A grand follow up
The Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0 is the highly anticipated update to the super popular Flare released back in November 2012. It was touted as the "dual core ng bayan" for being the cheapest dual core smartphone available locally. I remember during the month of the launch that virtually all stores were constantly out of stock of the Flare, much to the dismay of consumers. Stocks only normalized in late December and early January. It was a definite hit. As such, there are high expectations for the Flare 2.0 which maintains the Flare's SRP of 3,999 Php.
The original Flare wasn't without faults though, especially considering its price tag. First, it had a Qualcomm MSM8225 from their Snapdragon S4 Play line-up, which wasn't exactly the most potent processor. It was definitely faster than anything else in the price bracket at the time. But apparently expectations have been set too high, too early and many users expected the Flare to perform even better, disillusioned by the fact that there are other, much faster dual core phones around. Another is that the original Flare was advertised as having an IPS panel, which is a blatant lie and it was unfortunate that even local professional tech bloggers could not distinguish an IPS from other variants of LCD panels. Given that, many consumers began looking for the word "IPS" on the spec sheet phones from in the same price bracket, which was practically impossible at the time given that impact of an IPS panel on the BOM (bill of materials). Worst is the fact that the Flare's audio output via the 3.5 mm port was absolutely abysmal, with extremely weak power output, no dynamic range and distortion at maximum volume. It simply could not replace a dedicated music player. But the most popular nitpick of the original Flare's users is the battery life. The 1500 mAh on the original Flare just wasn't enough for most of the time, as efficient as the MSM8225 is.
The Flare 2.0 manages to address some of these issues, and then some. Read on to find out.
Design and Build Quality
Design-wise, the Flare 2.0 is similar to the old Samsung Galaxy S2. A quick Google of the white Galaxy S2 will make this evident, with the most obvious difference being the use of a capacitive home button in place of a physical home button. There is a narrow silver/light gray bumper around the body through which the ports and physical buttons run along to add a touch of modern chic to what would otherwise be a white plastic bar. The screen also isn't flush which gives the Flare 2.0 an older Android phone look, which is about right considering the Galaxy S2 was released back in 2011.
The entire body is made out of polycarbonate plastic which gives the device a very smooth and glossy texture. While it does look cheap, it doesn't look "3,999 Php" cheap and it could pass off for a more expensive device, especially in color white. The hardware buttons are tactile but have a soft, audible click when pressed while the LED backlit capacitive softkeys light up white for added appeal at night. The bezels are also relatively thin for a non-OGS screen. The phone is comfortable and ergonomic overall, but I wish the screen was flush so the fingers don't hit a bump when using long swiping gestures in and out of the small screen.
As a 4" phone with dimensions of 123 x 63.5 x 11 mm, it's relatively small and should fit comfortably in any hand. Handling-wise, it should handle like a chubbier iPhone 5 due to the identical size and slightly wider and thicker dimensions of the Flare 2.0. The Flare 2.0 is also relatively light at 129 g but doesn't exactly feel like featherweight and overall feels solid, with weight evenly distributed.
Gone is the clunky, rough back cover that also housed the finicky hardware buttons on the original Flare. Also gone is the hollow feel of the phone, which is related to the back cover. Compared to the original Flare, the Flare 2.0 is definitely feels more polished, more premium in look and feel.
The back cover of the Flare 2.0 is easy to remove with a small slit located at the lower left corner of the phone's back. The micro SD card is also hot-swappable. Both SIM card slots require that you remove the battery first though as the battery blocks the insertion point.
The Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0 comes preinstalled with a screen protector out of the box.
Here is a checklist of what comes inside the box:
- 1x Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0
- 1x 1550 mAh battery
- 1x 800 mA charger
- 1x USB cable
- 1x Headset
- 1x User's manual
- 1x Warranty card
The Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0 is equipped with a 4.0" WVGA (800x480) screen that supports 3 point multitouch. It uses a TN panel which means you can't expect it to look good at any angle like on an IPS panel. Thankfully, the TN panel used is of higher quality and only the top side viewing angle suffers what most would describe as "colors inverting". The viewing angles from the left and right are decent while the bottom suffers contrast loss at extreme angles.
