This is the end. If you’re in the business of selling Android phones in the Philippines and your name is not Cherry Mobile, it may be time for you to consider switching to something else. Like selling shoes. Or maybe even making pastries. I honestly believe that if you’re a player in the local Android scene, then you should start weighing your options. Because the takeover is about to begin.
I got the Cherry Mobile Omega HD 2.0 roughly two weeks ago. I had some problems. None too drastic. So far, they’ve all been taken care of. This is the first Cherry Mobile phone that I have ever used, but now I know that I’m going to keep it for the rest of 2013.
- 1.2GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6589 SoC
- 5-inch HD (1280×720 pixels) IPS LCD screen with 5-point multi-touch
- Scratch-resistant Asahi DragonTrail glass
- 12-megapixel rear BSI camera (1080p HD video recording) + 2MP front BSI cam
- Dual SIM card support
- Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, and HSDPA (3.5G)
- Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean (near stock)
- 2,100 mAh battery
- 8GB/16GB/32GB models
- NFC and 4G LTE
In my reviews, I often beat around the bush. But not in this one. Go right ahead to find out what I really think about the Cherry Mobile Omega HD 2.0.
Everything about this phone is huge. The first thing you’ll notice is its massive 5-inch screen. The use of an IPS panel along with a high-resolution HD screen makes for excellent viewing angles, which is enjoyable on a display this big. It takes some getting used to, but fortunately the phone’s body is slim enough — it’s only 8mm thick — to make it easier to hold in the hand.
Then at the back, there’s the 12-megapixel BSI camera. You can’t miss it. It literally sticks out of the back cover, kind of like a cannon. And it sort of performs like one, too.
The camera has robust features and the software allows it to fire fast — up to 99 continuous shots for as long as you keep your finger on the shutter key. And the number of extra features, like HDR photo and video, built-in scene modes, panorama, multi-angle capture, zero shutter delay, and face detection, are all guaranteed to blow your mind.
But back to the hardware. As mentioned near the beginning of this review, this phone comes with a layer of Asahi DragonTrail glass. It’s a special coating that will keep the touchscreen safe from harm, even if you don’t use a screen protector. There is absolutely no need to use an aftermarket screen protector, and in fact every unit comes with a free — albeit very thin — screen protector right out of the box. So unless you try to drive a drill through the screen or something, the touchscreen will never have any scratches anywhere.
The extra glass layer makes the phone heavy, though. But is that a bad thing? Not at all. The weight is reassuring, it makes the phone feel sturdy. Add to that the fact that the back cover is made out of matte plastic that doesn’t slip, and you’ve got yourself a handheld device that will actually stay in your hands (not counting certifiable butterfingers, of course).
The one thing that I don’t understand about this phone hardware-wise is the placement of the camera shutter key (which activates the camera app in a few seconds via a long press) on the left side of the phone. The shutter key is normally placed on the right side, but here it’s on the left. It’s not a bad thing, just weird. At least it even has a shutter key to begin with (whereas other phones like the Acer Liquid E1 do not).
Also worth mentioning about this phone is the toned down speaker output, which isn’t Cherry Mobile’s fault. The speakers are understandably crappy, but they’ve also been made to sound very weak. Not inaudible, the sound is just softer than you might expect. But the speakers are of course still usable.
It’s something that the Android Jelly Bean software does — the software was changed to reduce the maximum volume of the phone. And even then, if you turn the volume all the way up to the maximum, it will show you a warning. It will ask you to confirm something along the lines of, “Are you absolutely sure that you want to destroy your eardrums right now?”
It’s just a safety measure. And it’s something that you can fix by modifying the software (if you know how). My takeaway from this is that the phone’s speakers are so loud that they had to actually reduce the volume via the software before shipping it out. So you can either take the that artificial volume limit away or use external speakers. Either way, you’ll be able to enjoy the sweet digital audio.
Speaking of audio, there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack near the top of the phone, which accepts any standard pair of headphones. It’s located right next to the microUSB port, which can be used for charging, data, and Android development.
Android is really what makes the Cherry Mobile Omega HD 2.0 special. It runs Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean right out of the box. And that puts it on the same level as many of today’s “branded” flagship smartphones.
What exactly is Cherry Mobile thinking? Selling a phone that runs Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean by default. Never mind Android 4.0, some models from the biggest names in Android haven’t even made it past Android 2.3 yet.
The Omega HD 2.0 is fit, software-wise, to take on the likes of the HTC One, Sony Xperia Z, and LG Nexus 4. Think of it like the Nexus phone that the Philippines has always wanted, but could never have because Google refuses to sell Play Store devices outside of a few Western countries. The Play Store in India sells Nexus devices. Why not the Philippines?
