TRAVEL SMART: DUAL-SIM SMARTPHONES COMPARED
For backpackers and jetsetters, carrying two phones or swapping SIM cards can be troublesome. We check out six dual-SIM phones to find out which deserves to be your go-to travel companion.
HTC DESIRE 600 DUAL-SIM
Even though the Desire 600 is a midrange smartphone, it has signature traits of the premium One series such as the dual frontfacing stereo speakers and a two-button layout.
The dual frontal stereo speakers, also known as HTC BoomSound, have builtin amps and direct audio towards you – not away – for a clearer and more immersive audio experience. Due to the red paint job on the speakers, the Desire 600 has a sporty vibe.
If you are switching from an Android phone, you are likely to be annoyed by the two-button layout on the Desire 600 where the HTC logo resides at a spot that has been standardized for the Home button on most Android devices. Shoving the Home button to the right is not intuitive as we often find ourselves subconsciously tapping on the logo instead to go back to the Home screen.
The Desire 600 is not going to wow anyone with its plastic chassis although the material keeps the device light enough to hold. The 4.5inch display also keeps the overall form factor friendly for one-handed operation.
The slight curved rear also fits comfortably in the palm. The back cover is removable, but its stiffness makes it hard to remove. The SIM card slots sit above the battery, which makes it convenient to swap SIM cards without taking out the battery.
The Desire 600 ships with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean and HTC Sense 5.0. It’s behind the curve with the recent announcement of Sense 6, but Sense 5.0 still brings some neat features such as BlinkFeed and a streamlined user interface.
BlinkFeed is a content curator where you can quickly glance through the latest news without having to access multiple apps. Its interface is somewhat similar to Windows Live Tiles and Flipboard where information is displayed in sections.
Running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 quad-core 1.2GHz processor and 1GB RAM, the Desire 600 delivers a generally smooth user experience. While it comes with 8GB internal storage, it has a microSD memory card slot that supports cards up to 64GB. This should be sufficient for playing music, videos and taking photos on-the-go.
HUAWEI ASCEND G610
If you’re going to buy a phone for travel and pocketability is a key concern, the Ascend G610 may at first look like a miss as it is easily the bulkiest phone among the lot, thanks to its 5-inch display and huge 2,150mAh battery. However, more battery life is great for travelling.
Tipping the scale at 170g, you will definitely feel the G610 weighing down your pocket despite its plastic build. It is also taller and wider than most of its peers, making it a challenge to use the phone in one hand.
The design is uninspiring as it has a striking resemblance to the Samsung Galaxy S III. Its glossy rear picks up smudges quite easily, giving the phone an oily feel after a few minutes of usage. Removing the back cover is fairly easy. Inserting SIM cards can be troublesome as you need to remove the battery to access the slots.
Right-handed users have to take note of the button layout; the Back key is located on the left side and this means that you have to stretch your thumb across to reach it. Likewise, the Menu key on the right side will pose usability issues for left-handed users.
Out of the box, the G610 comes with Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean and Huawei’s Emotion UI 1.6. Similar to Apple iOS, there is no app drawer to list all the apps; whatever apps you download will appear on the third home screen. On the other hand, stock Android and most customized skins have app drawers where downloaded apps appear on the main home screen.
Running under the hood is a MediaTek MT6589 quad-core 1.3GHz processor and 1GB RAM. Interface navigation is not as responsive as we expected it to be as we encountered lag from time to time.
With only 4GB internal storage, you should buy a microSD memory card to store apps and other files. The microSD card slot supports up to 32GB, which should suffice for most travelers.
MOTOROLA MOTO G
Clad in a clean design with a tapered back and rounded corners, the Moto G is one of the most palm-friendly phones we’ve tried. The tapered back not only rests very comfortably in our hands, its matte texture also provides a better grip than the glossy plastic surfaces of its counterparts.
The chassis is made up of two different plastics though, glossy in front and matte at the back. It’s hardly an issue or a deal breaker, but it’s something you might want to take note of if like us, you feel that the design should have been more uniform.
The Moto G has a removable rear cover, but it requires a little more effort as there is no slit. The only way to pry it open is via the micro-USB port at the bottom. The SIM card slots can be accessed at the top right and bottom left corners of the device. It is noteworthy to mention that the battery is embedded, hence it is impossible for you to swap out an empty or spoilt battery for a fully charged, new one.
The power and volume rocker are all located on the right side of the device, which makes sense as your fingers do not need to reach all over the phone to reach the buttons. Motorola believes a pure Android interface will provide the best user experience; hence the Moto G has an almost stock Android interface with the addition of two Motorola apps: Moto Assist and Moto Migrate. Assist suggests actions to automate tasks based on your usage patterns while Migrate helps you transfer content from your old Android phone to the Moto G.
A Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 quad-core 1.2GHz processor and 1GB RAM keeps things running smoothly on the Moto G, which is quite impressive for a device of its price point and specs.
The Moto G comes in two storage options – 8 and 16GB – and lacks microSD expansion. The model sold in Singapore is the 8GB version. 50GB free Google Drive online storage is offered for two years as a counter to the low device storage, but it can hardly replace the convenience of a memory card slot.
