Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Entry Level Smartphone Buyer's Guide for October 2013

There were several new offerings released last month, which make this month's entry level buyer's guide fairly interesting. I define entry level phones as those which cost less than Php10,000. To qualify for the list, the phones have to a current operating system. At this price point, the only options for a smatphone with a current operating system would be Android 4.1 or later (Jelly Bean) and Windows Phone 8. The requirement for a current operating system is to ensure good app compatibility.

This list includes what I think are the five best options, with an additional phone which might appeal to a certain niche market.

The prices posted are those covered by an official manufacturer's warranty.

1. Cherry Mobile Flare 2X (Php4,499) - Updated just enough to keep it relevant

The humble Android powered Cherry Mobile Flare was probably the most important phone on Cherry Mobile's lineup. It was the first truly budget phone, retailing for just Php3,999, that I could really say was good enough for the average user. There was very little this budget offering could not do. When the successor to the Flare was announced last month I am sure many were disappointed that it still only came with 512 MB of RAM. Luckily, Cherry Mobile released two versions of the Flare.

The Cherry Mobile Flare 2X is probably where smartphone buyers on a budget should be looking at. With a quad core Qualcomm S200 processor and more importantly 1 GB of RAM. It is a significant update over the original Flare in terms of overall performance. More importantly, 1 GB of RAM is what you really need to be able to run Android Jelly Bean well.

Priced at Php4,499, the Cherry Mobile 2X is an entry level smartphone which does not compromise too much. The screen is large and the phone sufficiently powered to do smartphone stuff. There is a fly in the ointment though. The Flare 2X still uses the same Adreno 203 graphics processor of the previous model. Sure, it can still play a fair number of games, but the Flare 2X is probably best left to those without a serious 3D gaming habit. The Flare 2X also does not support HSPA+ connectivity, being limited to the older HSPA standard.

So, all in all, the Flare is a decent smartphone for the average user. For gamers, and those wanting something more special, I would recommend you budget a fair bit more. The next offering is really much better.

Quick specifications:

  • Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
  • 4-inch WVGA (480 x 800) display
  • Dual SIM support
  • 4 GB internal storage expandable via a MicroSD card slot
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • 1.2 GHz quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon S200 processor
  • Adreno 203 graphics
  • 8 MP autofocus primary camera with LED Flash
  • VGA front camera
  • HSPA
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • A-GPS
  • 1500 mAh battery (user replaceable)


2. Cherry Mobile Apollo (Php6,999) - A modern smartphone at a budget price

The Cherry Mobile Apollo is the real game changer in last month's phone releases. At Php6,999, this Android powered smartphone really changes one's perception of what a low cost smartphone should have. The Apollo has a 4.5-inch HD display. Yup, that is a 720p (720 x 1280 pixel resolution) display. That results in 326 pixels per inch. That is as sharp as an Apple iPhone 5S.

For the additional Php2,500 over the price of the Flare 2X, it also gives you a lot of additional capability. The MediaTek quad core processor and PowerVR gravid chip inside give you about 30% better performance than the Flare 2X. The bulk of that increase comes in terms of graphics performance. The MediaTek chipset also comes with an HSPA+ radio, which can give you 3X faster data transfer speeds as compared to the Flare. The more powerful processor on the Apollo will also allow you to do Full HD, or 1080p, video capture.

All in all, the Apollo gives you much more than one expects for a smartphone priced at 7K, with no apparent weakness in terms of the specifications. It is a new product though, and we do not have much user feedback yet, but so far, it looks really good.

Quick specifications:

  • Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean)
  • 4.5-inch HD (720 x 1280) IPS display
  • Dual sim support
  • 4 GB internal storage expandable via a MicroSD card slot
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 1.2 GHz quad core MediaTek MT6589 processor
  • PowerVR SGX544 graphics processor
  • 12 MP autofocus primary camera with LED flash
  • 5 MP front camera
  • HSPA+
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • A-GPS
  • 1800 mAh battery* (user replaceable)


*While specifications posted say the battery is a 1800 mAh unit, early buyers report that the battery supplied was a 2000 mAh unit.


