Review – Samsung S4 Mini Duos

30Sep13

TL;DR

The S4 mini is a fantastic piece of kit. The size is right, the screen is vibrant, the battery lasts, it works fine as a phone. The *only* thing I might ask for as an improvement would be a higher resolution screen. Dual SIM is very nice too.

Background

2 years is too long for a phone upgrade cycle, and I’d let it go even longer than that with my iPhone 4. It was frankly always a pretty useless phone, but it’s been a very nice pocket computer. I’ve started to need a phone that actually works recently, and ended up switching to my old San Francisco (ZTE Blade) as my primary phone – swapping the data only SIM I had for it over to the iPhone. The Blade was pretty satisfactory, but a three year old low end phone was really only good for emails and voice – I needed something newer for apps. I backed the Ubuntu Edge, but ultimately $32m was too much of an ask for the community – so that’s not happening. I waited for the iPhone 5s and 5c to launch, and decided I wanted neither (or perhaps I just wasn’t prepared to pay *that* much of a premium for an iPod touch with a modem in it).

Goldilocks screen size

I went for an S4 mini rather than the full S4 (or a Nexus 4) because my pockets just aren’t big enough. I generally have a tablet or two within reach if I want more screen real estate, so I want a phone rather than a phablet.

Enough performance

The S4 mini has a dual core 1.7Ghz CPU, which is a lot less than its big brother’s quad core 1.9GHz processor. It doesn’t matter – it’s plenty fast enough for anything I’ve tried to do with it. Everything feels snappy.

Relatively unmolested Android

If there was a Nexus version of the S4 mini Duos then I’d have tried to get it – I’ve yet to see anything that a manufacturer (or worse still an operator) has tried to add to stock Android that’s actually made it better rather than worse. Luckily Samsung don’t seem to have messed with Android too badly (or at least not badly enough to make me want to switch straight away to CyanogenMod).

Dual SIM

The ‘Duos’ naming means that the GT-I9192 can take two (micro) SIM cards. I’m finding this pretty useful for a couple of reasons:

  1. The most obvious is when travelling. I’m in the US right now, and have my T-Mobile PAYG SIM card in the phone so that I’m paying 10c/min rather than £1/min.
  2. Back at home I’m running a GiffGaff SIM in the second slot. Pretty much my whole family now use GiffGaff, and it means that they can call and text me for free (whilst I wait for my Vodafone contract to expire[1]).

The software makes it pretty easy to choose which SIM is used. One can be selected as default, but the phone dialer and text messaging app offer two buttons for dial/send so the right SIM can be used.

The one trade off with this model is that it doesn’t have LTE. I’m not that bothered as I don’t use any services that support yet.

Cost

The handset was £295 on eBay. Most of them seem to be coming from Singapore, but I paid a local UK supplier to avoid hassles with shipping and customs. Delivery was advertised as being 10 days, but I had it in my hands 2 days later :)

I’ve ordered a top of the range 64GB microSD card to supplement the 8GB internal memory (and 16GB microSD that I had lying around). It cost £34.99, which seems a whole lot more reasonable than the £160 premium for a 64GB iPhone 5s.

Leaving the iOS ecosystem

I’ve had feet in both camps (iOS and Android) for a few years now, so the new phone has been more of a transition than a switch. The only thing that I’ve left behind is TomTom. I bought the navigation apps for W Europe and USA & Canada a few years ago to use on my iPod Touch, and it was great to keep using them when I got an iPhone (along with a handy windscreen mounting widget from eBay). I may yet get TomTom for Android – I’m just not in a desperate hurry to re-buy £50+ of apps (and I’m also waiting for that 64GB microSD card so I have plenty of space for my music and apps).

Overall

I’m still in the honeymoon period, but so far I’m loving the S4 mini Duos.

Notes

[1] It was a mistake to sign up for another year with Vodafone just to get reasonable roaming rates in Europe. I’d almost certainly have been better off switching sooner to GiffGaff and putting up with whatever their deal is for roaming.



3 Responses to “Review – Samsung S4 Mini Duos”

  1. 1 Umran

    Sounds like a nice little device with the added bonus of dual sim meaning you don’t get stung by those ridiculous roaming charges. I was never a fan of iOS, so an untampered Android sounds perfect.

    I totally agree, based on experience its always better to purchase your device without a contract and these days you get tied in for 24 months !!!! In most cases users are allocated a tariff far beyond their requirements so it’s always good to verify your usage profile to get a good fit for yourself. There are many great sim only deals out there that are more than sufficient.

    As for navigation, the play store offers an app called ” Nav free” and “Nav free US”. These are free navigation apps, however you must first download the corresponding map within nav free over wifi before reaching your destination, then you just enable GPS, type in your destination and that’s it.


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