Samsung Galaxy S4 Duos Review – One of the Best Dual-SIM Smartphones Money Can Buy

Sadly, this version of the device is only available in China

By on November 1st, 2013 16:01 GMT

Although we have already reviewed the LTE-enabled version of Galaxy S4, also known as I9505, the dual-SIM model is barely known outside China. As expected, Samsung decided several months ago that the dual-SIM Galaxy S4 should be exclusive to China, so even if you’re able to secure one from various retailers, you will have a hard time using it in other regions.

For starters, Samsung Galaxy S4 dual-SIM, codenamed I9502, does not come with any of Google’s applications and services, because Baidu is the predominant search giant in China.

Basically, this means that you won’t be able to take advantage of Google Play Store. But that’s not all, there are lots of Chinese applications pre-installed on the phone and the stock browser uses Baidu search engine by default.

However, those who really want to purchase the dual-SIM version of Galaxy S4 must make some compromises until Samsung decides that Android fans in other regions are worthy enough for such a device.

In order to solve these problems, one only needs to root their dual-SIM Galaxy S4, though one can say goodbye to official updates, and some apps will still not work.

Aside from all of the above, Samsung I9500 and I9502 are quite different when it comes to hardware configuration. You can find out below which one fares better in benchmarks and if it’s really worth the money.

 
Design

Samsung Galaxy S4 dual-SIM has the same form factor and design as the single-SIM model. But that’s only for the outside, as the former features two SIM card slots on the inside instead of just one.

In fact, design-wise, both smartphones are the same, so if you already own the single-SIM Galaxy S4 and want to switch to the dual-SIM model, you’ll get the same device but you will be able to use two SIMs at the same time.

Given the fact that we’ve already tested the single-SIM model, you might want to check out our full Samsung Galaxy S4 review.

The Galaxy S4 Duos measures 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9 mm and weighs 132g (battery included), which makes it 2g heavier than the single-SIM version. That’s not going to matter though, given the fact that it offers so many advantages.

Display and Camera

There aren’t any differences between the Galaxy S4 Duos and the single-SIM version, so you can expect the same level of awesomeness from both devices.

However, bear in mind that the Galaxy S4 Duos boasts a 5-inch Super AMOLED display that supports full HD resolution and 441ppi (pixel density). In addition, the smartphone’s screen features Corning Gorilla Glass 3 coating for protection against scratches and accidental drops.

  
Also, the 13-megapixel rear-facing camera is packed with a buckload of features including autofocus, LED flash, dual shot, full HD (1080p@30fps) video recording and image stabilization. The handset also features a secondary 2-megapixel front-facing camera for video calls.

More in-depth details on the display’s performance and camera’s capabilities can be found in our full Samsung Galaxy S4 review (photo samples included).

Menu and Software

This is one of the aspects that standard Android users won’t like, as Galaxy S4 Duos comes with Chinese bloatware and if you don’t root it, you won’t be able to use it at its full potential.

First of all, the smartphone is still stuck on Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean operating system, but since you have to root it, you get to choose which ROM you wish to run from those available for download.

   
Given the fact that Samsung has just kicked off the rollout of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean update for Galaxy S4, it won’t take too long until the update reaches all regions and new ROMs compatible with this version start popping up online.

The main issue with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Duos is that it’s only available in China and unless rooted, you won’t have access to Google Play Store. In fact, the smartphone comes pre-loaded with loads of bloatware from China Unicom and Chinese-related apps and services.

   
Google apps and services are not included by default on the Galaxy S4 Duos, and even after rooting the device, some things might not work as one would wish. In our case, the stock browser continues to use Baidu search engine and the default widget weather is still in Chinese.

Obviously, there are workarounds that one can take advantage of and still be able to fix these, or one can simply use other browser and completely customize the Galaxy S4 Duos with third-party apps.

   
This can only be done after rooting the phone and installing a compatible ROM. Keep in mind that Galaxy S4 Duos does not support ROMs made for GT-I9500 and GT-I9505 versions.

Once you root the phone, you can download Google Play Store application and install it on the Galaxy S4 Duos. The app will update automatically every time Google launches a new version, so you won’t have to worry about that.

The same goes for all apps installed via Google Play store, but only if you set the phone to download and install updates automatically as they become available.

    
Ultimately, if you’re not afraid to tinker with the phone’s software and this doesn’t seem like a chore to you, Samsung Galaxy S4 Duos is quite all right. Lots of in-depth info on the phone’s menu and software can be found in our Galaxy S4 review.

Communication

Now this is where some Android fans might not like how Galaxy S4 Duos fares. The most important downside of the smartphone when it comes to connectivity is the fact that it does not come with 4G LTE support.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Duos comes with dual-SIM support and is only compatible with microSIMs. You will be able to insert a GSM/WCDMA microSIM card in the first slot and a GSM one in the second. Obviously, you can put two WCDMA cards in each slot, but the second one will only work on GSM.

Both slots support GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz bands, while the WCDMA slot is fully compatible with 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 bands.

The good news is that you can use both SIMs at the same time, one for data and one for calling. The phone also features dual standby technology, which means that if you’re speaking on one line and you get a call on the other line, you can put the first on hold and answer.

     
Stock browser is a no go, but on the bright side, you will be able to install any third-party mobile browser that you can find on Google Play Store.