OPPO FIND 5 MINI
Chinese phone maker Oppo may be a relatively new player in the smartphone market, but its mobile design chops show otherwise.
Although the body of the device is made of plastic, it feels solid in our hands. It also helps that the finishing is good, giving the midrange smartphone a premium feel
Measuring just 7.75mm at its side profile and weighing 128g, the Find 5 Mini is the slimmest and second lightest phone among the competition. Quite an impressive engineering feat if you take into account the 4.7inch display and 2,000mAh battery of the Find 5 Mini.
To maintain a seemingly “seamless” design, the rear cover has no slit for you to remove it. Instead, you have to use a pin to dislodge the rear cover from its catch. It is similar to how we use a pin to eject the SIM card tray on some phones. We aren’t exactly sure if it is the right decision to sacrifice functionality for aesthetics, but the need to have a pin by your side doesn’t seem any bit convenient for a global traveler who needs to swap SIM cards regularly.
Like Xiaomi, Oppo developed its own firmware based on Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. The basics of Android are intact, but Oppo’s ColorOS offers a refreshing take on Android with gesture-based navigation and redesigned app icons. It is updated on a regular basis with feedback from Oppo’s users.
Its gesture-based navigation is aimed at simplifying the way we use the phone. For example, drawing a circle on the lock screen will unlock the phone and activate the camera without having to swipe or press a button. You also can preset a letter or shape to be drawn on its gesture panel in any home screen to activate a particular app. The Find 5 Mini is equipped with a MediaTek MT6582 quad-core 1.3GHz processor and 1GB RAM. The overall user experience is smooth, although navigation can be sluggish at times. Available only in 4GB model, you can use the microSD memory card slot to expand its overall storage capacity to a maximum of 36GB.
SAMSUNG GALAXY TREND
Samsung has a knack for making different screen sizes and form factors from a single model and the Galaxy Trend is no exception. Like many Samsung’s mobile devices, the plastic build of the Galaxy Trend feels cheap and lacks the elegance of the Find 5 Mini or the solid build quality of the Moto G.
On a positive note, the ergonomics of the design is actually quite good. Its compact form factor – 4-inch display and curved sides – makes it very easy to hold and operate the Galaxy Trend in one hand. The only downside is the cramped display, which looks really small beside the 4.5-inch to 5-inch screens of its rivals.
Removing the back cover is almost effortless on the Galaxy Trend, and we secretly wished more brands to learn a thing or two from Samsung on this. The two SIM card slots are located below the removable battery, which means that you have to turn off the phone each time you want to change SIM cards.
What you see on the Galaxy Trend is a toned down version of TouchWiz on android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. There is no fanciful motion gesture or feature such as Air View or Quick Glance, making the interface looked quite neat with a simple swipe down access to the notification panel and toggle settings.
Packed within the body of the Galaxy Trend is a Broadcom BCM21664 single-core 1.0GHz processor and 512MB RAM, which is clearly no match for the modern multi-core processors featured in the other five phones. Not surprisingly, the user experience leaves much to be desired as we encountered frequent lags during normal usage. The Galaxy Trend comes with 4GB internal storage, which is augmented by a microSD memory card slot that supports cards up to 32GB. Photography is not recommended as it comes with a 3-megapixel fixed focus rear camera. It is also the only phone here to not come with a front-facing camera, so Skype video calls are out of the question on the Galaxy Trend.
The Redmi (known in China as Hongmi) looks ordinary on the outside with its rectangular design and angular corners. Its weight of 158g gives a comfortable heft in the hands, and makes the Redmi feel sturdy.
While the front plate of the Redmi is made of glossy plastic, its rear has a matte finish. The matte finish contributes to a better handling while keeping fingerprints and smudges to a minimum.
The power and volume buttons are all located on the right side of the Redmi along with a slit at the bottom to pry open the back cover. Once the cover is off, you will see three slots above the removable 2,000mAh battery.
The microSD memory card slot, which supports up to 32GB memory cards, resides on the left while the next two slots to its right are for housing two standard-sized SIM cards. The Redmi also supports dual-standby, which means both SIM cards can receive calls and text messages at the same time.
Preloaded on the Redmi is Xiaomi’s MIUI V5 ROM which is based on Android 4.2.2. Jelly Bean. MIUI is one of the more popular Android ROMs as it gives users total control over how their phones work and look through the use of themes, app permissions and system management tools. For example, you can select which apps to auto-start after a reboot and which apps to use cellular data or Wi-Fi connectivity. Based on users’ feedback, Xiaomi updates MIUI on a weekly basis to incorporate the most requested, useful features and iron out any software issues quickly.
The Redmi is powered by a MediaTek MT6589T quad-core 1.5GHz processor and 1GB RAM. Its performance varies depending on the themes used. A graphics-intensive theme will slow down the phone significantly as more system resources are required. Navigation is generally smooth if otherwise a simple theme is used.
If not for the memory card slot, the 4GB internal storage capacity of the Redmi may not meet the needs of the traveler who listen to music on the go.