Cosmic Technologies, the company behind the successful brand, Cherry Mobile, has been regarded as the country’s leader in mobile phones. In Euromonitor International’s Report, Passport, Cherry Mobile is still the undisputed leader in mobile phones with an increase of 1.7% in retail volume vs 2015. One of the key drivers of Cherry Mobile’s successes is its focus on product development and innovation. Apart from this, Euromonitor said that its “cost leadership and strong distribution online and brick-and-mortar sellers” are also the company’s key drivers for growth and leadership.
6 months after the report was published, are the values and claims by Euromonitor still hold true? We can’t say anything concrete about Cherry Mobile’s sales figures but what we can comment on are the products they recently launched, and how these products fared in our reviews and in their clients.
Innovation is still at the core of Cherry Mobile’s efforts to sustain their leadership. Products they launched like the Flare P1 and Flare P1 Plus got us too excited but unfortunately fell short of our expectations. The intention to innovate and to not get behind exist, but the products are not devoid of issues.
Enter Taiji, Cherry Mobile’s latest product, which showcases dual display – one that rocks a 5.2-inch IPS screen and another 4.7-inch E-ink display at the back. Its full specs reveal that the Taiji isn’t a slouch:
- 1.7 GHz MT6752 MediaTek octa-core processor
- 3GB RAM
- 5.2-inch FHD IPS display (1920 x 1080)
- 4.7-inch E-ink rear display (960 x 540)
- 13MP main camera (AF, LED)
- 8MP front camera
- 32GB internal storage (expandable)
- Dual SIM, Dual LTE
- Android Lollipop 5.1
The Elephant in the Room
Let me get straight by talking about elephant in the room – the 4.7-inch E-ink display.
E-ink displays are known for its insane battery saving feature as it uses unconventional screen technology. On Cherry Mobile Taiji, it’s paper-like film is applied at the back of the device. As it is hooked up to its motherboard and to the Taiji’s main display, whatever is seen on the display may be controlled by the main operating system of the smartphone. It has its own menu system, but may be overridden when switched to mirror mode.
Turning on the rear display is a little tricky. When you boot up the device, the E-ink display is already lit up but unusable. It only shows the home screen, which may be set up on its EPD Menu. There isn’t much customization that may be done, and the features are quite scarce, but at least there’s a way to control what you wish to show on the E-ink display. Yotaphone has its own dilemma during launch, and a lot of its users resorted to modifying some parameters via Total Commander, which requires root access.
One of the apps that may be used on the rear screen is iReader. While it may be used on its main screen, one of its features is its compatibility with EPD Menu and the E-ink screen. This app also serves the backend tool to download and manage the library.
Flipping and pressing the sleep/wake button twice while facing the E-ink let you browse through the 5 menu windows. Other than the e-book reader, other apps like News and Calendar mirror its colored Android app counterparts. Remember that the e-ink menu and app system is powered by Android. It does not have a separate operating system.
It is also possible to take calls and reply to text messages while using the E-ink display, which gives confidence boost when it comes to battery usage.
Ghosting is a major issue of the E-ink display. When transition to main display, when you take a peek at the E-ink display, the last window shows a huge amount of ghosting of the other menu displays. This is a common issue on this kind of display, but may be remedied by tweaking its refresh settings. Unfortunately, there is no way to edit it on the Taiji.
We see traces of hits and misses too on Taiji’s secondary display, but it is a great show of innovation by Cherry Mobile. Filipinos don’t get much innovations from a local smartphone maker in the Philippines. Having a courage brand such as Cherry Mobile to bring this kind of product to the Philippines somehow sends a powerful message to other local brands: innovate or die.
Extreme poles in performance
In Chinese Philosophy (don’t mind me doing this as I’m a Philosophy major graduate), Taiji means ‘greatest’ or ‘supreme ultimate’. It is central to Taoism’s teachings, and the very core belief in Yin and Yang or extreme poles. Being Cherry Mobile’s latest product, its very own Taiji seems to also have extreme poles when it comes to overall performance.
It is extremely good in some aspects such as hardware features but falls really short on optimization and performance.
