Dual-SIM phones are something we get asked about a fair amount. They're very useful for people who do a lot of travelling, or for business users who want to have a work and personal SIM card in their phone. But they're also pretty rare in the UK. Clearly, it's not of much interest to the big phone companies.
But happily, there are those companies that do produce handsets that can take more than one SIM card. And the Prestigio Multiphone 4500 Duo is the latest that we're examining under the Pocket-lint microscope of technology criticism. The big question for us is: is this phone good enough to use as your day-to-day handset, as well as a phone for travelling?
So let's take a look at this interesting phone from a brand we haven't heard a lot about before, and see how it all stacks up.
The Prestigio has to be given some credit, it's not an especially ugly or flimsy phone. Too often brands that deal in dual-SIM or niche handsets have a fairly average design and build quality. Here the design is interesting enough, and the build quality is very good indeed.
Our handset is finished in white, which is pleasant enough and makes a change from the black boxes we see most of the time. The bezel is a little bit chunkier than you'd see on a premium phone, but about right for a mid-range handset. And at the £180 price point, this does sit in the mid-range region, although the spec is a little bit more low-end to be honest.
There are three capacitive buttons on the front of the phone. These are the standard Android gubbins, and will bring up the context-sensitive menu, take you home and go back one step. There's nothing surprising here. We like the buttons too, they're much nicer than on-screen controls and work well.
On the top of the handset there's a headphone jack and a USB port for charging your handset. On the right there is a power button, and the volume rocker is to be found on the left. There's nothing on the bottom, bar a hole for the microphone. On the back you'll find a camera and flash unit.
Things get more relevant under the back cover, which comes off with relative ease but still inspires those thoughts of, "I'm going to snap it in half." It is sturdy though. Once in, you'll find a microSD card that can take up to 32GB of extra storage, and those two all-important SIM card slots.
Interestingly for a reasonably small phone, these are the older mini-SIM sockets, which were all the rage before the iPhone rocked up with its micro and nano-SIM cards. We find it slightly odd that they're using the larger cards, but we have no real problem with it. If you have a micro-SIM, then be careful with converters, because they can destroy the SIM contacts on these slots if the card somehow pops out. We've done this on other phones, so we know of what we speak.
In terms of the back of the device, we did find it a little irritating that you can't insert the SIM cards or the microSD card without pulling the battery out and then, obviously, having to reboot. It's not a major grievance, but it is a bit frustrating.
Dual SIM workings
Having two SIM cards in a phone is never going to be all that simple. But the Prestigio does a pretty good job of managing both cards and giving you the choice about which you use. Pop two cards in, and the phone will give them both a name. We used O2 and 3 cards, and the phone gave them O2 UK and 3 UK as their default names. You can easily change this naming, but SIM cards must have a unique name.
It's interesting to note that you can't have 3G service on both at the same time. One can have 3G - WCDMA - while the other is just a basic GSM service. That might sound like a bit of a bummer, but it's not a problem in most cases. It's more than likely that dual SIM users will want one SIM for data, and another for calls, especially when roaming. This will allow you to keep in touch with people back home via text message and phone call, while using a local or business SIM for data.
Although the SIM slots are labelled WCDMA and GSM, you can switch functionality within the software. So when you return home, you might want to switch from your roaming SIM to your local SIM for data, and that might mean flicking your home SIM over to 3G. This takes a decent few seconds while the phone re-registers on the networks, but it's not as long as you might have to wait getting any phone on a network after it has been roaming on another.
Both SIM cards can receive calls and texts though, which is incredibly handy, we think. As far as defaults go, you can route calls and texts messages through any SIM you want by default, or you can have the phone ask you each time. We like this too, because it means you can have both business and personal contacts separate, and contact those people on the number they are expecting to hear from you on.
The dual-SIM functionality of this phone is clearly the selling point, and it has been carefully thought through and considered. It's very easy to use, and aside from not being able to have 3G on both SIMs, it works incredibly well.
