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Cherry Mobile Defender Review: Rough And Tumble Phone

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Despite the indispensable nature of smartphones today, they’re still fragile devices. Sure, there are phones that you can buy right now that can be dropped in tubs full of water (or a toilet bowl) and survive, but even they’re susceptible to accidental drops and spills from the chronically clumsy. Enter Cherry Mobile’s Defender, a smartphone that’s built like a tank that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, yet still has features that most people look for.

Cherry Mobile Defender Specifications

  • 2.0GHz MediaTek Helio P10 processor
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 32GB of expandable storage (Up to 32GB)
  • 4.7-inch HD IPS Display; 1280×720 resolution
  • 18-megapixel rear camera
  • 8-megapixel front camera
  • Dual SIM, LTE
  • GPS, GLONASS
  • IP68 Certified
  • 4200mAh battery
  • Android Marshmallow 6.0
  • Php 9,999

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Built like a tank, and feels like it

The Defender isn’t a pretty phone. It’s made out of a combination of rubber and metal, and is incredibly thick, measuring in at 16.6mm. That extra thickness makes it incredibly bulky, and despite having a relatively small 4.7-inch display, using it one-handed is quite a challenge even for people with bigger than average mitts. It’s also incredibly heavy – you can probably use this phone to bludgeon a robber to death, if need be.

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The sides of the phone are metal (aluminum, actually) while the majority of the body – specifically, the corners – are made out of rubber and hard plastic. This allows the Defender to take drops from chest level like a champ. We’ve been casually throwing the thing around on our desk after work (something that we wouldn’t even think of with other phones that we review) and it doesn’t have a dent on its body yet. If you accidentally drop this thing from chest height, it has a tendency to absorb the drop’s force in the corners. Even if it drops back first or heaven forbid, screen first, there’s enough rubber in the borders that the display doesn’t take the full force of the drop.

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While other companies use clever engineering and material use to make their phones water resistant, the Defender uses brute force to keep H20 out of its innards. The phone uses plastic flaps on the top and bottom to keep water from entering the 3.5mm jack and the USB charging port, respectively. Similarly, the microSD and SIM slot on the back uses a rubber membrane that’s protected by a plastic cover to keep water out, which requires the use of a small flat head screw driver to remove.

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This brute force approach to water and dust proofing the phone is the reason why the Defender has an IP68 rating and has a relatively affordable price tag. The only downside is that you’ll have to ensure that no dirt gets lodged into the flaps that protects the phone – make sure that you don’t open the flaps at dirty or sandy places like the beach to keep the device water-resistant.

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Just like other rugged phones, the Defender has a couple of extra buttons aside from the customary volume and power button on the right side of the device. There’s an SOS key on the bottom that sends out a distress messages (via SMS) to a number of your choosing, in a set time interval – handy if you get into a jam and need help fast. There’s a push-to-talk button as well, which sadly doesn’t work here in the PH. Surprisingly there’s also a camera shortcut key as well.

Flipping the phone over, you’ll see the 18-megapixel rear camera as well as the LED flash. The speaker grille is located at the bottom of the device, as well as a loop for a lanyard.

Like we mentioned earlier, the Defender has a 4.7-inch HD IPS dislay on the front, with physical capacitive keys on the bottom. If the phone has a weakness, it’s the display – the display is glass, and while it’s protected by Gorilla Glass 3 for scratch protection, it isn’t shatter-proof. The phone will probably survive being dropped in a flat surface screen first, but if it drops anywhere that has rocks or other protruding objects, we doubt that the display will survive unscathed.

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As far as display quality goes, the Defender’s panel is alright – the smaller screen size offsets the lower pixel density of the HD resolution. Viewing angles are generous. Color and contrast is good, which is to be expected from a phone that has the Defender’s price.

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A tough phone with modern innards

One of the problems of owning ruggedized phones is the fact that they tend to be clunkers on the inside, sporting hilariously weak hardware despite their tough exterior. The Defender is an exception though – it’s running MediaTek’s Helio P10 processor paired with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of expandable storage.

Depsite our initial misgivings with the P10 chipset, the one in the Defender managed to keep the device running relatively smoothly. We didn’t notice any kind of performance issues with the phone, aside from the warmer than average temperature when we were playing Android games. The P10 chipset is capable and can run most Android games at medium to high settings, though it’s not quite as good as the Snapdragon 430 chipset in terms of performance.

The Defender runs a stock build of Android 6.0, though we’re still a bit annoyed that the phone still suffers from intrusive pop-up ads now and again, something that shouldn’t happen in a phone being sold at its price range.

Because of how the ports of the device are laid out, you will have to use the included charger of the Defender to be able to charge it, since normal USB chargers don’t have tips that are long enough. It’s the same deal with the the 3.5mm headphones – you’ll have to use the default included pair or wireless Bluetooth headphones with the Defender since the end of the average 3.5mm audio jack is too thick to fit into the port on top.

The rear-firing speaker is surprising loud, but tinny. No call issues whatsoever with the Defender – calls made from, and to, the phone have no problems.

Mediocre camera, but to be expected

We didn’t have high hopes for the (possibly interpolated) 18-megapixel camera, and we were right. Images taken from the Defender’s rear camera are a bit disappointing, but not entirely unexpected from a rugged phone. Don’t get us wrong, the camera is good enough for casual snaps – just layer a filter on there (or two) and you’re set. More discerning users may not like the image quality from the camera though.

Legendary battery life

The Defender has a 4200mAh battery inside of it, which is pretty hefty. Combine that with the power-efficient P10 processor plus the efficient HD panel, and you can expect the phone to easily go past the two day mark on a single charge. We found the Defender still alive in the morning of the third day away from the charger, with 10% of juice left in the tank. This was with moderate to heavy use, LTE on. You’d probably have better luck with the phone if you keep an eye on your usage.

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Verdict: A rough and ready phone built for anything

After taking the Defender with us for a couple of days, playing with it during airsoft and generally just abusing the heck out of it, we can safely say that it’s one tough mother. Obviously we would have liked it more if it had the Droid Turbo 2’s shatter-proof display, but for the price, the Defender does its job well. As long as you don’t drop it in the rocks, this thing will take whatever you throw at it, and then some. It’s the perfect phone to pick up for people who lead a particularly active lifestyle.

The Cherry Mobile Defender is priced at Php 9,999.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

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