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.

HWM (Singapore) - - Front Page - Text by Sid­neyWong Pho­tog­ra­phy by Zaph­sZhang Art Di­rec­tion by KenKoh

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.

XIAOMI REDMI

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.

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