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Thursday, May 9, 2013

MobiWire Gemini review

On the design front, the MobiWire Gemini wouldn’t stand out from the crowd. This plain black slab of plastic has nothing remarkable about it and could be a reference model for the generic post-iPhone smartphone. That said, we like the simplicity of the look and the rounded edges and corners make it fit nicely into the hand.

We're not so keen on the icons for the touch-sensitive buttons which don't look particularly stylish. It doesn't affect the use of the MobiWire Gemini, but the phone has a strange stepped contour below the buttons which looks strange. The handset isn't so svelte at 11mm and 152g but nor is it a Nokia Lumia brick.

Build quality of the MobiWire Gemini is good with a strong and solid feel overall.  We're not usually fans of thin plastic removable rear covers but in this case it's worth having. This is because the Gemini comes with two batteries so being able to swap them over easily is essential. We like the sound of the 'no quibbles' two-year replacement warranty.

The Gemini has the kind of specifications you'd expect for a smartphone at its £200 price point. A 1GHz dual-core processor is accompanied by 1GB of memory although storage is limited to just 4GB. Luckily there’s a microSDHC slot which accepts cards up to 32GB capacity.

In GeekBench 2 it scored 930 points, in line with our expectation for a midrange smartphone with this specification. The phone didn't fare so well in other tests, managing only a slow 2005 ms in SunSpider and a lowly 4 fps in GLBenchmark.

From a user perspective, the phone feels very nippy when navigating around the  homescreens and menus. However, browsing the web and gaming is not a particularly smooth experience.

A good-size 4.3in screen packs 480 x 800 pixels, meaning a not-so-great resolution of 216ppi. Content can tend to looks a bit rough round the edges on the Gemini but we didn't expect too much more for the price. The screen is an IPS panel and colours look vibrant.

The biggest issue was the relative unresponsiveness of the screen and its touch buttons,  rare to find in capacitive technology.

So the unique selling point of the Gemini are its dual SIM-card slots underneath the rear cover. These can serve several purposes. For example, you could finally scrap having a work phone and a personal phone and put your two SIM cards into one device. You could also use it to have SIM cards from two networks or even different countries, if you travel a lot and don't want to pay exorbitant roaming charges.

There's nothing too fancy in terms of other connectivity with the usual Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, plus an FM Radio. No NFC or 4G here. The usual Micro-USB port can be used for charging or connecting the Gemini to Windows computers. Although the port is standard, the casing of the phone requires a slightly longer connector.

The Gemini doesn't work properly with some regular cables, so it's a good job MobiWire supplies two of its own.

Outside in good lighting conditions, the Gemini's 5Mp rear camera performs reasonably well. Photos look natural but are prone to softness around the edges. The main camera struggles indoors and in low-light situations so a lot of snaps don't look great. Video footage is not so great with a lack of detail and moving objects blurring easily.

The front facing camera is nothing to shout about with a standard-issue VGA resolution which here produces a grainy image.

The Gemini runs on the old Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) Google operating system. The interface is largely vanilla Android apart from couple of minor tweaks.

Since the handset is dual-SIM, there's an extra section in the settings for SIM management. Here you can give each card its own name and a colour code. You can simply select which SIM you want to use after composing a text message or dialling a number.

Alternatively, you can set a default SIM for each task or even pair particular contacts to a SIM card. The only real problem we encountered is that when a call is taking place on one SIM, calls to the other are unavailable or forwarded to voicemail.

There's also an option to schedule when the phone turns on and off. In the regular notifications menu are three pages of quick settings. This means easy access to things like screen brightness, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and audio profiles.

The app menu is a little abnormal on the Gemini. Some of the usual Google apps are there but YouTube and Google+ are missing. Added apps include FM Radio, Compass and Torch.

We were a little confused about the third button – usually used for recent-apps multitasking – is in fact a menu button instead. Holding the home button down brings up recent apps.

The 5.6Wh battery will likely get most users through a typical day of smartphone usage. Only light users will manage to get anything more. This is even less satisfactory when you're combining two phones to one.

MobiWire does provides a second battery in the box, so you effectively have a battery for each SIM card you're using. It's easy to swap the batteries over when one runs out.

The problem though is that there's no way of charging a battery other than when it's in the Gemini itself. So, some planning needs to go into the day-to-day use of the Gemini to make sure you're not always carrying around a spare battery which is itself dead.

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