Cherry Mobile has been on a roll last week, unleashing a slew of new budget Android phones and tablets while slashing the price off the previous generation. Two phones in particular that caught my eye were the W100 and Candy TV. Both of them featured a 1Ghz CPU, 512Mb of RAM, and a 3.5″capacitive IPS screen for a little more than Php3k.
While the Candy TV is the cheaper of the two at Php3,299, it was the W100 that really got me interested because it also supported 3G mobile browsing. To put things into perspective, the cheapest alternative Android handset that features both a 1Ghz CPU and 3G browsing is possibly the Lenovo A60, which costs Php4,900. That’s a price difference of Php1,400! So last week, I decided to sell my A818 that I’ve been using as my commute phone on Sulit and get the W100. I’ve been loving it so far, but the experience isn’t prefect. That can only be expected considering there have to be some corners cut to keep the price as affordable as it is.
Update: For just an additional Php500, you can get the Cherry Mobile Flare with 1.2GHz CPU, 512Mb RAM and a 4″ IPS screen!
The OS: Gingerbread is Good, ICS Would Have Been Better
The W100 comes with Gingerbread 2.3.5 out of the box, which is acceptable, considering that many other budget Android handsets also come with Gingerbread. However, considering that it comes with a 1Ghz CPU and 512Mb of RAM, it’s a shame they didn’t load it up with ICS 4.0 or even Jelly Bean 4.1. Still, Gingerbread is quite serviceable and addressed the force close issues of Froyo 2.2.
In fact, in some cases such as normal operation, Gingerbread doesn’t lag as much as ICS does. For example, some Go Launcher homescreen transition animations on my Galaxy Note ran quite smoothly on Gingerbread, but ever since I updated it to ICS, there has been a noticeable delay before the animations kicked in after a swipe of my finger. Heck, the W100 even runs many of the Go Launcher homescreen animations better than my Note does.
Design and Build Quality: Like Holding a Toy
Okay, so I wasn’t expecting much in terms of build quality, despite the relatively high specs. You get what you pay for, after all. The W100 comes in an all-plastic body and you have a choice of black or white. Regardless of the color you choose, the screen will still be bordered by a black bezel. The bezel above the screen makes room for a front facing camera and the speaker, while the bezel at the bottom accommodates a four-capacitive button layout for the Menu, Home, Back and Search functions. The bezel on either side of the screen isn’t that thick at all, so the screen dominates as much of the front as it can. The entire front face of the phone is bordered by a blue accent strip to give the phone a bit of character. Personally, I would have preferred that they left that design element out, but I guess that would have made the phone even more generic-looking than it already is.
If you take a look at the top of the phone, you’ll find the power/lock button, the 3.5mm headphone jack, and the micro USB port. The only button that can be found on the right side of the W100 is the volume rocker. There’s also a bit of space underneath the back cover on the lower right corner that allows you to insert your fingernail so you can pry it off. On the left side, there’s a lanyard eyelet while the bottom accommodates the pinhole for the microphone for taking calls or recording audio. The back of the phone is textured plastic, and you’ll find the 3.2mp fixed focus camera and flash, loudspeakers, and the Cherry Mobile brand toward the bottom. The texture of the back cover is a nice way to give users a bit of extra grip so the phone doesn’t slip out of their hands rather easily, however it did still feel like I was holding a toy.
With exception to that blue accent line, the front of the device is pretty clean-looking. You’ll have an improved grip on the phone, thanks to the textured back. The all-plastic build is unavoidable. Anything else would have driven the price up. One thing I don’t like though is the light leakage around the LED indicator whenever you receive a message, and especially when you’re charging the phone.
The Screen: Better than Average
One of the main reasons the W100 caught my attention was because of the IPS screen. If you’re not already aware, IPS (in-plane switching) displays provide better color accuracy and wider viewing angles compared to the typical TFT solutions that you’ll find on phones like the Galaxy Y and Optimus L3. The W100 sports a 3.5″ capacitive IPS display in HVGA (320 x 480) resolution, which is sharper than the QVGA (240 x 320) displays of most budget phones from the top manufacturers.
