OS still looks decent and workable. Everything looks clean and right where you expect them to be. It is still the same, familiar Android — only with the omitted updates.
It’s a one of its kind smartphone with a niche two displays feature, so a dated OS isn’t really the selling point of this handset. However, it would’ve been miles better if it was newer.
Probably the main reason why you’ll be considering the Cherry Mobile Taiji is its secondary camera and the decent processor. But if you’re in it for taking pictures, you’re better off looking somewhere else. This thing packs a 13-megapixel primary camera at the back partnered with an LED flash.
The images you can take from the CM Taiji is mediocre and uninspiring. Sure, you can take casual snaps, but if you’re all about mobile photography — don’t even bother. The colors are a bit washed out, the details are soft, disappointing contrast, and the dynamic range is just awful.
On the other hand, I also have the same sentiments with the 8-megapixel front camera. The details might be present due to the pixel count, but they still look soft. Colors and contrast is also lackluster. However, you can still do video calls in low-light scenarios.
For social media posting, I would say that it’s definitely enough as it’s decent enough to produce good pictures when there’s good lighting.
The Cherry Mobile Taiji comes packed with all the antennas you’d need, and all of them works pretty well.
I didn’t experience any problems connecting to our wireless network at home. The signal remained pretty consistent wherever I was inside the house, except for the dead spots, of course. I was also able to pair it with my Bluetooth headphones and remained connected, without any hiccups or interference.
The Cherry Mobile Taiji also packs 4G LTE connectivity, although I noticed that it struggles on achieving that signal status. Most of the time, it would be stuck on 3G, leaving me with slow internet connection. But do take note that this is dependent on the location, and I was able to get LTE connection whenever I’m on the move.
On the other hand, call quality was decent. I was able to hear the person on the line clear enough. The dual microphones also picked up my voice pretty well.
Powering everything on the Cherry Mobile Taiji is a 2500mAh battery. And just by looking at the spec sheet, you can already tell that it won’t suffice. This thing has to power a 1080p screen, an e-Ink display, and an octa-core processor.
My daily smartphone usage involves casual browsing through different social media apps, gaming from time to time, and web browsing. But most of the time, my device is in idle mode. With that in mind, the Taiji only lasted for around 13 hours before it reached 16%.
I’ve also run a battery longevity test from PCMark. The app will run different tasks, non-stop, until the battery reaches 10%. And in this case, the device only took 4 hours and 23 mins before it reached the mark. For a comparison, the Doogee Mix had a score of 6 hours and 35 mins, while the OPPO A57 was rated at 5 hours and 18 mins. The two devices mentioned belongs to the same price bracket as the Cherry Mobile Taiji, but do take not that they don’t have the second screen e-Reader feature.
Lastly, let’s not forget the benefits of using the secondary display. Like I said earlier, the screen will only require power when you interact with it. Hence, the power-saving feature. During my tests, I reached 15% of battery at around the afternoon, then switched to the secondary display and I was still able to make it till I got home at night.
The Cherry Taiji screen is good for reading, but not for doing anything else. It has slow response times, and using a black-and-white screen aside from reading is uncomfortable. Thus, if the going gets tough, you might just want to utilize it when you still want to get connected — which is nice to have. It kinda reminds me when Samsung was all about this black and white battery saving feature back in the day.
So, is the Cherry Mobile Taiji a good e-book-reader-smartphone-hybrid? The answer is yes. But it’s not very good. But if you’re looking for something like this, there’s not much choice either.
The Cherry Mobile Taiji works great as an e-Book reader. The smartphone factor means that it’s more compact than most e-Book readers today. Plus, since it’s embedded on your smartphone, it’s always with you. Also, since it shares the same internals with a smartphone, you have access to almost all of the reading materials you’d need. You can also visit different e-Book websites, download legitimate PDFs, browse through different apps (i.e Wattpad), and more.
However, where it falls short a bit is on some of the smartphone aspects. For one, the cameras are a bit disappointing. And most of all, it only runs on Android 5.1 Lollipop, and considering the existence of the newly announced Android 8.0 Oreo, is almost three generations late.
But on the Brightside, Cherry Mobile still got some of the essentials right on the Taiji. The is just the right size with just the right resolution. The processing performance is also satisfactory, and the inclusion of the IR Blaster was very much welcome.
To wrap it up, if you’re really into reading e-Books or any other content anywhere, then the Cherry Mobile Taiji is really worth checking out. Heck, it’s the first of its kind here in the Philippines, so you really have no other options if you’re looking for one.
But if you’re fishing for a real smartphone, then you might want to skip this one. For the price, there are quite a lot of better alternatives out there. Some of them are even cheaper, thanks to the missing extra screen. With that said, you can check out the Cherry Mobile Desire R8. It’s at the same bracket, with better smartphone features.
Pricing and Availability
The Cherry Mobile Taiji is now available in all Cherry Mobile kiosks, stores, and third-party retailers for a price of Php12,999.
- Good primary and secondary display
- Capable performance
- IR Blaster is a nice touch
- Battery longevity could have been better
- Runs on the outdated Android 5.1 Lollipop
- A bit pricey