Budget Android One Phone Hides Sweet Surprise

MANILA -- Google's Android One initiative aims to deliver good stock Android smartphones to budget conscious users in the developing world. We managed to get our hands on the Cherry Mobile One to have a look at one of a pair of Android One phones that just debuted in the Philippines at for less than $100. We were pleasantly surprised that the One delivers solid bang for your buck.

The phone fits nicely in the hand, with rounded corners and a slightly curved, silver-grey plastic backplate featuring the Cherry Mobile and Android One tags. Power and volume buttons on the right side are easily accessible whether you're a right-handed or a leftie. It feels quite sturdy for a plastic, entry-level phone.

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So what do you get on the inside? The One packs a 1.3-GHz quad-core processor, a 4.5-inch FWVGA (854 x 480-pixel) touchscreen display, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage with a slot for a microSD card (an 8GB card came bundled free). In addition to an FM radio, there are dual micro SIM slots. You'll also get a 5-MP rear and 2-MP front camera.

The Cherry Mobile One comes with a removable 1700mAh that should see you through average daily use, but we weren't able to run our full battery test. The company hadn't released any official battery life claims.

It's a solid deal at the price of about $90. Some of Cherry Mobile's other phones priced at the $90 range seem to offer better hardware, such as the ME Vibe, which for the same price comes with a 1.4-GHz octa-core processor and a 13-MP rear camera. The thing is, hardware is only half the story.

Not only does Android One aim to deliver solid smartphones on a budget, but Android One phones are supposed to run stock Android without skins, bloat or funky UI changes, and get regular OTA updates.

Google is committed to keeping the updates rolling, and Sundar Pichai, Android senior vice president for Chrome and Apps, said last September that "The software on Android One devices automatically updates to the latest version of Android ... The goal is to provide a consistent and uncompromising smartphone experience, for everyone." Obviously, it's still early days, but if Google and its partners keep up regular updates this could solve some of the Android fragmentation problem. 

The One comes preloaded with Google's app lineup, including Google Now, Chrome, Maps, Drive, Hangouts and YouTube, as well as the Play Store. Lollipop keeps it all running quick and smooth, with the phone handling fine and without noticeable lag or stuttering. The One scored a respectable 19,465 on AnTuTu Benchmark.

Last but not least, the Cherry Mobile One hides a sweet surprise in the back end: the One runs Lollipop, yes, but it's the new 5.1 version. We're still looking for a comprehensive change log of new features, but we have seen new Wi-Fi and Bluetooth toggles that allow you to select networks or paired devices in the settings control center.

The Cherry Mobile One makes a good impression at a great price, and that's a good sign for Android One. It makes for an affordable starter phone, as well a great backup or secondary driver for your everyday use.