Here are some shots of the Flare 2.0's screen demonstrating viewing angles:
The screen isn't OGS given the phone's price and the TN panel, but the construction is done in a way that it minimizes the gap between the panel and glass. In addition, the glass they used is what I would describe as "clear" in a way that it protects the display from tinting effects in various lighting conditions, ensuring it looks more or less the way it does in any lighting condition. The clear glass and the smaller gap also ensures lower light diffusion and better light transmission, which makes the already relatively bright TN panel look even brighter. Even at 0% brightness, the screen can be considered glaring when viewed up close in pitch black conditions (i.e. before going to sleep). Even 25% brightness is plenty bright in any lighting condition except daylight. All that also helps the screen become more legible during midday, although I recommend no lower than 50% brightness under direct sunlight.
The most evident thing with the Flare 2.0's TN panel is that it's well calibrated. Most TN panels on cheap smartphones are not calibrated and often have a very cold color temperature. On the Flare 2.0, whites look white, not blueish-gray. But given that TN panels are 6-bit panels, the white whites are produced at the expense of color gamut and contrast. As a result, colors have less saturation, less pop. Blacks just look very dark gray next to an AMOLED or IPS with a OGS. It just isn't meant to impress. To be fair though, TN panels aren't supposed to be impressive. There's only so much you can do with a 6-bit panel, which basically means 262,144 true colors. It can attempt to display 8-bit colors through dithering, but it isn't the same as having a real 8-bit panel that displays 16 million true colors. Personally, the calibration is very welcome as the colors are more representative of the actual thing and having the right color balance is much easier on the eyes for extended viewing.
Overall, the screen on the Flare 2.0 looks a bit more like your typical IPS panel with a crappy top-side viewing angle, much narrower color gamut and lower contrast. It's more pleasing to look at than your typical TN panel.
I also noticed some flickering when displaying shades of gray on the screen, which is most likely a dynamic contrast implementation that forms part of the panel's calibration achieved through overdriving the panel to increase response times. My home theater projector also has a similar feature to increase dynamic contrast at the cost of increased pixel flickering when viewed up close.
The Flare 2.0's screen isn't advertised as an IPS, and rightfully so since it isn't an IPS anyway. Cherry Mobile may have been misinformed by the manufacturer in the case of the original Flare. Wrongly labelled specs are common with Chinese manufacturers if you've shopped before at sites like AliExpress. Regardless, the screen on the Flare 2.0 is definitely better than the screen on the original Flare, particularly in terms of sunlight legibility and brightness.
The 4" screen at 800x480 resolution equates to 233 PPI and increased text scaling is advised on the browser as text on desktop webpages will be far too small to read when the page is fully zoomed out. Even if the resolution was higher, say 960x540, 4" is too small to comfortably view webpages fully zoomed out. A bit of zooming in and out of webpages will be required. At least your eyes will tire out less quickly due to how the screen looks in general.
The Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0 is equipped with a Qualcomm's MSM8225/8625Q from their Snapdragon 200 line. While Qualcomm is a popular SOC vendor for mobile devices due to their high performance, custom Krait cores, the MSM8225Q has reference ARM Cortex A5 cores. The Snapdragon 200 line is their lowest-end series of mobile chipsets intended for mass market smartphones. Krait cores are implemented on their Snapdragon 400 and higher line-up. The MSM8225Q is largely unchanged from the MSM8225 found on the original Cherry Mobile Flare and the Cloudfone Thrill 430x I reviewed before. It has the same Adreno 203 graphics. The CPU cores run at 1.2 Ghz. And it's still manufactured at 45 nm. The only tangible difference now is that it has four (4) Cortex A5 cores instead of two (2).
AnTuTu Benchmark 4
Linpack - Single Threaded
Linpack - Multi Threaded
Vellamo - HTML 5
Vellamo - Metal
GFXBench - GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt HD
Basemark ES 2.0 Taiji
Epic Citadel (High Performance)
Epic Citadel (High Quality)
Paired with 512 MB of RAM, the Flare 2.0 chugs along nicely on most non-3D applications without suffering any unexpected crashes due to insufficient RAM. The only instances where I found this to occur is on high-end benchmarking applications such as Rightware Basemark X and Futuremark 3DMark which explicitly state the minimum requirement of 1 GB RAM, although it may work on lower amounts of RAM. Usable RAM is actually 405.9 MB and available RAM is can reach approximately 180 MB on a clean boot. Given this, multitasking is limited to light applications.
