Wednesday, January 2, 2013

January 2013 Mid-Sized Smartphone Buyers Guide

Yesterday I came up with a list of 4-inch smartphones which I consider to be the best options in the market. Today we will go up one level in size and take a look at the 4.3 to 4.5-inch, or mid-sized, options available in the market.

Prices indicated are for phones with a manufacturers warranty.

1. Cherry Mobile Flame (Php6,299) - Good but a bit underpowered 

Like in the compact category Cherry Mobile Flame provides the lowest cost handset I am inclined to recommend.  The Flame is a 4.5-inch Android handset with a qHD display (540 x 960). Inside it has a  Qualcomm MSM8255 S4 Play chipset, with a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, Adreno 203 graphics and 512 MB of RAM. This chipset is used in a lot of WVGA (480 x 800) phones. Pairing the Adreno 203 graphics with a qHD display does push the graphics chip close to its limits.

With a WVGA display, the graphics chip has to push a total of 384,000 pixels. With a qHD display, the graphics chip has to push 35% more pixels, or a total of 518,400 pixels. Still the phone does work.

The Cherry Mobile Flames specifications are pretty much the same as what you find in other lower cost models, with dual SIM support, 512 MB of RAM, 4 GB of storage (half of which is user available), a MicroSD card slot, and a 5 MP camera and VGA front camera. The battery is a good sized 1800 mAh unit and dual-sim support. This phone also offers 5-point multi-touch support, while most lower cost phones only offer 2-point multi-touch support. 

For an operating system, it comes Android 4.0.4, rather than the newer Android 4.1 or 4..2, but that is not a big issue since the Android 4.x line maintains software compatibility.

This phone is good enough for doing all the typical smartphone stuff. I would advice games to consider something else however. 

2. Cloudfone Thrill 430x (Php7,777) - The endurance king

The main issue with smartphones today is battery life. Keep the 3G turned on, have it automatically sync data, browse websites, download email and checking social networks leaves most with just about a days worth of power. The 4.3-inch Cloudfone Thrill 430x has a solution for that. It equips it phone with a 4160 mAh battery.

This phone has the same Android 4 operating system, Qualcomm dual core processor, chipset, storage and dual SIM capability as the Cherry Mobile Flame, but it does comes with a smaller 4.3-inch qHD display (540 x 960). This is not a bad thing, as the slightly smaller display, with the same resolution, also means it is sharper.

Aisde from the larger battery, the Cloudfone Thrill 430x has 50% more RAM than the Flame, at 768 MB. The Thrill 430x also has a larger 8 MP camera, but not necessarily better picture quality, than the Flame. The larger battery and additional RAM easily justify the higher Php7,777 asking price.

This phone is not for everyone, though. The larger battery means that it is all of 14 mm thick and 182 grams in weight. Basically, if the size and heft don't bother you, it is easy to recommend the Cloudfone Thrill 430x over the Cherry Mobile Flame. On the other hand, if the Thrill 430x feels like a brick to you, pick up the Flame instead.

Some users have reported problems with the bundled charger. 

3. ZTE Grand X V970M (Php9,990) - A nicely balanced qHD smartphone

The ZTE Grand X is another 4.3-inch qHD (540 x 960) powered by a dual core processor, but this one is on a MediaTek chipset with PowerVR SGX531 graphics. The PowerVR SGX531 graphics is a bit more powerful than the Adreno 203 graphics chip found in our lower cost mid-sized options, and is better suited for running a qHD display. 

The other features are pretty standard for the class with 512 MB of RAM, 4 GB of internal storage, expandable via a MicroSD card slow, and a 5 MP camera and a VGA secondary camera. The battery is a decent size 1650 mAh unit.

ZTE is a big manufacturer. If you are not ready to give Cherry Mobile or Cloudfone a try, this one should comes from an established enough manufacturer to suite you. The PowerVR SGX531 also makes the additional money worth it.

A phone that should probably be on this list is the Huawie U8950 G600. I just have not been able to very the specifications on the processor of this phone yet. It gives you a nice mid-sized option at about 14K. Will update this post when I can get my hands on one. 

4. Huawei U9510 D1 Quad (Php18,090) - Quad core at a Mid-Level Price

 D1 Quad XL has a a 
4.5″ IPS+ LCD display with a HD (720×1280) resolution. This makes for a sharp 326ppi. Behind the display sits a 1.4 GHz quad core processor on a, designed by 
Huawei, K3V2 chipset. The fact that is has a in-house designed chipset is pretty impressive, since only two smartphone manufacturers design their chipsets in-house: Apple and Samsung. In terms of performance it is right up there with Samsung quad core Exynos chipset. Basically, its a fast as you need, and performs really well in the graphics intensive tasks. 

Internal storage is just 8 GB, bit you do have a microSD card slot so that it not an issues.It has a 8 MP primary camera and a 1.3 MP camera. The primary camera can capture 1080p video, and the secondary camera is good for 720p video. By all accounts the camera image quality and video capture is just average, but really I do expect more at this price. The only spoiler in the package is the absence of LTE, but again, at this price you don't expect to get that.

Powering all this is a 2600 mAh battery. Despite the large battery, the phone still comes in at a reasonable 150 grams in weight. The battery is user replaceable.

