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Google’s Android One project finally made its way into the Philippines recently by way of two new handsets from two different local companies. And if you’ve kept up with your regular tech news updates, then you’d know that one of them is the Cherry Mobile One.

At first glance, the Cherry Mobile One might look like just another entry-level smartphone. But a closer look reveals that it’s much more than meets the eye.

Build and design

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In terms of design, the Cherry Mobile One is built on simplicity. It uses tried and tested design features such as a rectangular block form factor, a matte back cover, and an all-glass front cover. In fact, the glass setup on the front is so simple, they did away completely with soft-touch capacitive menu keys. All menu navigation is done via onscreen buttons. And it isn’t hard to get used to.

Cherry Mobile One (27)

Display and audio

The display on the Cherry Mobile One uses a FWVGA (480×854) resolution panel with excellent multi-touch support. Besides which, it also boasts great viewing angles, thanks to an IPS screen, and the brightness level can be adjusted automatically with the use of an ambient light sensor. The One is lightweight and grippy, although a bit blocky at certain points in its casing. Fortunately, having a small overall footprint still makes it very pleasant to hold in the hand.

Cherry Mobile One (13)

If you were expecting a 720p HD screen on the One, we suggest that you turn back now. As earlier mentioned, the screen resolution on this phone is limited to only FWVGA. In use, it’s not as bad as you might first think it is. But the icons definitely look a bit blown up on the screen, and text appears to have been bolded somehow too, all because of the fact that the resolution is only just below HD territory.

The sound quality from both the speakers and the 3.5mm headphone jack ended up being a bit of a letdown as well. But that’s not the least bit surprising, given that the One was not designed to be a powerful, high-end entertaiment device. Its built-in loudspeaker can be used for calls and while listening to audio from music or movies. Plus, if you have a pair of wired 3.5mm headphones, you can use that for some private listening sessions when you want to. The overall audio experience is decidedly average; it’s not something you will likely complain about.

Cherry Mobile One (25)

Cameras

And speaking of something that you won’t complain about, let’s talk about the One’s cameras. The main camera is at the back, and it uses a 5-megapixel autofocus sensor. It is partnered with a 2-megapixel front facing camera, and together these two can be used with the pre-installed camera app, Google Camera.

Cherry Mobile One (26)

The rear camera surprised us with the way it managed to capture decent-looking photos even in not-so-bright environments. And in well-lit locations, it easily managed to impress us. The camera also has a built-in LED flash sitting beside it, and in darker areas, it proved able to help in some instances. Honestly, just like MyPhone Uno, we had occasional troubles when using flash. Even after adjusting exposure and flash compensation level, we still had overexposed shots. We believe that an update is one the way for Android Lollipop 5.1 devices to have this fixed.

Cherry Mobile One Sample Photo, no flash
Cherry Mobile One Sample Photo, no flash
Cherry Mobile One Sample Photo, w/ flash
Cherry Mobile One Sample Photo, w/ flash

The front camera, meanwhile, relies on a fixed focus sensor so its performance is not as impressive. With that said, however, it can still find plenty of uses for people who still find time to snap a few selfies every now and then. Just don’t expect it to work at all in the dark.

There’s a lot of work that goes into the photos taken by the One with each of its two cameras, and it’s all thanks to the brand new software that’s pre-installed by none other than Google itself. The Cherry Mobile One, as you know, runs Android 5.1 Lollipop out of the box. And it brings a lot of good stuff.

Sample Video

Software

Some of the things included in Android 5.1 is better memory management, so that phones like the One can really make do with their limited RAM onboard. Here there’s only 1GB, but it never appears to be a problem for the One. The processor on the One is part of the 1.3GHz quad-core MTK 6582m SoC. It’s no monster in terms of performance, but Lollipop certainly manages to run along just fine on it.

In our testing of the Cherry Mobile One, we never once encountered any menu navigation issues, animation problems, lag, or anything of the sort. It was all smooth sailing right from the moment we first turned the phone on. And even after a couple of weeks, it’s still as fast as the day that we got it. Google really did a great job of speeding up performance with the latest version of Android. But it’s all in exchange for a lot of cosmetic and underlying changes that might turn some long-time Android users off.

The notifications and quick settings areas have been reworked, and many default Android apps have been replaced with Google’s own. Some new apps include Messenger for SMS, Google Drive for file management, Photos for locally-stored photos, and Chrome for Web browsing.

A quick note about Web browsing on the One: other than Wi-Fi, it can also go online via HSPA+ data. Our tests with Smart’s own 3.5G connection showed that the One is a reliable mobile Internet device, at least here in the Northern parts of Metro Manila. In total, you can use two micro SIM cards on the One, and at least one of them can be connected to 3G when the phone is in use.

We don’t have any complaints about the One in this regard, but some of the old apps are surely going to be missed by at least some people out there. That might be you. So take note of this before you go out and buy an Android One phone like the Cherry Mobile One.

All app and game compatibility remains the same as the last few versions of the Android OS. You can install and run pretty much any app off the Google Play store, provided that it fits in the internal storage. The One’s built-in memory can handle up to a little over 6 gigs of files, and the free 8GB microSD card slot should take care of anything in excess. And in case you’d like to use a card of your own, you should also know that the One can handle up to 64GB microSD cards.

Battery life

For battery life, the One employs a clever method of battery saving that allows it to last well over a whole day of heavy usage. It’s a built-in Android 5.1 feature, and it can be activated automatically as soon as the battery level hits 15%. What happens is the screen animations are turned off, and background data is severely limited. The result is a phone that lasts twice as long on its last remaining charge.

Verdict

The Cherry Mobile One may be an Android phone, but it’s different from the ones that came before it in many ways. So what’s our verdict on it?

Based on the above, we can say that the Cherry Mobile One is a great first attempt at bringing Android to the masses. You have to remember that it’s not just about making something affordable. It’s also something that can last a bit longer than the usual kind of smartphone in terms of developer support. The One may seem average in most areas like display quality, camera performance, and app compatibility, but because of the unique software package it has, it’s streets ahead of many same-price alternatives.

Cherry Mobile One (16)

The One will soon be the new benchmark for a complete Android phone for those who are on a tight budget. But for those with a bit more cash to spare, there are a lot of other choices on the market.