by Alexei Rivera | June 28, 2011 4:36 pm
The Cherry Mobile Orbit
Two phones in one – that’s hopefully what a dual-SIM phone should be able to do if you had one. Or at the very least, keep you from bringing two phones at the same time. Two SIM slots on a phone would simplify a lifestyle that requires keeping contacts on two different providers. Here in the Philippines, we have a couple of major telcos, and they don’t necessarily play well with each other. That’s why we tend to keep more than one phone number across different mobile networks. Up till now, the dual-SIM landscape has been dominated by cheap dumbphones or feature phones that only really do texting and calling, plus some other simpler features. Cherry Mobile is one of the first to come out with an Android dual-SIM, dual-standby device with the Cherry Mobile Orbit – and it’s not badly priced either. It’s SRP is PHP 12,999, but it was introduced for a sale price of PHP 6,499. What’s more, the phone is going on sale again for the same 50% off price. Is it worth it for full price? Or for sale price? Or both? Find out in the review after the jump!
The back is just a little boring
Given its price, you’ll definitely expect a lot of plastic in this device, and sure enough its made of it. Front, back, top, and sides are all plastic. The front screen is a bit of shiny plastic transparent material so you can see the 3.2” LCD inside. There’s not much to call home about this device, but it feels solid enough and it has already survived a couple of 3 foot drops with very little scratches to show for it. The back is an uninteresting solid flat block with only the 5MP camera sensor housed by a shiny metal module and the Cherry Mobile badge breaking the monotony. Looking around the phone, you’re reminded of a rounded rectangle philosophy that won’t please any stylistically-inclined folks, but is definitely utilitarian and does the job. Holding onto the phone isn’t so hard and the dimensions are just fine for a good grip and ease of use. The bezels are significant, but is because of the top and bottom parts of the front – part of which are occupied by the capacitive Android buttons and 3 physical buttons below them (Call, End, & Task Switcher). It’s not unattractive, but smaller bezels usually look more premium to our eyes.
Perhaps an advantage of the design is it’s lack of attention-grabbing accents. We could easily pull this phone out while in public and public transportation and nobody seemed to see it as an expensive phone. While this isn’t exactly a compliment, it’s a great way to have and use an Android phone hidden in such plain sight.
While most of the buttons are pretty easy to use, we found that the unlock button at the top is hard to press. Though the volume and camera keys are also tough, the unlock button is the one we’re worried about. You’re required to grip the phone tighter than usual so that your index finger can sufficiently push down on the unlock button on the top. Since you generally hold the phone without a finger supporting the bottom, pressing on the unlock button harder just lets it slide from your hand and we’ve had a few phone drop mishaps due to this. Remembering to hold the phone tight while unlocking should solve the problem, but is a little uncomfortable.
We also found an issue with the capacitive buttons. (Unrelated: they don’t light up). The problem is with what we’d call phantom taps. We noticed that it would randomly register taps without us touching it. It was an issue that we thought would be addressed by the Orbit firmware update, but it kept on. We believe it is influenced by fingerprints on the device and it is picking them up as taps. It gets a little annoying, but cleaning the screen usually works. We’re not sure if its an issue with our unit, but we’ve heard other users having this problem as well.
Android’s main menu – the App Drawer
The Cherry Mobile Orbit runs on pretty much standard Google Android 2.2 Froyo. It does the job fine and the text and graphics are good and readable. With the screen being a middle-of-the-road 480×320 – higher than most budget phones – it looks decent and can fit most UI elements without sacrificing a lot of screen space. Summarizing the Android interface, you spend most of the time on its homescreens, of which the phone has five. You swipe side to side to view these and you can load widgets, shortcuts, contacts, wallpapers, and various other customization options. This simplifies most of what you need to access by having them plainly on your homescreens. Beyond that, there’s the main app drawer, which lists the applications installed alphabetically and you scroll through it top to bottom. Both the homescreens and the app drawer runs fine, with a few dropped frames in between transitions. Running apps will fill the screen and can be accessed through both of these menus. Android also supports multitasking, and it transparently runs applications without you needing to close them one-by-one. (This can need getting used to if you’re used to closing apps.) In an unusual decision, the phone has a Task Switcher button located between the Call and End physical keys that opens the Android Task Switcher – normally done by holding the Home button. It’s an interesting feature, but we’re not sure if it demands its own button.