UI response and smoothness is a noticeable step up from the MSM8225. Whether it be browsing content-heavy webpages, flipping through pages in a PDF or running productivity application, the additional two Cortex A5 cores helps. However, the additional two cores become a double-edged sword because the SOC is still manufactured on the old 45 nm process, which means the die size has increased. This also means an increase in thermals and clearly, the Flare 2.0 runs pretty hot even if only the CPU is stressed for prolonged periods of time. When I conducted my wifi battery test, the Flare 2.0 was uncomfortably warm in the area around the board, near the camera. Even the Cherry Mobile Burst 2.0 didn't run as hot as the Flare 2.0 did when playing a graphics-intensive game. This increase in heat also negatively affects battery, as a lithium battery depletes its charge faster the hotter it is.
The processor may now be quad core, but the cores remain a Cortex A5 and the graphics too remain an Adreno 203. In terms of gaming, that isn't good, particularly because there is a big emphasis on single threaded performance for games and the Cortex A5 is the slowest ARVv7 core around. Having two more cores won't help much in this regard, likewise the old Adreno 203. Emulators in particular are slow since they are far mode dependent on the CPU instead of the GPU. The ePSXe (PS1) emulator runs much slower on the MSM8225Q compared to the MTK6577. DrasticDS (NDS) also ran like a slideshow with choppy audio whereas it ran smoothly on the MTK6572, which has a dual core Cortex A7.
As can be seen in the video above, the Flare 2.0 is capable of playing 3D games since the screen resolution is only WVGA (800x480). Even then, the old Adreno 203 limits your options to mostly casual games and games that have adjustable graphics settings. Graphically demanding games such as Real Racing 3 (on default graphics setting) and Modern Combat 4 are unplayable on the Flare 2.0. Other graphically demanding games may run, but frame rates are usually just barely smooth and input lag may occur.
Lastly, I wanted to see if they improved the hardware video decoder on the MSM8225Q. Turns out there is some, as the hardware decoder is now able to play some 720p H.264 encoded videos smoothly whereas the MSM8225 could not. If the hardware decoder can't play a 720p H.264 video, the CPU is now powerful enough for smooth playback via software decoding. 1080p remains out of reach though for both hardware and software decoding. The hardware decoder can't play it while it's just too slow using software decoding. Below is the result of testing several HD videos on the Flare 2.0. MX Player was used for testing. Audio decoding is set to software as the hardware decoder on the MSM8225Q cannot decode multi-channel audio.
|1280x534 @ 24 FPS, AVC High Profile L4.1, with CABAC, 5 reference frames||1280x528 @ 24 FPS, AVC High Profile L4.1, with CABAC, 4 reference frames||1280x528 @ 24 FPS, AVC High Profile L4.1, with CABAC, 8 reference frames||1920x800 @ 24 FPS, AVC High Profile L4.0, with CABAC, 5 reference frames|
448 Kbps, 6 channels AC-3
401 Kbps, 6 channels, AAC
395 Kbps, 6 channels, AAC
306 Kbps, 6 channels, AAC
Plays via hardware decoder:
Plays via software decoder:
Yes, but extremely choppy
(HW) Has dropped frames:
(SW) Has dropped frames:
Yes, a few during fast paced scenes
Yes, a lot
The Flare 2.0 is equipped with a 5 megapixel BSI camera manufactured by Truly Opto-Electronics. The camera module uses a 1/4" sensor from the Omnivision OV364x-series which is BSI and has a pixel size of 1.4 µm. The lens aperture is f/2.8 with a focal length of 5 mm, which is slightly narrower than usual but should result in better focus uniformity.
The camera interface is largely unchanged from what you have on the original Flare, or other Android phones from local brands that use a Qualcomm MSM8225 or MSM8225Q and run on Android 4.0 or 4.1. Still shot and video recording modes don't share the same UI anymore like on Mediatek-based phones that run on Android 4.2.