The phone runs Android 4.0.4, Ice Cream Sandwich, and like other "branded" phones comes with its own custom User Interface. If you don't like the custom UI uou have the option to revert to a pretty much vanilla Android interface. 

The Huawei D1 Quad XL is a surprisingly narrow device at just 64 mm wide when compared to the 68-70 mm girth of its 4.7 and 4.8-inch rivals. 

A reasonably large and sharp HD display in a narrow case, a large user replaceable battery and quad core power at a mid-level price, makes this one a winner. 

5. Sony Xperia V (Php23,800) - LTE onboard 

The Sony Xperia V is an upgraded version of the Sony Xperia acros S. It has the similar specifications to the Xperia acro S but is powered by the dual core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Krait processor. It has a slightly higher resolution 13 MP camera. Most importantly, this phone has a HSPA+ and LTE radio,  and is available from Smart Communications with an LTE plan. All in all, despite the price, this phone is easy enough to recommend. 

Internal storage is less than the Xperia Acro S, at 8 GB, but it does come with a MicroSD card slot. The battery is a smallet 1750 mAH unit, but with the more efficient processor, it should give good battery life.

This phone come with Android 4.0.4 out of the box, but an update to Jelly Bean has been confirmed for this phone.

6. HTC Windows Phone 8S (Php24,150) - Best Windows Phone in the market, but sadly the local version is not the LTE model

Like the Xperia acro S, the Windows Phone 8S has a 4.3-inch HD (720 x 1280) display. Inside you will find the powerful dual core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Krait processor. Mated with a 1800 mAh battery, this phone promises good battery life. The other specifications are standard for the class, with 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage (which is not user expandable) and a HSDPA+ 21.1 radio. Unfortunately, HTC Philippines did not opt to bring in the LTE model.

The main reason to choose this phone is if you want a high end Windows Phone 8 device. It is the best Windows phone available in the market right now, well until the Nokia Lumia 920 arrives anyway.


  1. Sir pls update ur blog ZTE Grand X V970M has no vga front facing camera...

  2. No love for Kata i1? Anyway, I believe that ZTE Grand X does not deserve to be in the list unless it's the Tegra version. MediaTek MT6577, PowerVR SGX531, 512MB RAM, 1650mAh, so-so screen and build quality for 10K? Not worth it. ZTE may be an established manufacturer but that should only be a factor if it is backed up by good after-sales support.

    1. It a bit of a blog bias, but once we start to go to higher price points, we start to look for more established manufacturers and avoid the ODM stuff. The Kata i1 is a interesting phone, but like CM and Cloudfone I would wait till their phones are in the market for some time before adding it to the list.

      When we look at established manufacturers (OEM's), I am really looking at build quality. With the ODM phone, I really have no idea who built a particular phone.

    2. At ZTE Grand X's price point, I would rather get Alcatel One Touch 997D Explore (4.3" WVGA, MT6577, 1GB RAM, 1800 mAh battery for 9,990). Since you mentioned build quality, if you read other reviews regarding ZTE Grand X's build quality, it isn't really a plus factor either. I also believe that Cherry Mobile Flame was only included because of the size category. I don't think classifying phones according to size would be effective for buyers' guide. If this is a sub-10K bang-for-the-buck buyers' guide, I only see 4 phones worthy of the list: 1. Cherry Mobile Flare for unbeatable price:performance, 2. Cherry Mobile Titan for those who wants a phablet 3. Cloudfone Thrill 430x for its beastly battery and, 4. Kata i1 for its 1GB memory.

      Don't get me wrong. I've been a fan of your blog for researching bang-for-the buck devices since 2010.

  3. "The Thrill 430x also has a larger 8 MP camera, but not necessarily better picture quality, than the Flame."
    Sir, the pictures taken with Thrill 430x happen to be of better quality, too. It smokes the camera performance of CM Flame and CM Titan, as well. :)

    1. I guess, I might just be expecting too much. Every picture I have see taken by one of these entry level phones, well just does not look good. Good enough for Facebook and Instagram uploads, but not much else.

    2. Case in point: don't assume when you haven't tried it yet. Your opinion holds little to nothing because you have the burden of proof. Spec sheets don't tell everything fyi, especially trivial stuff like picture quality.

  4. You may include these too..

    1. Starmobile Crystal
    2. Starmobile Astra
    3. Myphone A888
    4. Myphone A898
    5. O+ 8.17

    1. The MyPhone a888 Duo will be making it on the next list, baring anything newer and better.

  5. Kata I1 looks promising, but I must admit I am a bit apprehensive since the brand is still not that established yet to have some basis for quality. What's your take on the HTC Desire X? I'm considering buying that phone after reading some good reviews. Your advice will be greatly appreciated :)

    1. The Kari1 looks very promising indeed, but when a new brand pops up I check the size of the distributor network. This is to try to avoid recommending phones that are orphaned not too long after their release.

      The Desire X. In terms of hardware, it is really a better built version of the Cherry Mobile Flare, at three times the price. Go over to CMK Cellphones, last I checked they had the HTC One S at less than 15K. The Galaxy S III mini would also be a more interesting alternative.

  6. i recently got a zte grand for 4290 brand new


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