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May 15, 2012

Cherry Mobile W900 Review

Cherry Mobile recently introduced yet another affordable Android smartphone they called the Dragon Phone. After more than a week’s time with it, we’re pretty sure what Cherry Mobile is gunning for with this new handset. Check out our full review of the Cherry Mobile W900 after the break.

The W900 comes in a slightly bigger box than the Magnum 2X. As with the latter, the box is also enclosed inside an outer carton box filled with some of the details about the phone.

The handset comes in with the usual accessories. There’s a USB cable, charger and a headset. The review unit given to us comes with a screen protector inside the box. We’re not sure if it’s going to be the same for retail units or it will be attached out of the box.

As we’ve mentioned on our first impression, the phone comes in two color variety, Black with Gold lining and White with Silver lining. The “Curvaceous” W900’s design looks like BlackBerry phones, especially the all touch version Storm. The top and the bottom part are tapered with a flat back panel. Unlike its dual-core counterpart, the W900’s innards are enclosed in an all glossy plastic frame that makes it prone to fingerprints. We suggest having a clean cloth handy when using the Dragon Phone particularly for those who have sweaty palms.

The front of the phone sports the 4” capacitive LCD screen along with the front facing VGA camera, earpiece and sensor. Unlike most Gingerbread phones that has 4 keys; the W900 only has three soft keys located directly below the screen. This may be an indication that Cherry Mobile has plans of an ICS upgrade for this device in the future.

The tapered top and bottom part of the Dragon phone are plain. No buttons, no ports and no holes. All that can be found on each sides of the device.

On its right side, the small power button that also doubles as sleep/wake button can be found along with the MicroUSB port which is covered with a removable plastic flap. The peculiar Eco-mode switch can also be found just below the power button if you’re holding the phone upright.

The left side of the phone sports the volume rocker which can also wake the phone and the 3.5mm audio port which is also covered with a removable plastic flap. Only time will tell how many removals it can withstand but so far, after a handful of attempts, the two flaps are still holding up quite nicely with no visible damage whatsoever.

Besides the 5MP camera, there’s not much going on either on the back of the W900. Much like the Magnum 2X, the Dragon phone also doesn’t have a built-in flash. Just in case you’re wondering, the term “Curvaceous” earlier didn’t come from us. It is actually engraved on the gold lining at the top-back part of the handset. Complementing the whole design of the phone, the back panel of the W900 is also made of plastic with glossy finish. All the more reason to keep a cleaning cloth handy, unless you want to go for rugged fingerprint filled look.

Underneath the glossy back cover is the 1350mAh battery. The SIM card slot and the MicroSD card slot can be found at the top of the batter compartment if the phone is upright. The SIM card can be put in without removing the battery as well as the MicroSD card. But if you plan to take out the SIM you’d have to remove the battery first.

The W900 generally looks decent enough for the most part. The all plastic body of the phone is not all that bad as it made the phone lightweight and therefore easy on the hands. On the business side of things, it made the cost of the phone cheaper as the materials used are inexpensive by nature. Some may find the glossy finish of the handset attractive and some may not. For me, the shiny appeal doesn’t really appeal to me that much. The flaps are also a great addition as it adds a little bit of protection to the phone from dirt and dusts. We think that with proper caution, those flaps will last for a long period of time. We also liked the gold accent on the black phone. It added a Mike Tyson feel to it. But the phone has one too many logos. I think that it would’ve been better if they dropped the engraved “Curvaceous” at the back and just went for a single logo.

Having a 4-inch screen, the W900 is the first of its kind on the Cherry Mobile lineup. But by having the same resolution as the Magnum 2X, the Dragon Phone’s screen has a slightly lower pixel density than its dual-core counterpart which is only 233ppi. This slight difference is not that noticeable though as the screen is still provide a decent viewing experience under certain conditions. We said this because the screen, just like the one on the Magnum 2X, doesn’t really deliver a great outdoor legibility. In comparison to the dual-core handset, the W900 was actually a bit worse when used outdoors while the sun is at its peak. But other than that, we think that Cherry Mobile has done a pretty good job on their first 4 incher.