It's here things become a bit worrying. The battery life on this phone is fairly limited, and we honestly can't see it getting through the whole day. We started using ours late morning, haven't done much significant on it, and it's now down to 31 per cent in about 10 hours. It might last frugal users a day, but use it for anything more than the occasional phone call or text message and the power starts to vanish quickly.
A look in the batter monitor of Android gives an unsurprising answer to this problem. The main draw is cell standby. And that's simply a part of having two SIM cards on the go. Keeping any phone connected to the mobile network drains power, and here you're doing it twice. That's going to take a toll, and that's quite evident when you start using the phone.
No doubt, by disabling one of the SIM cards, you could boost the battery life, but that's unlikely to be popular if you bought the phone to use on two networks at the same time. You could always use some battery saver app, but we suspect that won't be a huge help overall. Goodness only knows what happens if you use Skype or some other high-drain app, it could go south very quickly.
The 4500 Duo is a dual-core phone, which uses the A9 chip clocked at 1.2GHz. That's certainly not a top-end spec, but in practice it's actually perfectly snappy. It's worth considering that the lack of bulky overlay means that you're probably getting a phone that's not as hampered as those from say Samsung or HTC who lay the custom UI elements on thick.
Really though, all we care about is how the phone feels in day-to-day use, and in that regard there's really nothing at all to worry about. Playing the latest games might present some problems
Video playback is a little jerky with modest bitrate 1080p, but 720p playback is fine. What comes as a nice surprise, is that the phone can handle MKV files with no trauma at all. The screen does video justice too, so it's actually a passable media player.
We have to say, the screen on the 4500 Duo is very good. It's got a natural but vivid colour to it and there's just about enough brightness, although it will struggle a little in direct sunlight.
The resolution of 960x540 is more than enough for a 4.5-inch screen (244ppi) and text is crisp and there are no problems browsing the internet or reading emails. The screen does feel small in comparison to the mega-sized phones that populate high-end devices, but it's still more than enough be pleasant to use.
The 4500 Duo is a reasonable telephone too. We had some problem with the earpiece being a little quieter than we'd like, and call quality wasn't quite as good as some premium phones we've used recently. With all that said, there are no problems that would cause us not to want to use the phone for calls. Unlike larger phones, it's easy enough to hold against your ear, and there are no real problems locating the earpiece.
Text messaging is pretty much the standard for Android. The supplied keyboard is the Android stock one, and it's good to use and gets better with each OS update. Right now though, it's still one of our favourite keyboards.
We didn't expect a massive amount, photographically speaking, but the camera is actually reasonable. Give it some decent light, and it will take a decent snap. There's still the trademark lack of fine detail that all cheap camera phones have, but this is fine for the odd Tweet or Facebook update.
The camera app is reasonable. There are options for things like HDR, but honestly it didn't really seem to do all that much for us. You have manual control of the flash, which is good, and there's touch autofocus. We found the focus system worked reasonably well, but there were times when it would hunt around, and never manage to lock on. This was usually solved by focusing on something else, then back to the object you want to snap.
This is by far the most accomplished dual-SIM phone we've seen recently. It's certainly good enough to use as your daily handset both in the UK, and when you're off travelling and need to have access to a local SIM, while staying in touch with your family or business contacts at home.
The battery life is the phone's biggest problem, to be honest, but with two connections to two networks, it's inevitable that this is going to drain power very quickly. You can buy back-up batteries or power-pack chargers, and if you're worried, this is probably worth considering. Aside from that, the smart looks and solid design work well with what is essentially a near-stock version of Android. It might not be the most powerful phone, but the lack of graphical tweaks means it will run faster than many rivals. And at only £180, it's not the most expensive handset either.
Well worth considering for those who need a dual-SIM phone, and it's even solid enough to make a reasonable main phone. We can't ask for more than that.