KingSing S2 Review and Notes

So, I bought a new phone, a KingSing S2 to be precise. What follows is a living document that covers my impressions and the lessons I've learned with it on the way. I am not a smartphone/tablet expert and this is not intended to be a serious review of all this phones' features. I wrote (and will continue to update) this as a form of documentation for myself and I thought sharing it might be useful to others.

Basic specs: 5" screen (960 x 540), quad-core 1.3Ghz, 1GB RAM, 8GB ROM, dual-SIM, dual-camera (8Mpixel back with AF), GPS, Bluetooth, magnetic compass, and proximity sensor. It runs Android KitKat. It's primary claims to fame are a skinny bevel around the screen and back-mounted buttons with nothing on the sides.

I bought it from DealsMachine.com for a little under $100 USD (plus shipping). In the box there was the phone, battery, usb cable, 2 screen protectors (one mounted), a European-plug USB charger, and an NA to European adaptor.  The mounted screen protector does have one small spot of debris under it, but it's probably better than I could do myself.  At this point, I'm not worrying about it.

Side by side with my old 5" phone is a bit odd... Because of the reduced bevel, the new one is smaller overall than the old one, but somehow it looks bigger. It's a strange optical effect, hard to describe, but I like it.  The camera seems decent, the screen looks good and is responsive.  I like that the 3 soft-buttons are off-screen and not lit. That makes it better for using as a night-clock when charging as it gets reasonably dim.

The first problem I ran into was with the reduced bevel.  I found it hard to hold the phone without accidentally touching the screen edge.  This thing needs some kind of case and it doesn't come with one.  As DealsMachine typically throws in silly "free gifts" with purchases, I had chosen a case, knowing full well that it wouldn't fit.  But, by ripping out the plastic retainer, cutting a bigger window in the back, and using double-sided tape to stick it to the back of the KingSing, it fit well enough.  Good enough for my sense of aesthetics anyway.  It works surprisingly well as a stand too.  One problem solved, two if you count the stand.

The next problem was the compass, which basically didn't work at all.  After some googling, I found the "secret" calibration routine that settled it down.  Basically, you just turn the compass on and wave the phone around in figure-8s.  Yeah, that's it.  Yeah, it works.  Second problem solved.

Next up was horrible GPS reception.  It just would not get a lock and I was beginning to think it was broken.  But, it finally did, after leaving it searching overnight while on the charger, and it seems okay now.  Actually, what I've taken to doing is leaving it in tracking mode (I use Orux Maps) and I've been surprised at how much of my daily travels are being accurately recorded, even without pulling the KingSing out of my pocket.  Leaving tracking on doesn't seem to impact battery life that much either.  So, that's another problem solved.

Battery life is not all that great, but not bad either.  Using it as a tablet, running the screen and playing with apps, seems to kill the battery fast.  I really noticed this in the beginning while messing about setting things up.  The last 15% goes very quickly.  But, in my regular daily use, I'm still left with around 50% charge at the end of the day, which is a little worse than the last phone, but acceptable.

One other thing against this phone is that the radios seem to be less sensitive than most.  In side-by-side comparisons, it shows less cell radio strength, less wifi sites to connect to, and reduced GPS signals.  They all work, but not as good as my last phone, nor some others I've had.  Not much can be done about that.

I tossed in my pay-as-you-go SIM and it works fine.  It also happily plays with my CallCentric VOIP account using the CsipSimple app.  That gives me 2cent/min outgoing calls when I'm in a wifi area.  I only do voice over cell, as I'm too cheap to pay for a data plan, so I can't vouch for how the KingSing supports the 3G stuff. 

It does come nicely loaded with crap-ware but Google play is there and works.  It also allows installing F-droid for easy access to opensource apps.  I was having issues with unwanted and unaccepted apps suddenly appearing on the phone, Baidu Browser among them, and uninstalling them didn't help.  They just reappeared in a few hours, getting pushed by some unknown force.  By long-pressing the status message and then hitting the App Info button, I learned that the offending app was "Galaxy S5" and disabling that seems to have cleared up this issue, for now.  I've also disabled playApp and Bluego Apps.

The Gallery app is crashing on me now... not sure why but I don't care as I prefer QuickPic anyway.  Google Maps, after an update, is now crashing as well.  That's a little more annoying.  Uninstalling the update seems to have cured that.  Oh, and the stock camera app was locking up as well, possibly due to a gallery link.  I'm now using OpenCamera and quite like it.

I'm still getting used to the back-button thing, and find myself relying on the screen double-tap much more.  I do like the air-wave to transition between pages, mostly because it eliminates accidentally starting an app while swiping.

Overall, I'm happy with it.  It's a lot of phone for the money.  This is my second China-phone, my third order from DealsMachine (used to be called AhappyDeal), and I've yet to be disappointed.  I am realistic in my expectations though...  I'm not expecting a $600 phone for $100.  I'd just rather pay $100 for a decent but cheap unlocked phone with no contracts and then upgrade every year.


The battery died... and there is no available replacement, none.  Being the kind of guy I am, I started looking into making this thing a DRO (Digital ReadOut) head for my lathe... but it doesn't seem to do bluetooth properly.  I noticed the bluetooth was a bit weird while trying to attach a smart watch.  Thought it was the watch at the time, but it seems the KingSing has issues.  Oh well, I bought another smartphone with similar specs for $50. New review coming soon.