3. MyPhone A919i Duo (Php7,990) - A steep price drop, and deferred payment, makes it a good option

Priced 1K above the Apollo you will find the MyPhone A919i Duo. This phone was previously priced at Php9,490. You can now get it for just Php7,990. At retailers like Automatic Centre, you can even get it at 12-months zero interest (or even 24 months with RCBC or Allied Bank). The A919i Duo has the same general specifications as the Apollo. The additional 1K does get you a larger 5-inch display.

This phone is a bit on the thick side at 10.7 mm. If you don't plan to avail of the deferred payment scheme and are willing to spend a few hundred more, the Cherry Mobile Omega HD 2.0 (Php8,500) has a display protected by Dragontrail glass and has a nicer overall look to it being just 8.8 mm thick.

Quick specifications:

  • Dual SIM
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • 5-inch IPS HD display (720 x 1280)
  • 4 GB internal storage, expandable via a microSD card slot
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 1.2 GHz quad core Mediatek processor
  • PowerVR SGX544MP graphics
  • 8 MP primary camera, autofocus with flash
  • 2 MP front camera
  • HSPA+
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • A-GPS
  • 2000 mAh battery (user replaceable)


4. Cherry Mobile Blaze 2.0 (Php8,990) - Entry level phablet

If the MyPhone A919i is not big enough for you, then you will be happy to find that even in the budget class, you have the option of buying a phablet with an HD display. The crowning glory of the Cherry Mobile Blaze 2.0 is its 5.7-inch, 720p display. Retailing for as low as Php8,990, this phone offers you everything that you get from the MyPhone A919i, in a larger size.

Quick specifications:

  • Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean)
  • 5.7-inch IPS HD display (720 x 1280)
  • Dual SIM 
  • 4 GB internal storage, expandable via a microSD card slot
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 1.2 GHz quad core processor
  • PowerVR SGX544MP graphics
  • 12 MP BSI primary camera, autofocus with flash
  • 3 MP BSI  front camera
  • HSPA+
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • A-GPS
  • 2500 mAh battery (user replaceable)


5. Nokia Lumia 520 (Php7,450) - Best branded entry level smartphone


If you don't want a locally branded phone, Nokia has something nice for you. The Windows Phone 8 powered Nokia Lumia 520 is the best branded phone you can get in the entry level class. The Nokia brand is still relatively prestigious. In an odd way too, this phone has gotten better.

The Nokia Lumia 520 used to be my "Wildcard Entry". A wildcard entry is something that would ordinarily not make it to the list, but has something interesting or unique to make it wortwhile of consideration. The Lumia 520 was something I would recommend to those who don't like Android. This month, I think it deserves to be part of the top five list. While the Windows Phone ecosystem has less apps than Android or the iPhone, it got stronger this month. With Microsoft buying Nokia's device division, the future of Nokia hardware and Windows Phone is now backed directly by Microsoft and its US$60 billion in cash reserves.

Also, in the past the 512 MB of RAM on this phone meant that it might have limited app compatibility. But it turns out Windows Phone runs fine on just 512 MB. Games like HALO: Spartan Assault which were previously limited to Windows Phone devices with 1GB of RAM was updated to run devices with just 512 MB. The Nokia Lumia 520 is the most popular Windows Phone in the world right now, so you can expect app developers to make sure their apps run fine on this humble offering.

Quick specifications:

  • Windows Phone 8
  • 4-inch WVGA (480 x 800) display
  • 8 GB internal storage expandable via a MicroSD card slot
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 1 GHz dual core Qualcomm Krait processor
  • Adreno 305 graphics
  • 5 MP autofocus primary camera
  • No front camera
  • HSPA+
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • A-GPS
  • 1430 mAh battery (user replaceable)


Wildcard: CloudFone Thrill 520qx



In a sea full of low cost Android devices with HD displays, the Php9,999 CloudFone Thrill 530qx with its 5.3-inch with the qHD (540 X 960) will not impress. Also, its MediaTek MT6589M chipset means it can only capture 720p video. The Thrill 530qx does have one characteristic which makes it worthy of consideration as an alternative to the top five phones on the list. It comes with a 4500 mAh battery, which gives it about twice the battery life of any other phone entry level phone on the market. Its only rival is the older CloudFone Thrill 430x.  

