Hey guys, this is JM Balicano of MobileTechPinoy.com and in case you didn’t already know, Cherry Mobile just launched two of their first 5G smartphones. One of which is one of the most affordable, if not THE most affordable 5G smartphone right now in the Philippines. However, for just a little bit more money, there’s a significant jump, not just in raw processing power, but aesthetically and feature-wise as well if you decide to go with the Aqua SV.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

First, let’s talk about what you get in the box. The box itself is markedly different from the standard white box from Cherry Mobile as this one comes in black with reflective silver text. Just from photos I’ve taken, it already gives off a more premium vibe versus its other handsets.

Inside, you’ll find the accessories organized into smaller boxes, which some people will appreciate since it helps keep the box uncluttered if you want to keep using it. Folks who live in dorms or other shared living spaces will know.

The first box contains a clear soft case, quick start guide, as well as a tiny SIM ejector tool you’ll likely lose after you take it out of its wrapper and use it just once. Cherry Mobile seems to be making it a habit of including a soft case with their more popular phones, and this still seems true for Aqua SV, which is nice though since it can be difficult to buy cases for Cherry Mobile phones in general.

A second box contains the earpod style Type-C headset and Type-C charging cable, both of which are in white. They both have a premium feel to them, though I’ve never been a fan of earpod style headsets because they’re never as bassy as in-ear headsets. However, they can provide a more universal fit without having to switch out the tips on an in-ear headset.

A final third box contains the wall charger, which again is also in white. It supports up to 30W charging so if you don’t already have something better, you’ll want to keep it if you want to take advantage of the Aqua SV’s fast charging tech.

The accessories overall have a nice premium feel to them and they should be enough for most people. However, if you’re an audiophile who prefers to use their own headsets or headphones, it doesn’t come with an included Type-C to 3.5mm headset adapter.

SOFTWARE AND UI

The Cherry Mobile Aqua SV comes with Android 11 with minimal modifications. The launcher is straightforward though the wallpaper picker doesn’t make it obvious how to set your own custom wallpaper. Experienced Android users will know how to do so from your photo gallery among other things, though the average lolo or lola will probably not.

The homescreen is set by default to show all the apps, but you can choose to hide them all in the traditional app drawer, which is what I prefer. There’s also an option to switch between onscreen navigation buttons and gesture navigation.

The notification shade can easily be accessed without having to swipe all the way from the top. Swiping down from the middle of the homescreen will suffice. There’s also toggles for different tools and features, such as the venerable flashlight, the calculator app, and turning various connectivity options on or off. Some folks might really appreciate Super Screenshot and Screen Record though. 

Overall, launcher customization options are appreciated. They’re plentiful without being too complicated, which should work well whether this is your first Android phone or fifth. 

DESIGN

The Aqua SV is one of the most gorgeous phones yet from the brand. It might still be a long while before I’m unimpressed by a vivid AMOLED display curving into its edges. In addition to being eye candy, this actually helps make the device handle better as the edges are already naturally curved. 

The dual front cameras give it a sophisticated look, though it can be a little off-putting as well, since it pushes the clock from its natural place in the upper right of the screen to a place that isn’t quite centered. While there is an option to move the notification bar down, it doesn’t work in all situations, which I’ll talk about later. 

Button placement is for both the volume rocker and power/lock buttons are on the right side of the Aqua SV. Interestingly, the power/lock button is in red, which makes it stand out a bit and initially gave me the impression that it had a special function, like a dedicated camera shutter button. That is actually not the case.

Most things are where you’d expect them, such as the earpiece above the screen, a noise-canceling mic on top, while the main mic and Type-C port are at the bottom. Weirdly, the SIM tray is also at the bottom, which can make it confusing when inserting your SIM because you might accidentally mistake the mic pinhole as where you’d insert the pin to eject the SIM tray.

The back is probably my favorite thing about the Aqua SV after I get over the screen. The camera array is well thought out and completes the look of the back. It doesn’t look like the weird cluster of circles that some phones get away with. The leather back in green is well-executed, though I think it’s actually textured plastic. I’ve tried making a mark with my fingernail, to no avail. Though that’s probably a good thing, considering the back isn’t replaceable.

CAMERA

If there’s anything that’ll get me excited about a new phone, it’s the opportunity to test out the cameras, and the Aqua SV is certainly promising. I went out to my favorite park here in Marikina and took a bunch of test shots, primarily with the main 64MP sensor. Considering this is still considered entry-level pricing, there will be a lot of times where the Aqua SV’s cameras feel like they’re punching above their weight class. A lot of this is thanks to the built-in AI post-processing that allows the camera to recognize scenes and optimize the output accordingly.

We can see this a lot in these shots I took from the park, where most of the photos were being optimized for “Greenery”. We can see just how much magic is being done by comparing it with a photo from the same park, except where the AI interestingly wasn’t able to recognize the scene and didn’t do its magic. The optimized shots are much more vivid versus the flatter colors of the shot whose output wasn’t optimized.