Anyway, that won’t be a problem now thanks to the existence of the Omega HD 2.0. Apart from two warranty-related apps, some custom ringtones, and a custom boot screen, Cherry Mobile did not change anything in the stock Android software at all. There is no custom skin or UI, no unnecessary third-party apps, not even any pre-loaded photos or videos. It’s basically a clean slate. And while that can be a bad thing sometimes (no pre-installed office apps, no games, no great wallpapers), the pros definitely outweigh the cons.
Apps like the Google Play music player as well as the native Google Maps app really showcase the power of the phone by tapping into all the necessary hardware components. Everything works fast and without a hitch, no doubt thanks to the 1.2GHz quad-core processor. It’s not the best, to be sure, but it delivers just the right amount of power to make most users happy.
Based on benchmark results gathered using today’s most popular Android benchmarking applications, the Cherry Mobile Omega HD 2.0 appears to have what it takes to go head to head with some high-end devices from big-name manufacturers.
In AnTuTu Benchmark v3.3.1, the Omega HD 2.0 scored higher than the Samsung Galaxy Note and just a hair lower than the Google Nexus 7. Its quad-core processor is really quite a performer, helping it achieve 75% of the power in a phone like the Galaxy S3. But numbers don’t prove anything unless you’ve got the real world performance to back it up.
The result of the combination of hardware and software in this phone is just exceptional. You actually have to deal with depth of field when taking photos, and auto-focus truly works. Auto-focus works whether you’re taking a picture or recording a video (or while you’re in the middle of recording a video).
The flash is powerful, but its utility is limited by its design. Still, it’s possible to get some great shots with it, especially if you’re a great photographer. Have a look at some sample photos I took without even trying.
Games & Web browsing
Asphalt 7, Real Racing 3, Dead Trigger, The Dark Knight Rises, and Modern Combat 4. These are just a some of the titles that can be played easily on the Omega HD 2.0. Rest assured that casual games like Angry Birds, Temple Run, Jetpack Joyride, and Candy Crush won’t present any problems at all. With the exception of Full HD games and a few very graphics-heavy titles, I believe you’ll be able to play anything on this phone.
Here’s a quick bout of Real Racing that I filmed yesterday morning.
And when it comes to Web browsing, you’re free to choose any Web browser you like. Opera Mini comes pre-installed and I have to say, it works quite all right. But there are a number of great alternatives too (my personal favorite is Firefox, because it’s faster than the rest of them).
It can still be a bit hard to browse the Web because you have to zoom in to actually read text sometimes, but the overall experience is excellent. This is due to the responsive multi-touch display, the IPS panel with great viewing angles, and the powerful processor and graphics chip combo.
Battery life is often the weak point of power-hungry devices, especially those with fantastic screens on them. Fortunately, that is not a problem with the Omega HD 2.0.
The 2,100mAh battery lasts for a good 2 days on average, and what’s more, you can easily charge it through USB. So if you spend most of your time around computers, you’ll likely never run out of batteries.
I’ve been praising the Omega HD 2.0 all throughout this review, but as I mentioned in the beginning, I did experience problems. Mainly, I got a stuck pixel on the lower left part of the screen on the third day of using it.
You can see it pictured here, as a lone pixel that remained green even though everything around it had already turned black. Luckily, Cherry Mobile didn’t hesitate to replace my unit (it was still within the replacement warranty period) and I have not experienced the same problem since.
The phone has also crashed a few times since I first started using it. I’ve experienced lag, stuck widgets, and empty icons, among other things. But these were easily remedied by a simple reboot or hard shutdown (long press of the power button), which works with pretty much any other electronic device out there.
I’ve also had to spend a little bit of time managing the very limited amount of internal storage space. All units do not come with free microSD cards, so at first, you’re stuck with less than 2GB of user-available memory after you buy the phone. Basically, it’s necessary to use an external memory card to really use this phone properly. But things become pretty easy once you get the hang of it.
This is the phone that the people deserve. The missing Nexus handset. The only local Android offering in its category worth caring about. Forget about Snapdragon or Exmor or Beats. This phone costs less than 9,000 Pesos (about $200).
Cherry Mobile itself needs to stop whatever else it’s doing so it can focus on this phone. They can market it hard enough to make it the Android phone of the year. We’ve already seen what the competition has to offer, and there’s literally nothing new in the pipeline anymore.
The Omega HD 2.0 just single-handedly took over the entire entry-level and mid-range Android category. And it isn’t even July yet.
They couldn’t have picked a better name than Omega. If Cherry Mobile does things right — and the competition keeps doing things wrong — this phone really could be the end. And it could mark the beginning of an entirely new breed of Android smartphones here in the country.
We will see.