Action cams are a dime a dozen nowadays, and it’s pretty difficult to make your mark in a market that’s completely saturated with budget offerings. For local brand Cherry Mobile, lowering the price ceiling wasn’t enough – they had to innovate to make their newest entry to their Explorer action camera stand out against the competition. The result is the Explorer 2, the world’s first action camera to be powered by Android. Does the new device break new ground, or is the addition of Android an unnecessary complication to an otherwise simple gadget?
Still small, with a few new tricks up its sleeve
If you’re familiar with the original Cherry Mobile Explorer, then you already have an idea what the Explorer 2 brings to the table. It’s a small, handy little action camera that’s not that bigger than the previous offering, though Cherry Mobile has bumped up the styling of the new camera a little bit. Instead of an all plastic facade, the Explorer 2 now has a metal face, though the camera is still primarily made out of metal. It’s a little wider to accommodate the bigger bits, but not by much. Unfortunately, this also means that the camera will only fit the waterproof case that it comes with, and is incompatible with the original Explorer.
The front of the camera has the power and mode button, while the right side has the WiFi hotspot button and recording LED. On the left lies the USB port. The top of the camera has the record button.
The back of the Explorer 2 has a 2.4-inch TFT touchscreen display. The addition of the display makes framing shots easy, though we found that it’s easily washed out in bright sunlight and extreme angles.
Android adds additional functionality
Like we said earlier the Explorer 2 is powered by Google’s mobile OS – Android 5.1, in fact. This gives the camera a bit more flexibility when it comes to sharing pics and videos. Because it’s essentially an Android device, it can directly upload both videos and photos to any one of your social media accounts as long as there’s a WiFi connection it can use. There is no SIM slot inside the device, so you’ll have to depend on WiFi hotspots, but that’s not too big of a problem. You can also install apps inside the phone including periscope and others, so theoretically you can livestream whatever you want as long as there’s an internet connection fast enough that you can connect to.
That Android functionality is controlled by that tiny, 2.4-inch touchscreen. To be honest, you’d probably won’t be using the Explorer 2 to type out long messages in Facebook, since the on-screen keyboard is so small that even a toddler would have trouble using it. Be prepared to spend up to five minutes typing out passwords when connecting to WiFi hotspots.
For those curious, the camera runs MediaTek’s MT6580 1.3GHz processor along with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. It’s not a powerful processor, but it doesn’t have to be – it just has to be powerful enough to ensure that the camera part of the device performs well.
Camera is decent enough for the price
The 12-megapixel sensor in the camera does a pretty good job, but of course, there are sacrifices that have to be made to keep the price low. Color reproduction is okay, but could use a bit more punch. White balance also needs a little tweaking, but again for the price, the Explorer 2 does a pretty good job for what it is. Noticeably missing is OIS, though there is EIS on board to keep images shake-free. Of course with any EIS system, the resulting video will have cropped edges for the EIS to do its job. The camera shoots at 1080P and HD resolutions only, at 30 frames per second.
Stills are similarly okay, but there’s a distinct lack of sharpness and detail in some of the edges of the photos. Photos taken at low light have a lot of noise, which isn’t surprising considering the sensor.
There’s also a dedicated driving mode that splits recordings into manageable chunks, though it does kill the audio which isn’t the best setup. Recorded audio is a godsend during encounters with not so nice traffic enforcers, which can back up your claims whenever any of them try to ask for a bribe. Continous recording has also been improved – the previous model automatically cut off recordings at 30 minutes, which is no longer the case with the new iteration. Cherry Mobile has also thrown in a number of accessories which include a car mount, though this time around there’s no included selfie stick, which is a bummer. Speaking of mounts, the camera uses the same mounts as the previous model, which in turn uses the SJCam family of mounts.
Vastly improved battery life
One of the biggest issues we had with the previous generation was inferior battery life – the dinky 1000mAh barely reached an hour of continuous recording, which is a problem obviously. We’re happy to report that the new model has three times the endurance of the previous model, capable of running almost 3 hours on a single charge with WiFi off.
Verdict: a solid action cam for people who want to upload their stuff right away
Cherry Mobile’s Explorer 2 Action Cam has managed to improve on the original in every way. Aside from delivering increased functionality via the Android OS built into it, the new camera also has longer legs compared to the original. While it’s more expensive, priced at Php 5,999, the slightly higher SRP is well worth what you’re getting.