Stock keyboard and message conversation view
Messaging is in the usual Android threaded view and the keyboard looks like the Gingerbread keyboard style. When sending messages, a popup menu asks which SIM you want to send the message through. The keyboard is pretty responsive, although when it starts you’ll normally be tapping faster than the phone shows on screen. Your taps show in a second or two, and then the keyboard becomes responsive afterwards. Pecking is usually error free enough, though its still not as fast as larger screens or physical keys. You can turn on the sound or vibration to give you better haptic feedback, which helps. Generally though, the keyboard ran fine and we didn’t feel disadvantaged aside from that initial loading lag. This being an Android phone, you can install new keyboards as you like, and some popular choices include Swype and SwiftKey X Beta.
The phone’s contacts can be synced from your Google Mail’s contacts list. However, there isn’t native support for linking these contacts with Facebook or Twitter like some other Android-skinned devices. This means it won’t be easy to fill your contact list with pictures of them, or view their social networking profiles and activities based on your contacts list. An app called People is supposed to be able to link them for you, but it requires you to do them one by one manually, and that’s just too much work. By default, going to the Contacts app will show you alphabet index buttons on the left side to easily scroll or find contacts. Swiping left/right hides/unhides this, and we feel it does a pretty good job of quickly finding people in the list. Calling people is similar to messaging, as an option of which SIM you would use to call is shown.
As an Android device, there’s a massive amount of flexibility in terms of what you want. You can even change entire homescreens, interfaces, unlock screens, and the like. There are also apps for productivity and gaming. There are several Office-capable apps available, but some you need to buy. File managers can be downloaded and you can load, delete, copy, paste, make folders on your SD card and transfer files via USB and Bluetooth. Ringtones are customizable and you can download or create your own via a variety of audio cutting tools.
Web browser is pretty decent
The Orbit features the Android web browser and it does the job decently well. Pinching to zoom works, as well as swiping to pan and double-tapping to zoom. Pages load at a decent speed, while panning around usually drops a few frames, especially while its still loading the page. Flash isn’t supported, but you can play YouTube content by clicking on them and playing on the dedicated player. Text reflow is there as well, and is a great feature to have when you’re reading blocks of text.
Android Marketplace has a lot of free apps for you
The standard Android Marketplace is there to keep you happy, and we’re also delighted to tell you that you can now purchase paid apps in the Philippines. While we know that the demographic for this phone isn’t big on paid apps, its still a great thing to have in case.
Video playback will be a little limited, but third party video players should do the trick. However, don’t expect to play high quality videos through the 528Mhz processor. Anything over SD quality is something we’d avoid on this phone. The music app is standard fare, and doesn’t do a bad job. You can of course download different ones through the marketplace, but the stock one is ok. Audio quality is passable, but there’s definitely a loss in quality when played through high quality headphones or speakers. We don’t know why you’d use expensive audiophile devices on the phone, but if you need the quality, we’d suggest you get a dedicated player or device. If you’re really interested, watch the video below where we compare the output audio quality through built-in speakers and externals.
Games are the main limitation of the Orbit, as it couldn’t handle a lot of middle-ground complexity gaming. Angry Birds, which is pretty much everybody’s benchmark by now, runs terribly slow, if not tweaked to run decently. We have tips to make it playable, but we definitely couldn’t recommend the phone for gaming. Simpler, 2D type games with less demanding graphics can be played and if you’re fine with those and the occasional Angry Birds, you’ll be fine.
WiFi tethering is a major addition to the Android 2.2 OS, and it is supported here on the Orbit. You can make your phone into a portable WiFi hotspot with it and it works fine. You’d want to use SIM1 for data as it is the only SIM that can do 3G/HSDPA.
Sample shots from the Cherry Mobile Orbit (Click for full res)
On the camera module sits a 5MP sensor, but it doesn’t perform that well. Pictures are washed out and blurry, plus they don’t have a lot of detail on them – which makes 5MP shots not really all that useful. The camera app is also standard Android, with some interesting options, but no scene modes to change. Video is recorded at 640×480 max, with 15FPS and 800hz audio and fixed focus. While it doesn’t do anything stellar in the imaging front, and a lot of smartphones definitely perform better, we’re not all that surprised given the budget price.