Cherry Mobile has equipped the W900 with Dolby Digital Plus for sound software. The result was actually quite impressive for an affordable phone. We were pleased with the sound output of the Dragon phone through the 3.5mm port. Even the headset that came with handset was also pretty good.

Although the sound wasn’t eardrum-shattering loud, it’s still loud enough for a user to zone out and get lost with their favorite tracks. The loudspeaker is on the downside though, as the sound was too soft but still audible under some extent. We don’t suggest listening through the loudspeaker in a crowded area as it can be quite tricky to hear details of the s ong or understand a conversation in a film. In terms of voice call, the sound was crisp and audible. We didn’t find ourselves pressing the phone against our ears just to hear the person on the other line.

The name Dragon phone was actually derived from the handset’s Snapdragon S2 processor, and for a good reason. This 1GHz system-on-chip not only provides decent performance but also integrated multiple functionalities in one chip. By doing so, it has significantly reduced the manufacturing cost as companies like Cherry Mobile no longer has to purchase each components from different chip manufacturers, build the phone part by part and putting it all together. This in turn makes the price of the phone inexpensive. But Cherry Mobile still has a trick up its sleeves.

In case you’re wondering, the 1GHz mentioned above is not a typo. Although Qualcomm released a 1.2GHz version of the S2 which is the MSM8655, the W900 actually has the 45nm MSM8255 Snapdragon S2 processor which is the same processor used in the recently released HTC One V. Both are clocked at 1GHz and both can be traced back 2 years ago. The only difference with the W900 is that it comes overclocked to 1.2GHz out of the box while the latter was not. This definitely Cherry Mobile’s marketing strategy to reach their consumers. Cherry Mobile was able to cut down on the manufacturing cost a bit and in turn making the phone affordable by using a slightly older processor and overclocking it a bit rather than going for the 1.2GHz S2.

Marketing aside, the device didn’t actually score quite well in the benchmark tests that we’ve performed. We weren’t expecting this low of a benchmark score from the device. Not that we’re expecting a high score from the device. But considering that the W900’s processor was overclocked to 1.2GHz the HTC One V, which has exactly the same processor but not overclocked, still garnered better results than the former. This leaves us to think that the OS may have something to do about it.

Quadrant only scored the W900 with 1141 while the One V scored 1982. Things are a bit different on the AnTuTu benchmark as the Dragon phone triumphs over the chinned-up competitor by a hair with a score of 2673 while the latter scored 2544.

Graphics wise, NenaMark 2 only scored the W900 with 11fps while the HTC One V scored 28.8fps.

Though the handset didn’t really fare well on the benchmarks results, we were pretty pleased with our experience using the device. There’s nothing out of the ordinary with its performance but the W900 should give its users a pretty decent response on most tasks. Simple tasks and not too resources heavy apps run smoothly without lags. Apps that require sensors along with touch and swipe gestures are a bit laggy though. Because of this, it can be quite difficult to score that high playing Temple Run with this device. Another app that has noticeable lags is the native movie player app. Although it’s good that the phone has DIVX support out of the box, the viewing experience was not that smooth. We hope that a future ICS update, if ever there is one, will fix this little lags.

The W900 has Gingerbread (2.3.3) out of the box. Considering the competition this phone is up against, it would’ve been better if it had come with ICS. We’ve actually asked Cherry Mobile if they have plans of upgrading the OS in the future but we never really got a conclusive answer regarding the matter. For now, we just have to work with what the phone has to offer.

The UI of the W900 doesn’t have the same Gingerbread feel that we were so accustomed to. Cherry Mobile has decided to go for the unconventional UI for the Dragon phone. We don’t want to be subjective on this part, so we’ll leave it to you guys to decide if it suits you. Of course, you can always download third-party themes (which we did) if you don’t want what you see.