The way around the camera harks back to ICS days, which is personally welcome as the shutter button actually works the way it should, like it does on the usual point and shoot camera. Holding the shutter button makes it focus up center, not take a continuous string of shots like on MediaTek-equipped phones on Android 4.1 or higher. Other than panorama, shooting modes such as HDR, smile shot, multi-angle sweep, beauty shot, etc. are unavailable on the Flare 2.0. Those shooting modes are common in MediaTek-equipped phones as well as phones from international phone brands that develop their own camera application. Despite these lack of fancy shooting modes, the Flare 2.0 offers plenty of manual controls. These controls include your typical saturation, sharpness and contrast, white balance, exposure (+/- 2 steps), scene mode, color effect, and ISO 100 to 1600 (which oddly enough doesn't work). The best part of the manual controls are metering (spot, center, average), focus (auto, macro, infinity, normal) and picture quality (normal, fine, super fine, JPEG 55% to 100%). There is no ZSL (zero shutter lag) option, but the shutter on the Flare 2.0 is more than fast enough in good lighting condition that it captures the image I see on the viewfinder the moment the camera focuses and I let go of the shutter button.
It should also be noted that the panoroma shooting mode on the Flare 2.0 is basically a sweep panorama, meaning you can only shoot from left to right. Also, it's only possible in landscape mode. You can't sweep left to right in portrait mode. There is also face detection mode, but it doesn't automatically take shots when it sees a face smile, like smile shot on other phones.
In essence, the Flare 2.0 is more of a photographer's phone due to the inclusion of individual controls for focus, metering and even picture quality/compression options. All the phones I've reviewed since the MyPhone A919i lacked these options which I believe enhance the camera experience on smartphones, as auto mode on Android is terrible really. Sure, the auto mode on the iPhone is so intelligent it doesn't need manual controls to take a good shot. But it's a different story on Android where implementations vary widely from device to device.
Speaking of being more of a photographer's phone, the truly best part about the Flare 2.0 is its still shot image quality, partly thanks to the Omnivision OV365x sensor which is also found on the iPhone 4. The camera module may be different, but the sensor essentially the same and quality of the optics is good. Another thing that contributes to the image quality is the ability of the Flare 2.0 to compress the video at JPEG 100% quality, or "JPEG 100%" as seen in the manual controls. The file size of the images can easily weigh well over 3 MB when capturing a detailed scene, which is large for a 5 megapixel image. This is the closest you can get to lossless quality and at micro detail level there are very little compression artifacts.
There is good dynamic range and can be evidenced by the camera being a bit sensitive to overexposure even on the viewfinder, so taking shots in midday you might want to reduce the exposure by one step. It allows for good shadow detail and crisp edges. Combined with near lossless quality compression, the level of resolved detail on the still shots taken by the Flare 2.0 is astounding in this price bracket. The images in postprocessing do undergo oversharpening and have added noise to them up close, but even at macro detail level, it's difficult not to appreciate the amount of detail captured. The little pebbles and creases on the asphalt are shown finely whereas it would simply look like a smooth smudge on phones with poorer cameras and/or worse image compression. Images taken by the Flare 2.0 should be viewed on a computer to be better appreciated.
Very good resolved detail aside, the images churned out by the Flare 2.0 are generally neutral and the decent optics protects the camera from a good amount of unwanted effects such as tinting and lens flares, which is common when shooting in overcast and intense sunlight respectively. The images have color temperature that's slightly on the cool side although the slightly higher gamma levels don't make it apparent.
In low light, switching to night mode is a must since changing the ISO setting doesn't actually do anything and it's an unfortunate bug. Unlike night shots on other phones, it actually makes a big difference on the Flare 2.0. Luckily, the shutter barely slows down even in night mode in low light. The light sensitivity also increases noticeably without introducing too much noise at macro detail level, ensuring shots at night look clean. Resolved detail and color detail in low light is good and shots look about as accurate as it actually does as long as there's enough light. Too poor lighting though and the camera will attempt to boost sensitivity even further or attempt to introduce black clipping, depending on the metering. BSI sensors are typically prone to doing the latter and the Flare 2.0 is no different. In which case this happens, there's a relatively strong dual LED flash that can sufficiently illuminate subjects up to 1 meter away in poor lighting. The flash isn't strong enough to illuminate subjects 1 meter away in pitch black, though half a meter is good. The Flare 2.0 could do much better in poorer lighting if it had a f/2.4 lens. Alas, that's too much to expect in this price bracket.