Google Maps works smoothly as long as you have rooted the phone, so there’s nothing else to highlight here. Make sure you read our Samsung Galaxy S4 review for more details on the connectivity options.

There is one last thing that I would like to mention here. If you purchase the dual-SIM version of Galaxy S4, you won’t be able to benefit from HD Voice right away. Even though the phone is compatible with this feature, if you root it, the codec that triggers HD Voice will be disabled by default.

Even if you manage to activate it (I did), your phone’s CSC (Consumer Software Customization) will not be recognized by the carrier that offers HD Voice. The only way to get HD Voice to work is to change the CSC region code with the one your carrier uses.

Processor and Memory

Unlike the LTE version of Galaxy S4, the dual-SIM model packs a supposedly better octa-core processor. Samsung Galaxy S4 Duos comes equipped with an Exynos 5 Octa 5410 chipset, which accommodates two quad-core processors.

One of the CPUs handles the most demanding apps and services and is clocked at 1.6GHz, while the other one clocked at 1.2 GHz runs in the background when the phone is in standby or users do not run any powerful apps on their phones.

    
It is also worth mentioning that the dual-SIM Galaxy S4 features a PowerVR SGX 544MP3 graphics processing unit, instead of the Adreno 320 GPU included in the LTE-enabled model.

Keep in mind that the same hardware configuration as that of the dual-SIM Galaxy S4 is available for the non-LTE version of the phone, which is available in some countries that do not have 4G network coverage. The latter is known as Samsung Galaxy S4 I9500.

There has been much talk on the hardware capabilities of the octa-core Galaxy S4 and how it fares in comparison with the Qualcomm-based version, but the difference is not that important.

    
Especially for the Galaxy S4 Duos, which is likely to be bought by someone because of its dual-SIM support rather than the fact that it’s powered by an octa-core processor. Those who prefer the latter would probably get the non-LTE variant, which doesn’t need root and has all the Google apps and services installed by default

You can check out below some of the most important benchmarks we’ve run on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Duos. You can compare these with those of the Galaxy S4 (GT-I9505), which can be found in our full review.

    
One thing I’d like to mention here is the fact that our dual-SIM Galaxy S4 device heats up considerably during these benchmarks, which did not happen with the LTE version.

We noticed it reached around 42 degrees when we ran the most demanding benchmarks. Not something you would like to hold in your hand.

    
Battery

Battery is an important aspect for a dual-SIM handset, because the device handles two signals and needs more juice while in standby. Alas, Samsung included the same 2600 mAh Li-Ion battery, so don’t expect better lifetime than for the rest of Galaxy S4 models available on the market.

"Unfortunately this is not true. It has a very slightly different battery bay from the other S4 models and uses a slightly different shaped battery which also has just three metal contacts rather than 4  on the standard battery. It has also has slightly differently shaped lugs at one end.  

I have bought a battery for the standard S4 and it won't fit into the battery bay.  Over the past few months have tried a number of smartphone accessory shops and they can supply any number of batteries for the standard S4 but cannot supply the correct battery for the duos even though they try to order it from abroad (possibly China). 

It seems that Samsung has made this slight change to the duos - I don't know why - but it is very very annoying
."  (Thank you tipster!)

Using Samsung Galaxy S4 Duos heavily will get you one day of use and nothing more. This means that you’ll have to travel with an extra battery or keep a charger close at hand most of the time. It doesn’t come as a surprise given the fact that it comes with the same battery as the other versions, so there you have it.

Sales Package

Samsung Galaxy S4 Duos handset
2600 mAh Li-Ion Battery
Compact Charger
Manual
Stereo Earphones
USB Data Cable

The Good

Obviously, the phone’s main selling point is the fact that it offers dual-SIM support. For some, the octa-core processor is also something worth mentioning, though I consider it a gimmick for the price you pay to import it from China.

All of the positive things I have already highlighted in the my Samsung Galaxy S4 review apply to this version as well, so make sure you read that for more details.

The Bad

The first thing that comes to my mind is “availability.” Due to the fact that you can only get the device from China, the price you pay for it is much higher, not including taxes and the time it takes to ship it. If it had been available in other countries as well, the phone would have been a bit more affordable.

Another drawback is the Chinese bloatware that comes with the phone if you don’t ask the seller to send your Samsung Galaxy S4 Duos rooted by default. Even after that, you won’t be able to use some widgets, apps and services.

As soon as you flash the phone with a different ROM, you won’t be able to receive any updates, so you will have to flash a newer ROM every time it gets released.

Last but not least, keep in mind that Samsung Galaxy S4 Duos has no international warranty outside China, so if anything happens, it’s on you. If you are willing to accept all these downsides, Samsung Galaxy S4 Duos is a great phone indeed.

Conclusion

Samsung Galaxy S4 Duos is perfect for those who travel abroad often and don’t want to carry around multiple phones and the required accessories. The fact that it’s only available for purchase in China is the only obstacle that prevents it from becoming one of the best-selling dual-SIM phones and the same goes for previous Galaxy S flagship phones, including the Note II and Note III.

Our Rating

looks 3
build 3
speed 4
battery 2
calls 2
camera 3
video 3
apps 1
screen 4
signal3

final rating 3

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