Shortly after Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0 was released, news of three more budget smartphones from the local phone brand quickly leaked and then became official. In case you missed them, they were the Flare 2X, Burst 2.0 and Apollo. Of the three, it was the Cherry Mobile Apollo that stood out. Why? Because for just Php6,999, you were getting a quad core phone with an HD screen! When I first read the leaks, I couldn’t believe them at first, but everything was quickly confirmed, and it wasn’t soon before long that Cherry Mobile sent over a unit for me to review. Is the Cherry Mobile Apollo everything that everyone was hoping it to be? Here’s my full Cherry Mobile Apollo review for you guys to find out.
What’s in the Box?
Cherry Mobile’s retail boxes have undergone a bit of a change lately. They’re no longer large and a cumbersome. These days, they’re much smaller and more refined. It used to be weird when the box that my old Flare came in was the same size as the one that housed my Titan TV. Now, the boxes of the Apollo and Flare 2.0 are both smaller and easier to handle.
Of course, this section is called “What’s in the Box?”, so let’s take a look at what comes with every purchase of the Cherry Mobile Apollo.
- 2,000mAh battery
- Charger (output: 5.5v, 800mA)
- USB transfer cable
- User manual
It’s the standard set of accessories that Cherry Mobile includes with its phones, although there have been a few minor changes. The charger is no longer white, but black, and the headset is no longer the standard bud type, but is now the in-ear type. The sound quality from the headset still isn’t that good, but at least the in-ear design minimizes sound leakage and keeps it from popping out of your ear every time you turn your head.
I was a bit disappointed with the charger though. I think it would have been more appropriate to bundle a charger with a 1A output rather than just an 800mA charger. It might seem like a small detail, but it can mean the difference between a 3-hour charge versus a 4-hour charge.
Design and Construction
The body of the Cherry Mobile Apollo is made from thick, solid plastic and has a glossy black finish. The materials don’t scream premium — they don’t even whisper it — but at least the plastic is nice and durable.
In terms of design, the Apollo is built like a generic touchscreen smartphone. It’s a black plastic slab with very few unique design cues. Naturally, the front of the phone is dominated by the 4.5″ display.
Above it are the front camera, LED notification light, and proximity and light sensors.
At the bottom of the screen are the capacitive menu, home and back navigation keys.
On the left of the device, you’ll find the long, silver volume rocker.
The right side is completely devoid of any ports or hardware controls.
At the top of the Apollo, there’s the 3.5mm headset jack, power/lock button, and micro USB port.
The only hardware feature you’ll find on the bottom is the microphone pinhole for making calls or recording your voice.
On the back, there’s the 12mp autofocus camera with LED flash, and the Apollo branding.
There’s also the Cherry Mobile logo and loudspeaker close to the bottom. Also, there’s a small notch on the battery cover that makes it easier for you to pry it open.
Finally, if you open it up, you’ll be able to access the battery, SIMz slots and micro SD slot.
The overall design of the Cherry Mobile Apollo isn’t anything special. It couldn’t have gotten any more generic if it tried. Still, it’s a Php7k phone. If they paid any more attention to this phone’s design and decided to make it better, I imagine it would have also cost more.
I can’t say I’m a fan of the circular home button though. If they wanted to stick to a circular shape, it would have been better if it was a hardware button like on an iPhone, which many people confused it for when the Apollo first leaked, because quite frankly, it seems a bit out of place next to the menu and back buttons.
Also, the bezels are quite thick, especially at the bottom of the screen. It’s much thicker than the one on top, and it just seems like a lot of wasted space considering how low the capacitive navigation keys are placed. It’s nothing to dwell about really — just an observation I wanted to point out.
As far as locally branded smartphones go, the Cherry Mobile Apollo has the second best screen in terms of pixel density next to the Cherry Mobile Cosmos Z. It features a 4.5 inch HD IPS display with a resolution of 720 x 1280 and a pixel density of 326ppi (the Cosmoz Z is rated at 441ppi). No other local brand has managed to bring a phone to market with HD resolution at a screen size lower than 5 inches. The Apollo might lose that second spot to Cherry Mobile’s own upcoming Omega 2X, which would be rated at 386ppi, but considering how affordable it is, I don’t think anyone will mind.
The only thing I don’t like is that the pre-installed screen protector produces a lot of glare in bright lighting, making the Apollo difficult to view outdoors. The placement can sometimes be hit or miss as well as seen on this review unit. At least it’s one less accessory I have to worry about though.
Powering the Cherry Mobile Apollo is a MediaTek MT6589 SoC with each of the four cores clocked at 1.2GHz. Naturally, it’s paired with the PowerVR SGX 544 GPU. Some of you may already be familiar with the MT6589 since it already powers many of the more powerful locally branded smartphones available in the market.
I’ve owned a few phones with the MT6589 so I already knew what to expect from the Apollo. Of course, that’s not going to stop me from posting proof of its performance in the form of these benchmark results from Antutu, Quadrant and Nenamark 2. Bear in mind that I ran these tests without an SD card inserted.
As you can see, the Apollo performs as is expected of an MT6589 phone with 1GB RAM and HD screen. Still, it’s pretty remarkable considering such phones typically cost several thousand pesos more than what the Apollo goes for.
Software and UI
The Apollo runs Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean straight out of the box. Navigating through the UI is fast and smooth. Opening and running the typical apps was hardly taxing for this phone and the only time it started to stutter was when I opened 6 applications at once and kept switching between them. The performance is likely a result of the combination of the MT6589 SoC and the Project Butter software optimizations of Android Jelly Bean.