Please note that all images aside from the low light shots are taken using auto mode with spot metering.
All low light shots are taken using night mode.
All shots are taken using JPEG 100% as the compression option.
Flare 2.0 Sample Shots (Good lighting)
Flare 2.0 Sample shots (Low light)
Flare 2.0 Sample Shots (Macro)
Flare 2.0 Sample Shots (Panorama)
Unfortunately, the video recording on the Flare 2.0 is nowhere near as good as its still shots, mostly due to the MSM8225Q not having enough processing power. As a consequence, the bitrate of the video recordings top out at a mere 2.1 Mbps even at 720p. At 720p, there are occasional dropped frames which is unsightly, and it is recommended to lower it down to the next best resolution for smoother frames, which is FWVGA. FWVGA videos by the Flare 2.0 measure 864x480 and top out at 2.1 Mbps as well in H.264. You can also encode the videos in H.263 and MPEG-4, but the bitrate doesn't go any higher and it'll look even worse compared to H.264. It should also be noted that 720p recordings can only be encoded in H.264. On the upside, video recordings by the Flare 2.0 should be no more than 20 MB per minute of footage.
While there are focusing options in still shot mode, video recording is locked to infinity. Another odd thing about the video recording is that frame rates at cut to about 9 FPS automatically in low light, even if you lower the resolution to FWVGA.
Below are video recording samples taken by the Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0:
Sample 1 (outdoor):
Sample 2 (low light):
Here's the lowdown on the Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0's camera:
- Very good shots in decent to good lighting
- Good shots in low light, shutter speed and focusing remains fast in low light
- Strong dual LED flash, enough to illuminate subjects up to 1 meter away in poor lighting
- Good macro shots
- Plenty of manual controls, with the option to adjust focus mode, metering and compression
- Compression should be set to JPEG 100% for best results
- Poor video recording, with low frame rates in low light conditions and abysmally low bitrate
Lastly, the front-facing camera is VGA only and making video calls is advised in good lighting.
The Flare 2.0 is equipped with a removable 1550 mAh battery. Sad to say, but the battery life is no better than on the original Flare. As of this writing, the Flare 2.0 currently has the worse score in my looping video battery test at 6 hours.
It should be noted that the Flare 2.0 doesn't drop battery percentage levels in increments of 1%, so you can expect it to jump down a few percent after a bit of use rather than a steady drop. i.e. 97% to 94%, 94% to 90%
The following are the test conditions for the three tests. Note that brightness is set to 30% for all tests and that the battery has been calibrated prior to testing:
- Looping video - a 1 1/2 hour 480p XVID/H.263 video is played on loop until the battery level reaches below 20%. Hardware decoding is used for the video and software decoding is used for audio. Earphones are plugged and volume is set to maximum.
- 3D gaming - a graphics-intensive 3D game is run on loop until the battery level reaches 15%. Built-in loudspeaker is used and volume is set to 50%.
Battery Test - Results
3 hours 28 minutes
1 hour 48 minutes
The poor battery life on the Flare 2.0 can be attributed to two things: the relatively bright screen and the hot processor.
TN panels normally consume less power than other types of panels, but also have less efficient backlighting. The calibration done on the Flare 2.0's panel also included tweaks to increase brightness. As a result, the Flare 2.0's screen is noticeably brighter than other TN panels like on the Cherry Mobile Life and Burst 2.0. Given that my tests are conducted at 30% brightness, you could probably extract another 30 minutes or so at 0% brightness, which is personally bright enough indoors and at night.
I also mentioned in the performance section that the Flare 2.0 has noticeably more heat output when on load compared to other phones that don't use the MSM8225Q. Heat is the main enemy of lithium batteries and the added stress by the heat increase the rate at which the voltage of the cells drop. Repeated prolonged exposure to heat also reduces the lifespan of lithium batteries. With this, it is advised to let the phone rest a bit when it becomes hot so that the battery isn't drained too quickly. A hot battery means faster drain. As my battery tests are performed with the phone running hot for prolonged periods, you can expect slightly longer use time for web browsing and 3D gaming with intermittent use, which negates the negative impact of heat on battery life.
