Friday, February 1, 2013

February 2013 Entry Level Smartphone Buyers Guide

It has never been as rewarding writing a entry level smartphone buyers guide as it has been the past few months. There is no need to spend a large chunk of money to be able to benefit from what modern mobile technology has to offer. So, lets see what looks good for Php10,000 or less.

The prices posted are those covered by an official manufacturers warranty.

1. Cherry Mobile Flare (Php3,999) - It is really good enough

If you are looking for a good value in an entry level smartphone these days, Android is really the only game in town, and there is really nothing wrong about that. The Cherry Mobile Flare is a Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich device. While it is not the latest Jelly Bean offering by Google, it is good enough. It maintains software compatibility with Jelly Bean so you really wont be missing out on all that much. 

Hardware is also sufficiently covered. The Flare combines a decently large and sharp 4-inch WVGA (480 x 800) display, which is large enough for you to use the phone productively. Inside, a sufficiently powerful a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor on a Qualcomm MSM8255 S4 Play chipset and Adreno 203 graphics provides enough power for all but the hardcore gamer. The Flare has enough juice to do a fair amount of 3D gaming, with few titles in Google Play requiring more power.

The Flares specifications are pretty much the standard these days for a entry level smartphone. Dual SIM support, 512 MB of RAM, 4 GB of storage (half of which is user available), a MicroSD card slot, a 5 MP camera and VGA front camera. A decent sized 1500 mAh unit should just about get you past the day

Match all this with a low Php3,999 retail price, and you have a winning combination. Now this phone won't be updated past Android 4.0.4 so consider it a one year investment. When the operating system starts to feel old in a year, and the battery is starting to show signs it needs replacement, just pick up another similar phone.

2. Cherry Mobile Flame (Php6,299) - A larger display makes it a better productivity device

Smartphones these days are used for calls, SMS, email, social networking, instant messaging and gaming. That is a fair amount of functionality. But these days smartphones are also used for web browsing, to compose, read and edit documents and edit pictures. Things which in the past you would do on your Netbook or laptop. A larger screen makes all this easier and more comfortable to do, and the Flare's bigger sibling the Cherry Mobile Flame is waiting for those who find the Flare's display a tad small.

The Flame has a larger 4.5-inch display which supports five point multitouch. A higher qHD (540 x 960) resolution keeps the display just as sharp looking as the Flare. In order to match the higher power consumption of the larger display, a larger 1800 mAh a battery is supplied. The other specifications match the Flare.

Ironically, in terms of 3D performance the higher price Flame falls behind the smaller cheaper Flare. With the WVGA display of the Flare, the graphics chip has to push a total of 384,000 pixels. With a qHD display in the Flame, the graphics chip has to push 35% more pixels, or a total of 518,400 pixels. This means the Adreno 203 graphic work harder just to display the images on the Flames screen, so it has less left over for 3D gaming.

At Php6,299 the Flame is a better choice for a smartphone user willing to give up same 3D performance for the benefit of a larger display.

3. Cherry Mobile Omega (Php6,699) - Galaxy Note on a budget

If a "Phablet", one of those ungainly large smartphones suits you more, there is the Omega. The Omega brings an option of a large 5.2-inch display and Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean to those on a budget. The 5.2-inch display is a WVGA display which has a pixel density of 171 pixels per inch. So it is not the sharpest display in the world. On the other hand, it is not so bad. The Apple iPad mini's display is sufficiently sharp for me, and that device only has a pixel density of 162 ppi.

Rather than the Qualcomm chipset in the Flare and the Flame, the Omega comes with a more powerful 1 GHz dual core ARM Cortex A9 processor and PowerVRSGX531 graphics on a Mediatek chipset. Again, the battery size has been enlarged to make up for the higher power consumption of the 5.2-inch display. The other specifications are the same as the Flare and the Flame.

4. Lenovo A800 (Php6,999) - For the gamer on the budget

If you looking for the most powerful package at a low price and the Omega seems just a bit too big, Lenovo's A800 is the one for you. It comes with the same processor and graphics chip as the Omega, but the processor is clock 200 MHz higher, at 1.2 GHz. The display is a 4.5-inch FWVGA display (480 x 854), and being smaller than the Omega will look much sharper. Compared to the Flame, this phone has a lower resolution display and faster graphics chip, which means faster 3D graphics. The battery is a sufficiently large 2000 mAh.

You get a downgrade in terms of the operating system, since this device comes with Android 4.04. Still, its a good choice for the asking price.

The other specifications match the Cherry Mobile offerings.

5. Cloudfone Thrill 430x (Php7,777) - Endurance king

Amazingly, even at this low price point, you have a good array of options. A smaller 4-inch device, mid-sized 4.5-inch options and even a Jelly Bean Phablet. But if long battery life is what you a looking for. The Android 4.0.4 powered Cloudphone Thrill 430x has a a 4.3-inch qHD (540 x 960) display. Inside it has the same Qualcomm S4 Play chipset as the Flare and Flame, but comes with a bit more RAM at 768 MB. The camera has a 8 MP sensor, larger than the other phones on this list.

But the real reason for selecting this phone is the 4160 mAh battery. This effectively gives it twice the battery life of the others phones on this list. The other specifications match the other phones featured in this post.

An this is where this list ends. With a budget of Php10,000, I don't see any point of spending any more than Php7,777.


  1. does the lenovo s720 fit anywhere on the list? it's almost at the limit of the price range at 9,900 srp.

    1. The Lenovo S720 looks like a decent enough phone, I am just not convinced that it is worth paying 3K more for it than a Flame or a A800.


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