I wasn’t disappointed by the screen when I first loaded the phone up and switched to my favorite live wallpaper. The colors were quite accurate when I compared a screenshot of the wallpaper on my PC. However, I also wasn’t that blown away. The HVGA resolution is indeed higher than what you’ll find on the Galaxy Y or Optimus L3, however, it still isn’t that sharp either. Still, reading eBooks using the Aldiko app or any other eBook reading app was okay, and I did enjoy watching a few movies on the adequately sized screen.
The CPU and GPU: Because Speed Matters
The other reason the W100 caught my interest was because it also sported a 1Ghz Snapdragon CPU. That’s faster than many of the budget phones that are already out there that can cost anywhere from Php1k-2k or more. It’s also the same chip that’s found in the LG Optimus L7 – a phone with a 4″ screen that costs at least Php8,700 more than the W100 in malls! The Snapdragon chip is coupled with the Adreno 200 GPU for 3D gaming that is quite decent. Just how acceptable is it? I played Shadowgun on it without a hitch.
A single core 1Ghz CPU is nothing to write home about, but it does provide a much smoother experience when running apps and playing games. The Snapdragon chip isn’t the fastest, and you’ll still encounter the occasional lag when transitioning between the app drawer and the homescreens, however it won’t be as noticeable. The Adreno 200 GPU is a big plus since your selection of games will not be as limited by the W100’s ability to play them. Even the Galaxy S3 Dandelion live wallpaper that struggled to run smoothly on my old MyPhone A818 because of the graphical effects ran quite smoothly on the W100. 512Mb of RAM for better lag-free multitasking is also a big plus since most other budget Androids only have up to 384Mb. Nice.
Camera: Dual Cameras for Twice the Fun
The Cherry Mobile W100 is eager to please, and it gives you not just one, but two cameras to satisfy your imaging needs. The front-facing shooter is just a VGA unit, but it will allow you to take advantage of apps like Skype for video calls over WiFi or 3G. The rear-facing camera is a 3.2mp fixed focus shooter. Still shots are quite decent in adequate lighting but fares poorly in shots that have less than favorable lighting. You can try video recording if you want, but don’t expect anything memorable.
Update: I’ve had some inquiries on whether video calls over Skype work. Yes they do. Tested on a video call to my Galaxy Note.
Update: Here are some camera samples as requested by Eric
Connectivity: 3G and GPS! Whooooop!
The ability to browse at 3G speeds is a very much in demand feature in phones and tablets. It does however come at a premium most of the time. Not on the W100 though, and I had fun browsing through the Facebook app and reading sports news on my commute – something I rarely did on my Galaxy Note because it drained the battery too quickly.
While I already knew about the W100 having 3G connectivity, what I didn’t know was that it also had GPS connectivity. After all, Cherry Mobile’s Facebook page said nothing about it, and even when I bought it, I found nothing on the box to indicate that it had GPS. Yet when I went into the notification area, the GPS toggle option was there, and I found it again in the settings area. Just for trips, I fired up Endomondo Sports Tracker Pro while I was on a jeep and used its GPS tracking feature to measure how fast it was going. Pretty accurate I must say. If you’re looking for a budget GPS navigation alternative, this could be it for you!
Aside from 3G and GPS, there’s also 2G connectivity, Bluetooth and WiFi 802.11 b/g. Wired connectivity includes the micro USB port so you can connect the phone to your PC and use it as a mass storage device, or perhaps USB debugging if you’re that kind of user.
Update: Some users have reported being unable to get 3G or even 2G data to work. This is because it has to be enabled by going to Settings > Dual SIM Settings > Configure dual SIM > Mobile Network Settings > Access Point Names. Once you’re in Access Point Names, you’ll find separate 3G profiles, which will depend on your network. In my case, I’m using a Globe Prepaid SIM, so the profile options that appeared were Globe Internet, MyGlobe Internet, and MyGlobe MMS. I selected MyGlobe Internet, and in mere seconds, my 3G was working. Hope this helps
Internal Storage and Apps: Bloatware.. Ughh..
Okay, so the apps that come installed with the W100 are actually quite usable and decent. You get a suite of Google apps, which include Maps, Navigation, Latitude, Places, Google Play, Voice Search and YouTube. Then there are other useful messaging and social media apps like Facebook, Twitter and Viber.
