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Cherry Mobile Q70 Quad-SIM phone hands-on

You’ve got your dual-sim phones, you’ve got your triple-sim phones. But all that is old hat now, thanks to the ultimate in phone democracy: the Cherry Mobile Q70.

The quad sim-switcheroo comes thanks to a slim body that’s reminiscent of a Blackberry…but alas, with none of Research in Motion’s famed QWERTY finesse. Instead, Q70 users have to wrestle with a tough-as-nails keyboard that seemed hewn from stone. Normally, tiny keys wouldn’t be a problem on a QWERTY phone (they are a given, after all), but on the Q70, it almost makes one dread having to compose a text message or—yikes—typing out a long email.

When powered up, however, one can appreciate the Q70’s profile. Both in size and price (it clocks in at P3,499), it hardly dents one’s pocket, and when one checks an incoming message, the crisp color screen is always a nice surprise.

There’s no dedicated volume button, a very annoying shortcoming in a mobile device. You can adjust the volume of your media on the fly by pressing up or down on the navigation nub while they’re being played, but to fine-tune your ringtone volumes, you’ll have to manually adjust it by plowing deep in the User Profiles menu.

On paper, the list of features is impressive. There’s Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo!, plus in-house apps Cherry Mail and Cherry Messenger. There’s a voice recorder, two cameras (the main one hits 2.0 megapixels, while the front-facing one is VGA). FM Radio and a TV tuner are thrown in for good measure.

One gets the feeling, though, that some of the features are just there to tick boxes in a checklist. The Media Player, for example, wouldn’t read the Led Zeppelin discography I loaded into my SD card—though the in-built File Manager could detect them just fine. Apparently, you have to create a folder for your songs called My Music…not that the manual ever took the time to explain this. Over at the communications end, Facebook and Twitter took ages to load up with the phone’s GPRS connection. I wasn’t even able to log into Cherry Messenger—presumably, Cherry’s answer to BBM—because the connection would always time out.

Net connection, though, doesn’t seem to be a high priority for this phone. There are dedicated TV and Radio buttons built right beside the main navigation pad, and a lengthy antenna can extend quaintly out of the right side of your phone. It picks up loud-and-clear FM radio from the dank basements where even phone signals fear to tread. TV, however, doesn’t fare so good—but not through the antenna’s fault. Even with the best reception, TV viewing is, at best, a grainy affair.

Secondary features aside, the phone performs admirably where it matters most: seamless quad-sim switching. Calls are made and texts are received without a hitch, though the process of selecting the right sim adds an extra step in what used to be fairly simple tasks. With the message list reading the contents of all four sims, there’s a little pause while scrolling down, but that’s all the hiccups encountered so far.

I recommend getting different networks with your sim cards—I had three sims from Globe tucked away in my test unit, and I would occasionally lose track of which of them still had load, since there was no option to rename the cards. It was also difficult selecting the default sim to GPRS with. Again, the bare-bones user manual proved stubbornly unhelpful.

But again, if you want to insist on using GPRS on this thing, you’re probably doing it wrong. Again, its greatest strength—and main selling point—are its four sim trays. Whether you’re a ladies’ man trying to keep tabs on all three mistresses (while not forgetting your wife), or an enterprising vendor offering load on all three major networks (while still packing a personal sim), the Q70 is right up your alley. You’ll just have to be prepared to live with the other half-baked features.