The Flare 2.0 fares much better when it comes to standby time owing to the fact that it remains cool on standby. You can expect the phone to drop less than 5% over the course of 12 hours on 2G signal with a single SIM. Overall, the Flare 2.0 should last a day of light use or half a day (i.e. morning to mid-afternoon) of moderate use on lowest brightness setting. By moderate use, I refer to 1 hour of light gaming, 2 hours of 3G web browsing and 30 minutes of talk time and several text messages. I would advise having a small power bank around, at least 4000 mAh, just in case you run dry mid-day. It should be good enough for at least two additional charges, not to mention power banks tend to charge phones faster than most stock chargers.
Charging times are below average with the stock 0.8A charger, considering the relatively small battery. It took 2 hours to charge the phone from 20% to 85% and another 30 minutes or so to reach full charge.
Battery Test - Looping video
Battery Test - Wifi browsing
Battery Test - 3D gaming
For the rating of audio quality, I will go by the following rubrics.
- Dynamic range - this determines how well the source is able to reproduce varying differences of sound, particularly their degree of quietness and loudness. How clearly a ringing of a cymbal and the boom of a drum is heard and how well-defined each is defined by how high the range is. Perceptibly, this governs the clarity of both low and high frequencies, and sound stage.
- Power output - this determines how much power the source is able to provide to your equipment (i.e. earphones and headphones). The better the power output of your source, the higher the resistance of the equipment you can use on your phone without suffering detail loss, in which event you will be forced to use an external amp. In my ratings, 4 stars defines that the phone is able to provide adequate power with minimal detail loss to equipment with a resistance of up to 64 ohms, provided that distortion is also 4 stars. Perceptibly, higher power output allows you to lower preamp in the equalizer for cleaner detail. It also governs bass impact.
- Stereo Crosstalk - this determines how much leakage or interference is occurring between the left and right audio channels. Lower stereo crosstalk means more accurate sound from their respective channels and less mixing. In my ratings, 4 stars defines a low enough stereo crosstalk to provide a soundstage that only suffer minimal distortion when several instruments play simultaneously. Perceptibly, a better stereo crosstalk rating provides less distortion in poorly mixed tracks and to a lesser degree, affects how wide and defined the sound stage is.
- Distortion - this determines how much power can be delivered by the source without altering the signal. In my ratings, a better distortion rating perceptibly means your phone can playback at higher volume without suffering detail loss through distortion. In my ratings, 4 stars defines that the phone is able to play at 9/10 of the volume bar with minimal detail loss.
- Noise - not to be confused with SNR (signal-to-noise ratio), noise in my rubrics simply defines how clean the signal is when the frequency is at rest, or perceptibly how much hissing there is when there is quietness. In my ratings, 4 stars defines that there is virtually no hissing when there is silence in the track during playback.
Here is how the Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0 does against phones I have or have reviewed before.
The audio quality on the Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0 is a big, big step up from the original Flare. While there are other phones with better power output, the Flare 2.0's power output is more than adequate enough to drive most IEMs and headphones up to 40 ohms. Larger headphones with a higher resistance will require an amp and the output should be clean enough if you're not too discerning. The audio output is also geared towards mids and highs and a boost in the lower frequencies on an equalizer is advised on the Flare 2.0. Overall, it should be able to replace most dedicated portable music players if you use mostly IEMs.
Also, like almost all Android phones from local brands, the 3.5 mm port isn't CTIA-compliant, meaning headsets (earphones/headphones with an inline microphone) will not work. As tested with Apple Earpods, stock Samsung Galaxy S4 headset and Sony MH1C which are all CTIA-standard, there is a stripe mismatch and neither left or right channel will output audio properly. If you intend to use a third-party headset, you will need to use an OMTP-to-CTIA adapter.
As usual for most Android phones from local brands, the Flare 2.0 is equipped with a 4 GB ROM. The ROM is partitioned to 1.12 GB for internal storage and 1.39 GB for applications. Oddly and conveniently enough, the Flare 2.0's default storage is the micro SD out of the box. This means micro SD card is 'sdcard0' by default and the phone storage is 'sdcard1'. It's usually the other way around. This means that the phone reads and writes to the micro SD as its primary storage and that you aren't limited by the small 4 GB ROM for applications. This also means you won't have to root if your main concern is space for applications.