Placing the two Cherry Mobile flagship devices beside each other, one can already spot the difference between the UIs. First noticeable difference between the two is the 4 static icons on Favorites tray. It’s present even when inside the app drawer. The only thing we didn’t like about it was that the icons cannot be interchanged or replaced with a different one. Scrolling through the apps, which is display 4×4 because of the Favorites tray, is done sideways instead of vertically on other Gingerbread phones.

Pulling down the notification bar up top, will give you a Symbian Belle-like toggle buttons or switches for commonly used phone functionalities.

Just like in other Gingerbread phones, long pressing on blank portion of the home screen will give you an option to add Shortcut, Widget and Folder but you’d have to select one of the options first before seeing the list of options under that category. The Cherry Mobile’s custom UI took it a step further by giving us a list of all available options right from the get go. The options are categorized on each tab as shown in the screenshot here.

The multitasking UI remains pretty much the same as with other Gingerbread phones. Users still needs to long press the home key to reveal active apps. Taking it up a notch, what Cherry Mobile has done is they’ve integrated the built-in task killer of the handset to the multitasking screen making it easier to manage running apps.

Plugging a pair of supported headphones or earphones on the audio port will give users a set of installed apps that users can use with the accessory. We’ve tried a couple of headsets with the device and the phone was able to detect and give the same options for each one of it.

Another cool feature of the UI is the gestures. When using the phone’s default browser, users can assign a gesture to a specific browser task like “go to homepage”.

Once set, all the users have to do is press the W logo just below the screen, do the desired gesture and the browser should do the task that corresponds to the gesture that was done. We were actually pretty amazed with this feature and how responsive the app is to the gestures that we made. It would have been even cool if this feature is present on the phone’s other native apps, nevertheless kudos to Cherry Mobile for integrating this feature in the browser.

We’ve prepared a short video clip to demonstrate the aforementioned features of the W900’s UI including the Gesture.

Other than its looks, we generally enjoyed the custom UI of the W900. Although there’s nothing really surprising about the UI that we haven’t seen before, what Cherry Mobile did a great job on was that they were able to integrate top features from various devices and put it all together in one very intuitive UI. By doing so they were able to limit some of the steps required to perform certain tasks resulting to getting more things done in a shorter period of time.

Cherry Mobile has packed the W900 with numerous apps. Besides the usual Cherry Mobile apps which are also present on the Magnum 2X, there are also a handful apps that comes pre-installed with the phone. Most of which are helpful (Task Killer, ES File Explorer, Memos, Voice Recorder and Timer) while some are just shortcuts to some of the phone’s functionalities (Camcorder, D-Day, Alarms, Call Log and Bluetooth).

Apart from the additional apps, there’s also a bit of improvement on some of the native apps like Music, Phone and Calendar. But in our opinion the native app that significantly revamped is the Contacts app. With the SNS integration becoming an essential feature of a smartphones nowadays, Cherry Mobile doesn’t want their brainchild to be left behind. They’ve decided to also add this sought after feature to the Dragon Phone. This is integrated in the phone’s native Contacts App. Users can sync their FB and/or Twitter account to their Contacts app and they can check status update and post update directly from the app.

Just like the Magnum 2X, the W900 also has the TouchPal as the default keyboard. If you didn’t like how it works, you can always switch to Android keyboard. Both of the keyboards are responsive. Because of the slightly bigger screen the keys have more real estate. Thus typing is made a bit easier as compared to its dual-core counterpart.

Both of the Cherry Mobile flagship devices have 5MP camera. But even though both handsets has the same megapixel count, W900’s snapper captures slightly better images than the Magnum 2X. Images taken with the W900 appear to be brighter with warmer colors as compared to the images taken with the Magnum 2X.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of images taken using the W900 (Left) and Magnum 2X (right).

The W900 also slightly out-performed the Magnum 2X based on images taken in low-light conditions which is evident on the third picture. But just like its dual core counterpart, the W900 also doesn’t have a built-in flash. This proves to be a deal breaker for most consumers as it would aid the phone in taking pictures in a dim environment.