It’s powered by Mediatek MT6752, same CPU inside Flare X, Lenovo K3 Note and Meizu M1 Note. It isn’t the fastest and latest in the family of Mediatek’s chipset, so it is but natural for me to expect nothing extraordinary.
Navigating through the UI and performing operations, was smooth but it isn’t something as fast as I’m used to. Cherry Mobile Desire R7 and Desire R8 are much faster when switching from one app to the other. I thought that there is a need to refine Taiji’s software in order for it to attain its maximum optimized performance.
There is no planned future update to newest Android builds yet. It currently runs on Android Lollipop 5.1, which is still riddled with lingering issues on application and security management.
Thankfully, there isn’t much bloatware present on the Cherry Mobile Taiji. It’s almost sqeaky clean, and the ones that they pre-installed are basic applications that power up its hardware features such as the secondary E-ink display and IR-remote.
Yes, there’s an IR-remote and it may just be another thing that you’ll love about the Taiji. You can control a bunch of appliances from TVs to air conditioning units. I tested this a few times, and while it’s sometimes difficult to pair it up to some of the devices I have at home, I can confirm that it works and ready to serve you.
Gaming is another aspect that I looked at on Taiji. I played games such as Last Day on Earth, Mobile Legends, and Lineage II. It was able to play well on Last Day on Earth and Mobile Legends almost flawlessly. Game loading was quite fast, and rendering isn’t an issue.
As a device that runs on a capable octa-core processor and Mali T760 GPU, it was pretty able to serve the purpose as a gaming device for non-AAA title games. When I ran Lineage II, I noticed a few hiccups especially on scenes where game elements eat up a lot of hardware resources. I experienced multiple frame drops and lag, which basically define the limitations of the Taiji.
Acceptable camera performance
Taiji has a decent camera system. Its 13MP rear camera takes good photos, with acceptable range of color reproduction, saturation and contrast. It isn’t perfect as it struggles to produce acceptable output at subjects that aren’t well lit. Its flash is good enough to compensate for the lack of light, albeit the lack of subtlety of the use of external light.
It produces an acceptable amount of background blur when taking macro-shots. This is difficult to achieve when subjects are in dark environments.
When taking scenic landscape photos, Taiji can capture and reproduce the right blues, greens and blacks of subjects. The issues come right in when you zoom in to the subjects. Details get obscured and quality is diminished due to sensor limitation. Since there is no OIS, a light shake can, unfortunately, blur some of the photos. Adding HDR feature darkens photos too – a feature that Cherry Mobile needs to fix ASAP.
The phone is selfie-ready! Its 8MP front camera can produce detailed selfies. The availability of Beuty Feature is available, and it might be other people’s best shot at getting more right-swipes on Tinder. (Well, I’m not on Tinder because I’m already taken. But for some of you who are still in the “market”, go fire-up its Beauty Mode if you think you need it.
Battery Life can be better
While you have the full control of the battery life of the Taiji because of its E-ink alternative screen, it is never a pleasure to use the secondary screen all the time. It is slow, and only perfect for your “worst-case scenario” moments. Using the E-ink display still draws power from its operating system at a low-power consumption state. It would have been better had they setup a separate system that powers the E-ink implementation.
At moderate to heavy usage, expect Taiji’s battery to run out after 7 hours; and at moderate usage, with E-ink screen on, you won’t be able to use it after 10 hours.
Hungry for Connectivity
Taiji is ready for you if you’re hungry to connect with people. It’s Dual SIM and Dual LTE capable. It has Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and IR-Remote. The lack of NFC isn’t an issue here as I don’t normally use it. Different strokes for different folks.
A Great Display of Cherry Mobile’s Innovation Superiority among Local Brands
The Cherry Mobile Taiji is a solid message from Cherry Mobile that they are the undisputed leader in innovation in the local smartphone competition. It is enough proof for them to claim such superiority, but it comes with a troubling drawback – product’s price. Cherry Mobile’s strength is cost leadership among other local brands, and having the Taiji priced at PhP12,999, put them at a woobly pedestal.
Let me get this straight: I am not recommending this product to budget smartphone hunters. This product is for those who are hunting for smartphones with “cool” factors. This one’s a novelty product, and definitely for keeps for e-book readers and huge fans of E-ink.