As a walkaround camera, the 64MP primary sensor is decent for its price point. The wide angle camera, despite its limited 2MP resolution, is serviceable enough for shots that play to its strengths, such as daytime landscapes and architecture. However, the macro camera leaves a lot to be desired. Macro cameras are often utilized when shooting toy photography or small products. shots. However, the macro camera results of the Aqua SV are just too muddy for me to be happy with them. 

The front cameras are another highlight, although you don’t actually get different focal lengths. There’s only one primary selfie camera, with the secondary front camera most likely serving as a depth sensor, as there doesn’t seem to be a secondary wide angle or telephoto function in the selfie menu options. Still, I definitely liked how well it performed in low light. Sure, the highlights can sometimes come off as over-exposed, but I’d rather a well-exposed subject than an overall muddy photo.

Speaking of low light, the Night mode is actually pretty good. I plan on doing an even more in-depth review of the cameras depending on how well this video does, so if you’re interested, throw me a like down below or let me know in the comments, then subscribe so you can check back when I upload that video.

One final thing though about the Aqua SV’s imaging capabilities. I can’t move on without at least talking about the lack of stabilization on the rear or front cameras. The Aqua SV’s cameras are decent enough, but only for stills. If you want to utilize it for video, not having stabilization is a drawback. Sure, you can get a gimbal, but that’s a separate purchase. There are phones out there under Php15K that offer stabilization, such as the Samsung Galaxy A22 and the Moto g50 5G, the latter of which obviously has 5G.

DISPLAY

Okay, now that I’ve ranted about the lack of stabilization, let’s talk about that screen. The Cherry Mobile Aqua SV comes equipped with a 6.6 inch Full HD+ AMOLED display with curved edges, similar to what we’ve seen from Samsung flagships in the last few years. AMOLED displays can be a bit polarizing because they’re not exactly color-accurate. 

However, they are extremely punchy in terms of both contrast and saturation, and this one is no exception. As good as it is at rendering pure black though, it’s not as good with white, where the result often comes off as a bit muddy at lower brightness levels when compared with IPS displays. 

Still, it is gorgeous. And that it curves around the edges gives the illusion that there is no bezel as it just wraps around the sides. That it’s capable of 90Hz refresh rates is just a bonus.

Speaking of bonuses, the Aqua SV comes with a built-in fingerprint scanner right in the screen. This isn’t exactly new technology, although it’s not something I would consider that common on midrange, let alone entry-level phones like this one. Yet, here we are. In-display fingerprint scanners are a sexier, more seamless implementation. Yes, it’s slightly slower than a traditional fingerprint scanner, and if you manage to find a protector for the screen, it might become less accurate. Still, pretty sexy.

It does however have a bit of an implementation bug. For some reason, if you’re using the fingerprint scanner as the default security unlock option and rather than just unlocking the screen, you’re opening an app that triggers the biometric unlock, the display brightens and stays bright. This can be particularly annoying with financial apps where you obviously don’t want the screen with your sensitive details to stay bright. It’s quickly remedied by locking the screen and unlocking it again and you certainly get used to it. Still, it’s something to be aware of if you decide to get the Aqua SV.

AUDIO

The Aqua SV is equipped with a single loudspeaker on the lower right end of the phone. It’s sufficiently loud, though I’ve never found it to be offensive or tinny at full volume unless it was in public and would have been socially awkward. Unfortunately, as with most phones going for this approach to single speaker placement, it’s easily blocked if you rotate it counter-clockwise into landscape mode and your right hand just naturally rests on it. 

Another thing that might give audiophiles second thoughts about buying the Aqua SV is that it doesn’t have a 3.5mm headset port. Sure, wireless headphones and headsets are the trend, but there is still a respectable population of users who would rather stick to wired options. You could get a 3.5mm to Type-C adapter, but this means you can’t charge your phone and listen to audio using a wired headset at the same time. 

This is also an annoyance for people who don’t have Bluetooth in their in-car head units and rely on an Aux cable to play music from their phone. Yes, there are workarounds, but they are hardly straightforward.

BENCHMARKS AND PERFORMANCE

Next is its Dimensity 810 chipset, which is a step up in performance versus the Dimensity 700, which you’ll find on a lot of cheaper entry-level 5G smartphones. How much of a step up? About 60 to 90 thousand points in Antutu. I ran the Aqua SV on my favorite benchmarks. Here are the results:

  • Antutu
    • 380,739
  • PCMark
    • Work 3.0: 10,485
    • Storage 2.0: 20,043
  • GeekBench 5
    • Single Core: 571
    • Multi-core: 1696
    • OpenCL: 1621
  • 3DMark
    • Slingshot Extreme: 2,722
  • GFXBench
    • Aztec Ruins
      • OpenGL Normal: 15 Fps
      • Vulkan Normal: 13 Fps

The Aqua SV scored 380,739 on Antutu and 10,485 on PC Mark’s Work 3.0. That’s 40,000 points better than the Aqua S10 Pro on Antutu and about 850 points better on Work 3.0. The single and multi core scores on Geekbench are also better on the Aqua SV, though interestingly, the Aqua S10 Pro scored 2,257 on the Open CL test, versus 1,621 on the Aqua SV. 