PERFORMANCE & HARDWARE
Zooming and panning on pictures is actually quick
The Orbit sports a traditional 3.2” LCD display at 480×320 resolution. While not the best tech you can get, it shows decent colors and brightness, while retaining above average viewing angles. We did notice that inside the screen are some dust specs that you would only notice under sunlight. This means that either the phone isn’t airtight in construction inside, or that the phone was built with dust particles on the LCD. It’s nothing major, but we sure hope dust doesn’t accumulate inside.
Battery life has improved quite a bit after the 2.2.2 update that Cherry Mobile released, and can last a decent day or more depending on use. We can leave the phone on WiFi and/or 3G/HSDPA all day and it’ll still be ticking when we get home. It’s not stellar, but at least it doesn’t die on us while on standby like before.
Speaking of the update, it has generally fixed a lot of issues on the phone from before. Our review notepad was pretty much filled with instability problems that we noticed on its Android 2.2.1 firmware. It would crash a bunch of times per day, including just on standby or sending messages. There was also a crippling bug when you plugged it onto your PC USB that is now fixed. The phone is a lot more stable now, but it still has the occasional crash – which is now quite a bit more forgivable. The update doesn’t happen Over-The-Air, so if you have a 2.2.1 version, you should update it now. We have a video on how to do that here.
The speed of the device isn’t terrible. Going through the interface, running apps, and browsing the internet work fine – comparable to a lot of its 600Mhz competitors. Speaking of which, the gallery is actually pretty fast. Of course, we did mention that it fails to deliver a decent performance on gaming. On most apps though, it performs fine with slight hints of dropped frames or loading lag.
One performance thing we noticed is that you couldn’t seem to call and have the WiFi hotspot on at the same time. While not a big hassle to most users, it can interrupt whatever you’re doing if you had the hotspot on and need to call.
The Cherry Mobile Orbit is pretty much a utilitarian device. It doesn’t stand out in a crowd of its peers, but also has those dual-SIM slots to edge it away from the competition – or what we would think is its niche. While pretty much all Android smartphones only come in single-SIM flavor, the Orbit gives you the Android experience with the added SIM slot to boot. It doesn’t perform any of it’s tasks admirably well, but it doesn’t do terribly either – except for gaming, that is.
Had the Orbit been a single-SIM device, we’d have easily said it wouldn’t be a decent choice. It goes without saying that if you’re only looking for a phone to use one SIM on, then we’re not confident the Orbit is for you. Cherry Mobile even has the Cosmo, which is a single-SIM unit priced very competitively at PHP 7k. It runs on a faster processor, which we tried on Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja and it performed quite well. Add the fact that the Cosmo is built with metal, and that makes it edge the Orbit out in terms of build and design. Single SIM Android competition is also quite fierce, as a lot of OEM and telcos are coming out with their own devices.
Perhaps the most important thing to note about the Orbit is its price. At SRP, it reaches PHP 13k – not exactly cheap anymore. On the 50% off sales – which we mention one will happen this Thursday – the price is at a lot more palatable PHP 6.5k. Getting a budget dual-SIM Android phone at that price is definitely attractive, but only if you need the capability of two active SIM slots. At full price for one SIM, we’d much prefer other phones like the proven track record of HTC’s Wildfire S. It comes with a great aluminum unibody and HTC’s Sense interface – plus you can currently find one for PHP 13k. While at the budget 50% off price of PHP 6.5k and on single-SIM, we’d slightly prefer the Cherry Mobile Cosmo for its better performance and build quality.
If you really need two active SIM slots on your phone though, the Orbit is a great choice. At half price, we’d give it 3.5 stars out of 5. But since the SRP is PHP 12,999, we’d have to give it 3/5 for being slightly pricey. To simplify things, if you want a dual-SIM phone and are on the fence on Thursday’s sale (and not picky about gaming), we’re telling you to go ahead and buy one. If you miss the sale and/or not interested in dual-SIM capabilities, skip the Orbit and pick a different budget Android phone.
We give the Cherry Mobile Orbit 3/5 Stars
For more sample images, check the gallery below.
For more pictures of the device, that gallery is below.
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