Call quality on the Flare 2.0 is good despite the lack of a secondary mic for noise cancellation, and with earpiece volume average but clean even with volume spikes. Making calls in a noisy environment or windy outdoor conditions will require some intent listening and the person on the other line to speak louder. The Flare 2.0's loudspeaker though is surprisingly loud and clear, with minimal distortion and crackling even when playing music with vocals at maximum volume.
Wifi reception on the Flare 2.0 is exceptionally good. It's still able to pick up signal 14 meters away from the router with two (2), 1 foot thick walls in between. It's can even manage to maintain full or near full bars 6.5 meters away with a 1 foot wall in between. It's surprisingly resistant to interference caused by obstructions.
As expected of a Qualcomm chipset, the GPS performance is very good. Better than most if not all MediaTek-based phones. Even with EPO GPS data a few days old preloaded onto the phone, the Flare 2.0 managed to lock on in a mere 5 seconds, as if there was A-GPS enabled. Without any preloaded EPO GPS data, the Flare 2.0 can get a fresh lock in just over half a minute under a clear sky in a stationary position. Unfortunately, there is no magnetic sensor so you can't use the phone as a compass offline. Regardless, at least the GPS is dependable.
The Flare 2.0 is a definite and timely upgrade to the original Flare. Issues with the original Flare's audio quality are now a non-issue on the Flare 2.0. The processing power is now also enough to satisfy casual users with smooth performance for non-3D applications. The battery issue remains unexpectedly, but if users of the original Flare were able to manage their battery, they should do fine on the Flare 2.0. The screen is also more "IPS-like" now, even if it doesn't actually use an IPS panel. The screen is definitely better. Lastly, the screen is now 3 point multitouch, up from the 2 point multitouch which should make rapid touch typing a breeze.
More excitingly, the Flare 2.0 gets a level up in terms of aesthetics and build, looking far better and more solid than the original Flare. Most exciting is that the still shot camera is vastly superior to the one found on the original Flare. The Flare 2.0's still shots are similar to the one on my old iPhone 4. The quality of its still shots is untouchable in this price bracket.
For those who aren't upgrading from the original Flare, it depends on what you're looking for. For hard core gaming, the Flare 2.0 is a definite no-no as the MSM8225Q is inefficient and runs hot. You should be looking at the Burst 2.0 for gaming as it has a bigger 4.5" screen and far better endurance for extended gaming sessions.
If a chic-looking phone with a pleasant looking screen is what you're after with just light use in tow, the Flare 2.0 fits the bill nicely since the only other phone in this price bracket with a nicely calibrated TN panel is the Burst 2.0, and it isn't exactly a looker and has a terrible camera. The MyPhone A848i also packs a real IPS screen, which makes it the phone with the best screen in this price range, but it also doesn't look as good nor does it have a camera as good as the Flare 2.0.
All factors considered, I would peg the Flare 2.0 to be a sort of "Omega HD 1.0 Mini". It has a nicely calibrated, pleasant looking screen that's easy on the eyes; a clean, aesthetically pleasing design; and a still shot camera that's unrivaled in its price bracket. The similarities don't end there. Both have bad battery life, have relatively bad video recording and are underpowered for gaming. But you know what, there's actually a market for phones with good cameras and Cherry Mobile sold a ton of Omega HDs, not to mention my Omega HD review is by far my most popular review yet.
If you're on a budget and need a cool, chic looking sidekick for taking Instragram and Facebook photos, and don't mind charging twice a day or lugging a small powerbank in your bag or purse, the Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0 is the phone for you.
+ Excellent 5 megapixel camera for the price; with very good image quality and plenty of manual controls
+ Qualcomm MSM8225Q processor delivers snappy performance for most non-3D tasks
+ Calibrated 4.0" WVGA TN screen is pleasant-looking with decent sunlight legibility
+ Great aesthetics and ergonomics
+ Very good wifi pick up and reception
+ Dual SIM
+ 3,999 Php only
- MSM8225Q processor is inefficient and runs hot on load
- 3D gaming performance is decidedly low-end
- Bad battery life
- Video recordings have very low bitrate and have poor framerates in low light
Official Cherry Mobile Flare 2.0 Specs
4.0" WVGA (800x480) capacitive screen
1.2 Ghz Qualcomm quad core processor
4 GB ROM
microSD card slot expandable to 32 GB
512 MB RAM
5.0 MP camera with LED flash, VGA front facing camera
1600 mAh battery
Wifi b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1
GSM 900/1800, WCDMA 2100
Android Jellybean 4.1
SRP: 3,999 Php
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2013 Kyle Lopez-Vito
GoldenBoyAQ on December 18, 2013:
Can you suggest and other batteries that would fit/work with my CM 2.0 and has a higher capacity? I heard that the Samsung Galaxy Ace would do but since your blog is excellent, I want to know what you think. Hope you can get back to me. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org THANKS!!!