Another interesting comparison to the Aqua S10 Pro also scored slightly better than the Aqua SV on gaming benchmarks, such as 3DMark’s Slingshot Extreme and GFXBench, specifically the Aztec Ruins Open GL and Vulkan Normal tests. Of course, benchmarks aren’t everything, but just based on this, the Aqua S10 Pro might be the better gaming phone rather than the Aqua SV. Speaking of which, let’s talk about gaming.

The 128GB of internal storage capacity is great and should satisfy most users. However, there continues to be a large population of folks who might be annoyed at the lack of a micro SD card slot. The argument against expandable storage via micro SD cards is that they’re slow, but they continue to be an inexpensive option to quickly gain more storage. This is especially true given phones like the Aqua SV can shoot 64MP JPEGs, which are about 17MBs each. And that’s just photos. The Aqua SV can also do up to 2K video.

GAMING

Just about the only games I play these days are the venerable Call of Duty Mobile and the popular rhythm game, Beatstar. In terms of responsiveness, I have no complaints considering the price range. I was able to play Call of Duty Mobile on Medium settings while still being able to stay competitive in either Battle Royale or Ranked Multiplayer. 

On Beatstar though, the frame rate seemed to stutter a little even with the 90Hz refresh rate enabled. I never experienced this on the Aqua S10 Pro, so it’s worth mentioning. Yes, it’s just one game that the Dimensity 810 probably isn’t optimized for, but if you observe something once on a mainstream game, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter it again.

Interestingly, the front camera placement on the screen can be a bit bothersome. When you rotate it counter-clockwise into landscape mode, it’s located in the lower left corner, which is where you’ll find the movement keys for a lot of first person shooters like Call of Duty Mobile. While there’s an option to extend the notification area to account for the dual camera punch holes, this doesn’t extend outside of the launcher UI. That means depending on the game, the in-screen nature of the dual camera punch holes can get in the way of your controls. 

CONCLUSION

The Cherry Mobile Aqua SV is easily the best phone that’s come out from the local brand in years. It isn’t perfect, but it hits above its weight class in so many ways that make it difficult to ignore.

Among the pros to buying the Aqua SV is its Full HD+ curved AMOLED display, which you’ll rarely find on a midrange phone, let alone a phone that’s still technically priced in the entry-level. Color and contrast are my favorite thing about AMOLED displays and everything will look realer than real on the Aqua SV.

Next is its in-display fingerprint scanner. Yes, it isn’t perfect, but I love that I don’t have to hunt for the scanner behind the phone or on the power/lock button on the side. It’s still in front of you while maximizing the display-to-body ratio.

The leather texture back is another thing to write home about. I think the green color they went with was a great choice and gives the Aqua SV distinctly classic character that wouldn’t have been the same if they went with generic smartphone black.

As for the cons, there’s the lack of expandable storage, which might not be that big of a deal for most people. However, the decision to forgo a 3.5mm headset port is something that really ruffles my feathers.

The lack of image stabilization is also a let-down. Given more video content is being consumed online than ever before, anyone going with the Aqua SV will have to settle for that amateurish handheld look on their videos, or get a gimbal. I guess you can’t have it all given that we’re already getting a curved AMOLED display and 5G on a handset that’s so affordable.

So those are my thoughts on the Cherry Mobile Aqua SV. I do plan to come out with separate camera and gaming reviews, so let me know in the comments below what you’d like me to cover. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and subscribe to me on YouTube to stay updated. I post a lot of tech and camera related content so if you’re into that kind of thing, let’s make this a commitment. If you’re not that into me yet, that’s okay. You can totally leave a non-committal like. We don’t have to put a label on it yet.

Cherry Mobile Flare Y7 LTE Specs

  • 6.6 inch Full HD+ AMOLED display
    • 1080 x 2340 resolution
    • 390.49 PPI
    • 90Hz refresh rate
    • Corning Gorilla Glass 5
  • MediaTek Dimensity 810
    • Octa-core CPU
      • 2x Cortex-A76 at 2.4GHz
      • 6x Cortex-A55 at 2.0GHz
    • Mali-G57 MC2
  • Android 11
  • 8GB RAM
  • 128GB internal storage
    • Expandable via microSD, up to 512GB
  • Quad rear cameras
    • 64MP AF primary camera
    • 5MP FF ultrawide camera
    • 2MP FF macro camera
    • 2MP depth sensor
  • Dual selfie cameras
    • 16MP FF primary camera
    • 2MP depth sensor
  • 5mp front camera
  • Up to 5G mobile connectivity
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • In-screen fingerprint scanner
  • 4,200mAh battery, non-removable
  • Dual SIM
  • Price: Php11,999

About the Author

JM Balicano

Back when I started MobileTechPinoy in 2012, phablets weren't a thing yet. I enjoyed the stares I got from iPhone owners whenever I whipped out my Samsung Galaxy Note at the time. I'm much more budget-conscious these days though and am perfectly fine with using phones from any of our locally brands.

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