At times, the colors get a little too warm causing it to appear over saturated as the case on the second image. To fix this or to cope with the current lighting condition the W900 is equipped with a handful of camera modes. As added feature, the camera app also has a built-in photo editor so users can edit their stills right after capturing it. The app is also has a touch-to-focus feature which is great for close-up images. Images taken using the front-facing VGA camera was also quite decent. A bit of a letdown came when we tried Skype on the W900. Although we were able to install the app, video calling was not supported.

Here are other pictures taken with the W900.

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The Dragon phone’s camera is also capable of recording decent clips @ 720p. Here’s a sample video taken using the W900.

A 1350mAh battery is what you’d get with the W900. On a light to moderate usage, with 3G connection, occasional text messaging, half an hour’s worth of voice calls, SNS and email running on the background and a couple of pictures, the battery lasted for 14 hours. The battery life was significantly better than as compared with the Magnum 2X’s battery.

We’ve also performed AnTuTu’s Battery Test on the device. While performing the test we’ve kept the hotspot on and set the display timeout to never. Considering it’s not so big battery capacity, the Dragon Phone impressively finished the test with still 18% on the battery bar.

Based on our short time with the Cherry Mobile W900, we’d say that the phone is pretty decent for its price. One of the things going for the Dragon Phone besides its price is its apps and added UI functionalities. The looks of the UI is quite disappointing but as we’ve said, users can always go for a third-party theme or launcher. But don’t be fooled by the UI’s big colorful and oddly designed icons as it’s quite intuitive and capable. This feature packed smartphone is good to go right out of the box unlike other smartphones that requires users to still download most of the necessary apps. This device kinda reminds us of Nokia’s past flagships devices where all essential and commonly used apps are already preinstalled with the phone.

Even though we’ve revealed that the W900’s processor by nature isn’t really clocked at 1.2GHz, we still think that there’s nothing with Cherry Mobile’s marketing strategy. Especially if the aim is to produce a decent phone that fits our fellow Pinoys budget who can’t go for expensive high end phones. For an average user, the 0.2GHz difference in the processor speed won’t really be a big deal. Yes it’s good on paper but technically speaking, the difference can’t really be felt for the most part especially for apps that are not so resource heavy.

Overall, apart from the occasional lags on some apps, the W900 should be able to deliver satisfactory performance, nothing really exceptional but just enough to handle most common tasks.

Cherry Mobile W900 specs:
4.0″ display @ 480×800
Qualcomm Snapdragon S1 1.2GHz
512MB RAM
up to 32GB via microSD (4GB included)
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, WiFi hotspot
Bluetooth 2.1
3G/HSDPA
5MP rear camera
1350mAh Li-Ion battery
Android 2.3 Gingerbread

The Cherry Mobile W900 retails for only Php9,999 and is available in Cherry Mobile Stores in malls nationwide.

Cherry Mobile W900 launched; 4-inch, 1.2GHz for Php10k
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73 Responses to “Cherry Mobile W900 Review”

  1. smoky quartz says:

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  2. Levz says:

    my w900 cant connect to the internet using Globe Data 3G. I have called Globe for settings but they said phone is not compatible… Also when I bought it, i made sure that the sales clerk confirmed it is a 512mb ram phone, as also stated in the box. but when i used antutu and quadrant, it only showed 370mb ram as total available. and also the ICS 4.0 update seems unsure at this stage.

  3. Levz says:

    my cherry mobile w900 cant connect to the internet using Globe Data 3G. I have called Globe 3 times for settings on how but it still didn’t work, they said the phone is not compatible… and when I bought it 2 weeks ago, i made sure that the sales assistant confirmed it is a 512mb ram phone, as also stated in the box. but when i used antutu and quadrant on it, it only showed 370mb ram as total available. that is like a false advertisement of some sort. the sales assistant also assured me that the ICS 4.0 update will be out soon. when i called up cherry mobile service centers, the ics update seems unclear still.

  4. rhina says:

    How to detach/remove the back cover of W900? And how to manage the homescreens, specifically, how can I remove widgets from it?

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This article was written by Ronnie Bulaong, a special features contributor and correspondent for YugaTech. Follow him on Twitter @turonbulaong.

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