(Part 2) Killer Features of the Lenovo S820

*This is a review of a loaned product from Lenovo Malaysia*

If you missed the Part 1 of this 4-part review post, I just shared the unboxing of this entry-level to mid-range Lenovo S820 with you a couple of weeks back. I also took a closer look at the hardware, design and build quality of the smartphones in my hands. Read about it here.

Lenovo S820 - in hand
Lenovo S820 – my vacation phone

In that post, I mentioned that I will be bringing the S820 with me on my 2013 year end holidays in Boracay Island, Philippines. I needed a dual SIM Android smartphone with me, so I can use a local SIM (with data plan) and still have my home mobile active so I can still be reachable. Dual SIM smartphones are perfect for this very reason for me. Both SIM cards are active, so I can receive calls and SMS on either numbers, and I can specify which SIM I want the mobile data to be active, or have both active simultaneously. More on the dual SIM functions later n the post.

The Lenovo S820 served me well throughout my vacation, but not without some occasional hiccups along the way. Let me break it down to you…

See Also : (Part 1) Unboxing Lenovo S820 Dual SIM Android smartphone

 

Software Overview

The S820 is powered by Android 4.2 “Jellybean” OS, with a Lenovo skin interface on top of it.

Lenovo S820 - Menu, Navigation
Lenovo S820 – Menu, Navigation

The Lenovo UI is quite minimalistic, with some pre-installed apps and functions.

Lenovo S820 - Settings
Detailed Settings menu

Which you can see from the rather complicated “Settings” menu.

There are a healthy number of default and pre-installed app in the Lenovo S820, which includes Kingsoft Office (for creating and editing MS Office files), standard Google apps (Gmail. Google Maps, Navigation and Local, YouTube, Play Books, Play Music and Play Newsstand), Gameloft Live (with some free games) and Lenovo apps (SuperCamera, SuperGallery, Lenovo Power, Backup & Restore, Hotspot, Maps & Navigation, Voice Search) and more.

Lenovo has even bundled Norton Mobile Security in the smartphone, which you’ll need to signup for a Norton account and activate on the phone.

Lenovo S820 - Capacitive buttons
Capacitive soft buttons – “Menu”, “Home” and “Back”

Other than the usual gestures with up to 9 homescreens for your widgets and shortcuts (pinch with 2 fingers), there are also other menus that are accessible via long pressing the capacitive soft buttons. Which can seem like hidden features if you’re not familiar with Android or Lenovo smartphones, due to the lack of tutorials at startup. Although, there is a Novice tutorial app that can help beginners.

For example, long press “Menu” button to launch Multi-tasking function for last opened apps and long press “Home” button to launch Google Now.

Lenovo S820 - Keyboard
Keyboard is alright

The default on-screen keyboard is alright. Not ground breaking. Perhaps because I’m spoilt with SwiftKey.

Because the device has a slim 8.95 mm thin profile and a glossy back, typing wasn’t very easy. Auto correct and word prediction was accurate but not great, as I see myself going back to correct multiple errors in my almost 2 week long vacation.

Lenovo S820 - Browser
Default “Browser” and UC Browser

The default browser seems standard enough – with features for bookmarks, history, full screen mode, tab browsing, etc. The interesting bit is the inclusion of Google’s Chrome browser (which will need to be updated) which is my usual go-t0 browser app and UC Browser, which is another mobile browser that’s friendlier for surfing, news, apps, etc.

Lenovo S820 - SMS Popup
SMS notifications is a popup

Other than the usual Android slide down Notifiation shade, Lenovo added the feature of turning your SMS into popup notifications. It also includes shortcut functions, such as Call, Delete, Read and Reply, so you don’t have to open the Messages app to respond accordingly.

I find this small feature quite handy, although I don’t always want to have multiple popups on my homescreen. Especially unpleasant when I land at the airport and gets bombarded with countless Welcome SMS while roaming.

Overall, I am not too impressed with the User Interface of the Lenovo S820. Not a huge fan of the design and the multiple pre-installed app and confusing Settings menu. I wish Lenovo would keep it all nice and clean and stick to a stock, Vanilla Android interface instead. In over 2 weeks with the S820 as my primary phone, I can never get comfortable with the theme and navigation.

Additionally, because the phone is an entry level / mid range smartphone, eventhough it’s powered by a 1.2 GHz quad core processor, I faced multiple incidents of the interface hanging and screen freezing on me when I navigate between apps and screens too fast. No good.

 

Dual SIM functions

Alas, the biggest selling point of the Lenovo S820 – the dual standby dual SIM function.

See Also : Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos User Review

Lenovo S820 - dual SIM
A local Smart (PH) SIM with my home Maxis (MY) microSIM in an adapter

As I shared on my Instagram prior to the trip, my amazing discovery of nano and micro SIM adapters that would allow me to use my primary microSIM with an adapter to this phone that supports a regular SIM.

You can access the SIM Management function via the “Settings” menu.

Lenovo S820 - SIM Management
SIM Management and customisation of 2 SIMs

There are a number of features that you can toggle – activate/deactivate either SIMs, select default action for voice call, messages, mobile data connection and push services. For example, which SIM to use for data connection, which SIM for default calls / SMS or “always ask” you to choose.

You can customise the SIMs by giving it different names (eg. SIM1 vs SIM2, Home vs Work, Smart vs Maxis).

Lenovo S820 - SIM Call & SMS
Selection of SIM1 or SIM2 for calls and SMS

Point to note though about this Lenovo S820 (and with any other dual SIM Android smartphones in the market, really) is that it supports both SIM cards in active mode – meaning both SIMs can receive /make calls and SMS simultaneously.

In the call logs and message thread, it even shows me which SIM the call/message came from, with tiny icons marked with “1” and “2”.

Lenovo S820 - SIM Data
Monitor mobile data usage on separate SIMs

However, for mobile data, dual SIM phones can only support HSPA+ /3G connection on SIM 1 and GPRS / 2G connection for SIM 2.

So, no 4G LTE connection for me throughout this holiday…  😥

Even with the painfully slow and sporadic mobile data connection on the island, coupled with my unlimited prepaid data plan I subscribed to with the local Smart PH SIM, I was happy to be able to monitor my mobile data usage, alongside any WiFi (WLAN) connection I’ve been riding on in public areas.

 

Home and Foreign SIM working together on my vacay

Honestly, for vacations and frequent business travelers, dual SIM smartphones are amazing! The Lenovo S820 allows me to still receive calls and SMS from my home number, while using the foreign prepaid SIM for mobile data plan for emails, WhatsApp, browsing, social media, etc.

I love being able to still be connected for work emergencies and sharing amazing beach holiday pictures with you on my Instagram account.

Seriously, check out some of the pictures I’ve been posting on Instagram…

OK OK. I know these Instagram shots are not the greatest judge for the camera and picture quality for the Lenovo S820.

So, in my next post, I will share more about this very feature. Part 3 of the Lenovo S820 review post coming soon, will talk about the camera functions and image and video quality. Stick around…

 

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