The Google-led Android One collaboration has so far been met with reservations in countries where it is commercially available. But that hasn’t stopped the American tech giant from soldiering on in pursuit of offering the best smartphone experience possible for under $150, or roughly the equivalent of two pairs of Nike sneakers. And thus we have the Cherry Mobile One G1, the new face of Google’s local efforts to prove that you don’t have to pay top money for a great smartphone anymore.
That’s a tall order, but for the most part, the G1 delivers where it matters. Here’s the thing, though: The Philippines isn’t short of good-to-great options in the budget class, just as it isn’t lacking in traffic problems to fix. (Or love-triangle dramas to put on the TV in the evening.) So even with a rock-bottom price tag of P5,999, which is among the lowest for a phone with this much to offer, the G1 isn’t guaranteed success when it hits shelves later this month.
Even with a rock-bottom price tag of P5,999, the G1 isn’t guaranteed success when it hits shelves later this month.
But one thing I’m sure of: This Cherry Mobile is a considerable threat to other challengers in the segment. Heck, it’s better than many phones that sell for twice as much. And, interestingly, that’s in large part because it doesn’t behave like other Cherry Mobile releases, regardless of what the branding on the back cover would have you believe; the G1 is as much a Google product as the Nexus 6 or any Nexus device before it, except it’s considerably cheaper.
Cherry Mobile One G1 specs (Price in the Philippines: P5,999):
* Dual SIM with LTE support
* 1.2GHz 64-bit, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 CPU
* Adreno 306 GPU
* 2GB RAM
* 16GB internal storage
* microSD card slot
* 5-inch IPS display with Dragontrail glass (720 x 1,280 resolution)
* 13-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash
* 5-megapixel front camera
* 2,500mAh battery
* Android Lollipop 5.1.1
The G1’s design is pragmatic and understated, with an emphasis on the latter. The G1 is your typical slab of rectangular plastic with rounded corners and metallic accents that could be mistaken for the real thing.
From the outside it doesn’t look anything special, though the downward-facing speaker cutouts — of which only the one on the right-hand side houses a driver (the other cutout apparently exists for aesthetic reasons) — are a welcome surprise. The speaker itself lacks presence and may stand in the way of landscape gaming, but has less distortion than usual at the highest volume.
The phone’s modest footprint makes it easy to hold and use for extended periods. The back cover is curved along the edges and has a soft-touch matte surface, ensuring a snug fit in most hands. It can be popped off to reveal a 2,500mAh removable battery, dual-SIM slots, and a microSD card slot for storage expansion.
The phone’s curves and modest footprint, along with its matte back cover, ensure a snug fit and make it easy to use for extended periods.
The G1 has a 720 x 1,280 IPS-LCD display that slightly gravitates towards the cool side of the color spectrum. At 5 inches across, the screen has a density of 294 pixels per inch and is big enough to work on and watch a movie without really degrading the experience. It is more than adequate for other basic uses, too, despite showing a bit of pixelation when peered at too closely, although you’d have to bring the phone closer to your face than is reasonable to pick out those individual pixels.
Otherwise, the panel is plenty bright and colorful, with good viewing angles, not to mention it fares well outdoors when brightness is turned up to a certain level. But the thing I like best about the screen is its size: Not only can I wrap my fingers around the entire thing, but the tips of my thumbs have no trouble reaching across the display. With no glaring flaw to speak of here, I’m inclined to give the G1 a solid mark.
The 13-megapixel, rear-facing camera sounds an awful lot like a capable shooter on paper, but in practice I found it very limited and limiting. As always, light is your friend, and you’re going to need as many photons as possible for quality photos. Under bright lighting and with a steady hand, expect to see lively colors and plenty of detail. Shooting in dim conditions leaves the door open to compromises on picture quality, where graininess and washed-out colors become more evident as soon as the sun descends into the horizon and artificial light becomes scarce.
The 5-megapixel front-facer falls in line with other selfie shooters in the segment and performs about as well as you’d expect. Which is to say, you might be okay with the results, especially if all you’re after are decent shots of your mug to post on Instagram. My point is that if you want to take your selfie game to the next level, you may want to spend more or look elsewhere.
As always, light is your friend, and you’re going to need as many photons as possible for quality photos.
Inside is where things start to really take off: The 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 chip that ticks inside the G1 comes with a quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of expandable storage and supports LTE connections, which hasn’t been commonplace for low-cost handsets until recently. It runs the latest incarnation of pure Android Lollipop (5.1.1) out of the box, as you’d expect, and executes its duties without fuss or bother.
You might catch the occasional slowdown here and there, especially when you’ve got plenty of apps chewing up memory in the background, but in general, the phone feels super-fast and buttery smooth. “Fast” and “smooth” get thrown around a lot when I talk about mobile devices, but it’s no less true of the G1.
AnTuTu Benchmark gave my test unit a score of 21,620, which stacks up well against the synthetic performance of handsets like the Samsung Galaxy J5 and OPPO Mirror 5. You really can’t ask for anything more from something under P6,000.
You’ll also be happy to hear that the G1’s great performance doesn’t come at the cost of battery life. Most days I was able to make it through a full day of reasonably heavy use without having to worry about recharging the 2,500mAh cell. In standby, the G1 consumes almost nothing and when doing demanding tasks, such as playing games, streaming video, and browsing the Web, it has proven itself to be an efficient performer.
The G1’s great performance doesn’t come at the cost of battery life. Most days I was able to make it through a full day of reasonably heavy use.
AnTuTu Benchmark (left) and Geekbench 3 battery test (right)
Speedy system and network performance and a minimalist approach to Android that is bloatware-free are good enough reasons as any to choose the G1, but guaranteed software support for at least two years is what makes it so compelling. Let that thought marinate for a moment.
How many sub-P6,000 phones out there are slated to receive a timely update to Android 6.0 Marshmallow directly from Google? I’ll tell you how many: Three (the G1 and last year’s Cherry Mobile One and MyPhone Uno). And of the three, only the G1 is all but guaranteed to get a taste of Google’s next major Android release after Marshmallow. That’s two years’ worth of bug fixes and new features and design changes, which are more than enough to spruce up your Android experience and keep it fresh until your next smartphone purchase.
Of the sub-P6,000 phones out there, only the G1 is all but guaranteed to get a taste of Google’s next major Android release after Marshmallow.
While it’s by no means a perfect effort, the Cherry Mobile One G1 is actually worthy of some of the hype that’s surrounded the Nexus range of devices sold by Google. It’s a joy to hold and use; it’s fast and responsive to the touch; and it runs the latest version of Android and, more importantly, will continue to do so for the next two years. Obviously, there had to be a few compromises here to keep the price so low, but it never occurred to me that I was using a low-cost handset until I whipped it out of my pocket to take photos.
This is Cherry Mobile’s best all-around phone and the closest thing to a Nexus alternative for the cash-strapped, and it will only get better with time.
And while you can get a higher-spec’d phone for a couple of thousand pesos more, specs alone don’t make for a top-notch Android experience; it comes about through a combination of great hardware and great software. The G1 is easily Cherry Mobile’s best all-around phone to date and the closest thing I’ve ever seen to an acceptable Nexus alternative for the cash-strapped. And because it ranks high on Google’s priority list, it will only get better with time.
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