Kyle Lopez-Vito (author) from Metro Manila, Philippines on December 16, 2013:
Cherry Mobile has a penchant for listing incorrect camera specifications. Whether this is a case of misrepresentation or simply incorrectly listed specs, I don't know. The latter is also possible since no-name Chinese OEMs have a tendency to do just that. Most recently, I found the Burst 2.0 and Life to have a camera that's vastly different than what the spec sheet would otherwise suggest.
Anyway, from the feedback I've read from those who've tried both the Flare 2.0 and Flare 2x, they seem to favor the camera on the Flare 2.0. But if you're after camera performance, I strongly suggest the MyPhone A919i which is currently marked down at 6.3K Php. Its camera is vastly superior to the Flare 2.0. Even a quick glance at the camera section of my A919i review and Flare 2.0 review, you can tell how big the gap. The A919i also does 1080p24 recording. Lastly, MyPhone's phones have spare batteries that are cheap and easy to find, unlike Cherry Mobile phones. You can easily swap out batteries in case you run out during long camwhoring sessions since the camera drains battery quickly.
I may have said that the A919i's camera performance is "just average", but that was because the Omega HD 1.0's still shot performance was simply spectacular. The A919i's camera should be able to keep up or at least be only a little behind the current high-end models from local brands, like the Cosmos X, Iceberg, Diamond V7, etc. And for the record, the A919i's camera is much better than the Omega HD 2.0's. CM probably got shortchanged by the OEM of the OHD 2.0 since it doesn't use the same camera module as the OHD 1.0.
Paolo on December 16, 2013:
How does this stack against the Flare 2x? On the spec sheet it looks like the 2x is the superior phone, but does it match the 2.0's camera, appearance, etc?
Thanks for the awesome review BTW!
gregcebu on November 16, 2013:
Cherry Mobile has the Flare 2x ondiscount for the next couple of days so u get an upgrade to 1GB RAM for the same price.
dary on November 12, 2013:
meron ba kayong original rom nito..?
Kyle Lopez-Vito (author) from Metro Manila, Philippines on November 07, 2013:
Cherry Mobile is a Philippine-based company that imports and rebrands phones from China to be sold locally. Hence, these phones are only available in the Philippines, although they've already expanded to Thailand and started doing business there too.
Since Japan is a first world country, I don't see why there should be a brand catering to the low-end market there. I don't think there's even a "low-end market" for phones in Japan.
Hezekiah from Japan on November 07, 2013:
What countries are these sold in? I don't see any here in Japan. Here it's all about iphones, Galaxies, Digimo and Xperia.
Chris on November 06, 2013:
Wow! Just wow! Without question this is the best Flare 2 review. You sir are in a league of your own. Not even the popular blogs can review like you do. How I wish they are even half as good. Puro nalang kasi etcha pwera yun iba mag review, para lang sila nagaadvertise. You put them to shame.
tattuwurn on November 04, 2013:
I'm having a CM Flare and still on a limbo in deciding to buy another Flare (or other locally made models). I'm taking considerations about video recording as my old Flare has some problems in recording my Instagram videos, so judging from your review I think the Flare 2.0 won't also cut it. So thanks for that! :)
I hope you could also do a review on Flare 2x. Great review, thanks :)
YonaSab on November 02, 2013:
Ayos po ba ang CM Flare 2.0?
jihffor75 on November 02, 2013:
tapos salpakan ng 1gb ram... perfect budget phone! do it cherry mobile!
batt on October 31, 2013:
CM should just swap out the qualcomm quad for the mtk6572, this phone would be really awesome.