That isn’t a lot, but here’s my problem with this. The box says that the phone should come with 512Mb of ROM. However only 175Mb of that is user-accessible, meaning everything else is reserved for the OS. Then out of that 175Mb of user-accessible ROM, only about 80Mb is left because all of those pre-installed are using up the ROM – pre-installed apps that you CAN”T UNINSTALL.
Apps are the lifeblood of any smartphone, and the more apps that you can install, the more functionality you can get out of it. Most apps are just a few megabytes in size, while games can range anywhere from 5Mb to 20Mb and beyond. For example, Angry Birds is a 20.44Mb download while Bad Piggies is a 34.15Mb download.
Luckily, most apps allow you to move a good chunk of them to your MicroSD card, and you can use an app like App2SD to streamline the process. Most Galaxy Y users should be pretty familiar with this already, and since you can expand the storage up to 32Gb via MicroSD, there should still be a good amount of flexibility in installing apps. It’s still a little annoying though.
Battery Life: Keeps on Going – Unless You’re on 3G
I must say that the w100’s battery life is impressive. That’s the advantage when the components aren’t top-of-the-shelf. The W100 comes with a battery that’s rated at 1400mAh. To put things into perspective, the Galaxy S2 came with a 1650mAh battery and was still able to last a day. Comparatively speaking, the W100 should be able to last you about 2 to 3 days on normal usage that includes the occasional text, call, and WiFi browsing.
Of course, all that goes out the window once you start surfing on 3G. 3G can really suck a battery dry in no time, and the W100 is no exception. I registered to Globe’s Surfplus Time promo for 30 straight minutes and I was able to reduce the battery by almost 7% within those 30 minutes. That should be normal, and in fact, the W100 will give you above average battery life, even with 3G on. Just remember to turn 3G off when you’re not using it and you should be fine.
Accessories in the Box: More Plasticky Bits
The Cherry Mobile W100 comes with all the necessary essentials you would need to enjoy the phone. There’s the USB cable so you can connect the phone to your PC for file transfers or USB debugging. It also connects to the included AC adapter for charging the phone. The phone can charge from the USB port of your PC, but it will still charge faster if you use the AC adapter and plug it into a power outlet. Finally, there’s the headset with built in mic that you can use to listen to audio, make calls, or even to play or pause the music player app. They’re all very cheap and plasticky, but they get the job done.
Conclusion: Pretty Awesome for the Price
For Php3,500, I couldn’t tell you of another phone that combines a 1Ghz CPU, 512Mb of RAM, and an IPS screen at such a price. You would have to spend at least Php1,400 to get those kinds of specs, and even then, you’d still be getting a cheap, low resolution screen. The camera is even better than the one on my old MyPhone A818, so it’s great for a quick shot with the barkada, but don’t decide to replace your primary camera with the one on the W100. To be honest, if the Cherry Mobile retailed for just Php1k more, I wouldn’t have been as excited, purely because of the cheap plastic build. However at Php3,500, I find the W100 to be quite the steal and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking to get their first Android smartphone, or perhaps some who was looking for more out of their handy backup phone. Sure, it cuts some corners, particularly in the build quality department, but it offers some decent multitasking and gaming on a budget, something that no other handset has been able to match at that price.
- 1Ghz Snapdragon CPU
- Android 2.3.5 Gingerbread
- 512Mb ROM (175Mb user accessible)
- 512Mb RAM (407Mb user accessible)
- 3.5″ capacitive IPS touchscreen (5 point touch detection) at HVGA (320 x 480) resolution
- 3G / UMTS 2100, GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
- WiFi 802.11 b/g
- 3.2Mp fixed focus rear facing camera, VGA front facing camera
- Expandable storage via MicroSD up to 32Gb
- 1,400 mAh Lithium Ion battery, rated up to 6 hours talk time, 200 hours standby time
- Official Play Store: Yes
- Price: Php 3,499
Update: Spec list updated to show GPS. Many thanks to Abe Angeles for pointing it out
Update: Skype video calls work. Camera review section updated regarding this.
Update: Some users have reported difficulty in activating 3G. Please refer to the Connectivity section above for instructions on how to get 3G to work.