Quick specifications:

  • Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean)
  • 5.3-inch IPS qHD display (540 x 960)
  • Dual SIM 
  • 4 GB internal storage, expandable via a microSD card slot
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 1.2 GHz quad core MediaTek MT6589M processor
  • PowerVR SGX544MP graphics
  • 12 MP primary camera, autofocus with flash
  • 5 MP front camera
  • HSPA+
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth
  • A-GPS
  • USB on-the-go
  • 4500 mAh battery (not user replaceable) 

16 comments:

  1. I like MyPhone and all but I don't remember them ever mentioning the A919i has dragon trail glass :<

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, error corrected. Was looking at one last weekend and that is what I was told. Checking the specifications again, you are correct.

      Delete
    2. Hmm, looking around the internets it does seem A919i has dragon trail or at least uses a technology that has dragon trail.

      It uses AGC Sodaline screen protection, it's what Asahi (the same company which makes dragon trail) call their super-thin soda-lime glass. If you look at their press release you'd see that it does in fact include dragon trail as the cover material.

      http://www.ubergizmo.com/2011/04/agc-has-thinnest-soda-lime-glass-substrate-for-touchscreens-in-the-world/

      AGC Sodaline screen protection is also used by Cloudfone Thrill 430x and it does seem to be fairly scratch resistant.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJB0OEOpDQU

      Delete
    3. Let me get a look at another actual unit later.

      Delete
  2. walang cherry mobile cosmos line?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Was thinking about including the Cosmos S or X2. The feedback I got is that people felt they were too expensive, so I did not include a Cosmos in this list.

      Delete
  3. Papi Robin, bakit wala sa listahan mo ang Arc Mobile Nitro 450QD?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In fairness, that would fit in nicely between the Flare and Apollo. Maybe I should expand the list beyond five, or have four categories instead of three.

      The competition is really more now on the lower end of the scale. Maybe I can try, below 8K, 8K-16K, 16K-24K and over 24K. Am open to advice on the nomenclature :)

      Delete
    2. Palagay ko ayos na iyung tatlong tiers lang. Choice is good ika nga pero masyado na marami kung 20 smartphones ang recommended mo, hihihi

      Delete
    3. Alternatively pwedeng mas marami sa three tiers, pero para di masyadong crowded dapat mas konti iyung phones kada tier. Halimbawa sa CMK, mayroon silang 6 tiers:

      php 0-5,000
      php 5,001-8,000
      php 8,001-12,000
      php 12,001-18,000
      php 18,001-25,000
      php 25,001-35,000

      Tapos mula limang phone gawin nating hanggang tatlong phone lang kada tier:

      php 0-5,000
      1. Cherry Mobile Flare 2X
      2.
      3.

      php 5,001-8,000
      1. Cherry Mobile Apollo
      2. MyPhone A919i Duo
      3. Nokia Lumia 520

      php 8,001-12,000
      1. Cherry Mobile Blaze 2.0
      2. CloudFone Thrill 520qx
      3. MyPhone Iceberg

      php 12,001-18,000
      1. Lenovo P780
      2. HTC 8X
      3. Sony Xperia SP LTE
      4. Huawei Ascend Mate
      5. Lumia 625

      php 18,001-25,000
      1. Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
      2. Nokia Lumia 925
      3. Sony Xperia ZR C5503 LTE

      php 25,001-35,000
      1. LG G2
      2. Samsung Galaxy Note 3

      Others:

      * Arc Mobile Nitro 450QD - maganda sana sa php 0-5,000 ito kaya lang lampas, 5.4k siya... solusyon: hintayin mag-price drop ang 450QD o i-adjust ang tier para maging php 0-6,000, pwede naman ito dahil maraming competitive na phone sa php 6,001-8,000.

      * Isa lang ang php 0-5,000 na phone (Flare 2X) at marami ang sa php 12,001-18,000. Maaari magdagdag ng isa pang phone sa php 25,001-35,000. Walang tier para sa above 35k pero siguro 'di na sulit gumastos ng ganun para lang sa cellphone, lolz.

      Delete
    4. I think I will try 5 categories next month, with more flexible price points to prevent a phone being arbitrarily cut off by a few hundred pesos difference.

      Delete
  4. which one is better and what will you recommend for browsing ang for taking pictures? nitro 450qd or cm burst2.0? balak ko kasi bumili this month, so what do you think is best and better?

    ReplyDelete
  5. the good thing in NL 520 is its OS WP8 and it will be upgraded to WP8.1 the rest spec is not that good as what the other phone spec is being presented.

    ReplyDelete
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