Whatever you make of them, selfie smartphones are a thing now. And one of the cheapest gateways to ownership in the Philippines is through the Cherry Mobile Flare S6 Selfie.
It’s slated to hit stores with a bargain P7,999 (around $157) price tag. That said, keep in mind that the unit we’ve used for weeks now isn’t using the final version of the firmware, which is to say your experience with the phone might vary at launch.
You can interpret it however you want, but as consumers, we’d rather that companies delay their products even at the risk of putting them at a further advantage than rush them to market. Samsung has taken this to heart.
So, Cherry Mobile’s Flare S6 Selfie — does the name fit, or does the phone fit into something else? If nothing else, is it a decent smartphone?
Full disclosure: The cameras, both sharp at 16 megapixels, need more time in the development oven — though there are flashes of brilliance here and there. And the hardware offers a couple of great technologies, like fingerprint unlocking and USB Type-C. On a more subtle note, this is a start, or at least a sign of better things to come.
The Cherry Mobile Flare S6 Selfie is not made of cheap plastic. (Okay, the top and bottom parts separated by those black antenna lines are made of plastic — that’s it.) And the overall build feels a bit more premium.
The metal design is curved toward the edges and bend at just the right angle to give you a comfortable handling experience. That goes for the thickness of the phone, too; the body is thinner than some models in the midrange, let alone in the budget, category. The matte finish provides another layer of comfort.
The front of the phone is another story, as it is glossy and attracts smudges like honey attracts bees. We wish we were greatly exaggerating, but the lack of oleophobic or smudge-resistant coating on the glass hurts the device in more ways than one.
Chiefly, it means wiping the glass with your sleeve or a piece of cloth before taking a selfie. Unless you’re totally cool with adding a dreamy effect to your portraits, of course.
A slab of rounded glass covers the entire face side. So far, it has stayed resistant to any visible scratches even after spending days with our keys in our jeans pocket.
The side buttons on our unit wobble a little, and the way the display sits on top of the frame instead of staying flush with the rest of the body is another cosmetic grumble, albeit a minor one.
The front-mounted fingerprint reader is integrated into a clicky home button; it is both fast and accurate. Additionally, Cherry Mobile added a few customization options in the settings, so that you can tap the sensor to go back one screen, answer a call, or snap a picture depending on which boxes you tick. In particular, we find the former useful as an alternative to pressing a hardware button to get back to the home screen.
There are two speaker cutouts at the bottom, but only one houses a working unit. Those tiny metal screws beside the cutouts are a nice touch. As typical with most low-cost smartphones, sound quality gets distorted at higher volume levels.
Another downside is that the Cherry Mobile Flare S6 Selfie’s lone speaker doesn’t get loud enough despite having the option to crank up the volume in the settings under the “Sound” section. When you’d rather listen to music in private, know that the Selfie features a headphone jack conveniently located along the top edge of the unit.
Coming in at 5.2 inches, the LCD display is the right size for viewing content and reaching around the screen, especially if you’re using it in portrait mode. In other words, it’s neither too small nor too large.
The resolution is 1,080 x 1,920, so this phone packs more pixels than the average bargain option. The extra dots are nice in principle and make for a better experience when using the Selfie to stream video from Netflix, YouTube, and similar apps.
Colors appear pleasingly vibrant, and the screen gets bright enough to see it outdoors in broad daylight. Viewing angles are better than one would anticipate in this price segment, with little color drop-off at extreme angles.
We haven’t encountered any major touch-input issues. Coming off weeks of testing, we’re pretty impressed with what we’ve seen thus far. Let’s not forget: P8,000 isn’t all that much to spend on a smartphone.
The 16-megapixel cameras on both sides of the Flare S6 Selfie are big talking points for Cherry Mobile. Both sensors are backlit, which means brighter, less fuzzy shots in low light. That’s nice and all, although we’ve found that good specifications don’t always translate into good performance. It’s no less true here.
The native Cherry Camera app is straightforward and boasts all the usual bells and whistles you’d find in a current smartphone. It comes standard with beauty mode, of course, as well as Snapchat-like live filters under the “FaceCute” toggle that make you look goofy in front of the camera. However, the filters only work when taking a photo.
You can also snap portraits with some background blur using the back-facing camera. Dip into the settings, and you’ll find several more options to play around with. The default software is beyond decent, but it should be noted that the Cherry Mobile Flare S6 Selfie includes not one but two camera applications.
We’ll have to do more testing before we can recommend which one you should use as your daily driver — the results look pretty much the same to us — though some features are understandably tied to a particular app.
Regardless of your choice, image quality is, sadly, largely uneven. Both cameras struggle with natural and artificial light, which makes photo-taking rather frustrating as opposed to simple and convenient, like Cherry Mobile intended it to be.
When we brought the Cherry Mobile Flare S6 Selfie to Thailand to test it out in the wild, in areas with challenging or varied lighting conditions, we found that getting the right exposure can be tricky.
Sample resized selfies taken with the Cherry Mobile Flare S6 Selfie
Sample resized photos taken with the Cherry Mobile Flare S6 Selfie
As for the internals, the smartphone is equipped with a MediaTek MT6750T. Paired with the chipset are 3GB of RAM and 16GB of expandable memory, which isn’t much, so getting a roomy SD card is highly recommended.
The device is responsive and runs largely without issue, but it can also quickly heat up when gaming for extended periods of time. Temperatures are fine if all you’re doing is watching a video or browsing the web, though.
Another thing we noticed with our test unit was that it couldn’t install NBA 2K17 for Android despite our best efforts. The most demanding title we were able to try was Lineage II: Revolution, and it ran well enough that we kept playing without noticing the hours passing — and the battery discharging.
Speaking of which, the 2,600mAh cell usually drains out before our day ends, thus requiring a mid-evening top-up. If you’re careful with your usage, you can get a full day out of the phone. The Selfie’s battery life is nothing special.
Charging is done with a USB-C cable, which is admirable for a sub-P10,000 ($197) phone. Fast charging isn’t supported, but that’s completely understandable. If you’re in a bind, simply switch off the phone, and it’ll charge faster.
As you might have heard, the Flare S6 Selfie is one of the first Cherry Mobile devices to ship with Cherry OS, the company’s first stab at an Android fork. Based on Android 7.0 Nougat, it’s differentiated by its loose use of colors and visual elements, even when things don’t always pan out. Our unit uses the Android security patch level dated September 5, which is quite recent.
A few screenshots of the UI to give you an idea of how Cherry OS looks
Possibly, the biggest advantage Cherry OS has is that it comes with a bunch of useful third-party apps preinstalled. Avatar Master, for example, lets you clone apps to use multiple accounts on, say, Facebook.
Health Guard shows you how much time you’ve spent on social media (or any particular app, for that matter) and reminds you to take some time off from your device every now and then. Occasionally, it cautions us to sleep earlier than we usually do, like a nagging parent whose teenager is addicted to video games.
Apps such as 360 Security, Super AppLock, and Privacy System are all self-explanatory and work as intended. We could go on, but the idea is this: Cherry OS saves you the time of downloading (possibly paid?) apps that you should consider adding to your phone anyway. Most apps don’t cross the line into bloat.
The bottom line
The Cherry Mobile Flare S6 Selfie is hardly the phone it’s hyped up to be. It definitely could be better in some areas. Still, it’s relatively cheap; has a few notable, if not promising, hardware features; and the overall package will likely satisfy users who aren’t difficult to please.
We still wish its current form would fit the bill. But who knows once the kinks are sorted out over the next few months.