Thankfully, the UI is fairly close to stock with the only real customizations being in the form of wallpapers, Cherry Mobile ringtones and bloatware. The FM Radio app is a little different though. It has the same layout and functionality as the stock Android FM Radio app but with a different skin on top. The Cherry Mobile-branded wallpapers are still there, but I like how they also included some non-branded wallpapers too.
Extra props for them some of them being of historical locations while the others were at least culturally-themed. I’m not too fond of the skin that was used in the FM Radio app though. The font looks like Times New Roman and is a visual jolt since the rest of the system uses modern Roboto font.
Telephony and Wireless Connectivity
While smartphones are more powerful and versatile than they’ve ever been, they’re still just phones and should be capable of performing as such. With that being said, the Cherry Mobile Apollo does a fairly good job as a phone.
Texting on the 4.5 inch is an upgrade over 4 inch screens like the one on the Flare 2.0, and people with normal Asian-sized hands should find it spacious enough even in portrait mode. The earpiece is just loud enough for calls indoors, but I would recommend using a headset outdoors if you want hear the person on the other end of the line.
The loudspeakers are jarringly loud though. At half volume, the Apollo’s loudspeaker is still louder than a few of the other local phones I have lying around at home. You definitely won’t have a problem making a hands-free call on this thing with just the loudspeaker and mic.
As for connectivity, the Cherry Mobile Apollo supports up to HSPA+ data speeds thanks to the MT6589 SoC. Locally, HSPA+ is the next best thing you can get short of LTE. There’s a world of difference when browsing at HSPA+ versus just 3G/HSPA. The phone also supports WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS with A-GPS.
Imaging: BSI on the Cheap
Aside from the fact that the Apollo sports a 4.5 inch HD screen and an MT6589 quad core processor, another impressive feature is the fact that it sports dual BSI cameras on the front and back of the phone. The rear-facing primary shooter is a 12mp autofocus camera while the front camera is a 5mp fixed focus shooter.
The 12mp camera is respectable and can produce shots that would rival a decent point and shoot camera. Here’s a sample outdoor shot in the afternoon.
Here’s a nighttime sample. If you’re going to use the Apollo’s camera at night, you’re still going to need an ample light source as it has trouble focusing in low-light conditions.
The Cherry Mobile Apollo makes for a great multimedia entertainment device. The capable PowerVR SGX 544 GPU can decode up to 1080p videos so there’s no need to convert them to a lower resolution video format before transferring them to the phone. Listening to music through a headset is also enhanced thanks to a built in audio enhancement feature. It’s not a unique feature to the Apollo, but it’s certainly appreciated.
However, the headset jack has some compatibility issues, which should be familiar to users of other locally branded phones. You see, the Cherry Mobile Apollo supports the OMTP headset standard while most of the popular headset brands support CTIA. As a result, you choice of headsets will be limited. To make things easier, try to stick to earphones and buds that don’t have a built in mic. But if you absolutely have to have a headset with mic, choose those by Phillip and Nokia.
As if the HD screen didn’t already give the Cherry Mobile Apollo great value, it’s also quite the gaming phone. This is all thanks to the MediaTek MT6589 SoC and built in PowerVR SGX 544 GPU. Again, it’s the same SoC that’s used on some of the more expensive quad core phones in the market, which gives the Apollo some very capable gaming chops. It handles games like Dead Trigger 2 and Temple Run 2 quite smoothly, even when the graphical details are turned up. If you’re looking for a device that can take the place of a PSP without breaking the bank, the Apollo is capable enough to meet your needs.
Interestingly enough, the box of the Apollo says it only sports a 1,800mAh battery. However, upon closer inspection of the battery itself, it appears to sport a 2,000mAh battery. I’m more inclined to believe what’s printed on the actual battery since the Apollo lasted me slightly longer than my Omega HD 2.0 did on a full charge. I’m not a heavy user as I only use the phone for calling, texting and reading news feeds from various sources while being constantly connected to WiFi. With that kind of usage, I’ve been able to get more than 25 hours on a single charge.
So Should You Buy the Cherry Mobile Apollo?
The Cherry Mobile Apollo is an unbelievable value for the price. For just Php6,999, you’re getting a Retina-class 4.5 inch screen, a CPU/GPU configuration that’s usually only seen on phones that sell for Php10k or more, and a large capacity battery when you consider the screen size.
The design is probably the only downside of the Cherry Mobile Apollo. It’s thick for its screen size, not to mention heavy. The recently teased Cherry Mobile Flare HD features the same specs with a screen that’s only .2 inches smaller and manages to be thinner and lighter than the Apollo.
If you can get over the rather rudimentary aesthetics, the Cherry Mobile Apollo is a great phone that offers a lot of value. It gives you the same performance as some of our local flagship phones while being priced for a lot less.
Cherry Mobile Apollo Specs
- 4.5″ HD IPS display (720 x 1280 resolution, 326ppi)
- 1.2GHz quad core MediaTek MT6589 SoC
- PowerVR SGX544 GPU
- 1GB RAM
- 4GB internal storage, expandable up to 32GB via micro SD
- 12mp autofocus rear-facing camera
- 5mp fixed focus front camera
- WiFi b/g/n
- GPS with A-GPS
- 2,000mAh battery
- Price: Php6,999
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