The Duet D888 from Beyond E-Tech is appealing for just one reason. It's not a particularly handsome device, it feels a little cheap, and it doesn't offer any outstanding features. Call quality is decent, but even that doesn't make the D888 special. What makes the D888 notable is that it has two SIM card slots. That means you can make calls and send texts from two numbers on the same handset. For example, you could use Duet D888 as a work and personal phone while keeping your lives separate. Ever better, since the world phone is unlocked, you can use it with any carrier that you wish. It's a beautiful thing, really, and that alone makes an otherwise ordinary phone worth a look.
We know this is not the first dual-SIM phone ever, but it is the first one we've reviewed. And even better, it is the first-dual SIM card phone widely available in the United States. You can't get it with a U.S. carrier--they would never give up that kind of control--but you can get it from National Geographic and Cellular Abroad. The former merely provides branding and various content, while the latter hooks you up with cell phone service in other countries. The idea is you take the phone for international travel. For one of the slots, Cellular Abroad gives you a SIM card for a U.K. number, though you can buy a prepaid SIM card while abroad (like we did), while you can keep your U.S. SIM in the other slot for calls and texts from home.
Outside of a few usability quirks, the arrangement works well. We were glad to see National Geographic offer a compelling model (its last entry was anything but). As we mentioned, the Duet D888 does have its drawbacks, but if you're looking for this kind of capability in a cell phone it does the job. The Duet D888 is $199 with 30 minutes of talk time on the SIM card. You also get free incoming calls in 60 countries.
The Duet D888 couldn't have a more classic cell phone design. A basic silver candy bar of average size (4.37 inches by 1.96 inches by 0.66 inch and weighs 3.95 ounces), the Duet D888 won't win any beauty contests. However, that's not a bad thing in itself, but we're more concerned about the phone's construction. The plastic skin feels flimsy and the buttons didn't have a comfortable feel. If you're going to be using this phone occasionally it's not a big deal, but full-time users may not be happy.
The 2.8-inch display (320x240 pixels) supports 65,000 colors. It's bright with sharp graphics and photos. The icon-based menu interface is easy to use on the surface, but some features involve unnecessary steps. For example, when opening a photo, you have to open the photo folder, select your desired shot and then click "open." Other features are similar--you eventually get what you want, but there are a few steps to get there. You can activate a "3D effect" for the menus, but we wouldn't recommend it. The effect is amateur and it slows down the menus by quite a bit.
Using two SIM cards takes just a bit of practice. When sending a text, you can choose whether to send it from SIM card 1 or SIM card 2. While that's great, you're also presented with the choice when replying to a message already in your in-box. That step just seems a bit unnecessary. Also, we'd prefer an option to have a unified messaging in-box. Two Call buttons let you make a call from either SIM in just one step. Incoming calls to either SIM will ring as normal, and you can switch between the two SIMs if you get simultaneous calls. If you wish, you can deactivate one of the SIM cards.
The navigation array is mostly well designed and includes a square toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, and a shortcut for the FM radio. All the keys are tactile and relatively spacious even with a plastic feel. The toggle doubles as a shortcut to four features. The backlit keypad buttons give you enough room, as well, though they're a tad slippery. You'll also find the two Call buttons and a Talk/end control.
On the right spine are a camera control and the volume rocker. The rocker is smaller than we'd like, but you can find it when on a call. On the phone's bottom end are a USB port and the charger jack. Unfortunately, the former has a proprietary connection, but the latter uses the Nokia's small pin connection. The camera lens is on the phone's rear side protected by a sliding cover. On either side of the lens are small speakers.
The SIM card slots are located behind the battery. We noticed that the metal flaps that hold the SIM cards are rather loose. On a couple of occasions, the SIM cards jiggled free and we lost our connection. Next to the SIM cards slots is the microSD card slot, which really should be on the outside of the phone. On the upside, the D888 comes with an extra battery.
The Duet D888 has a 300-contact phone book with room in each entry for three phone numbers, an e-mail address, a company name, and a birthday. You can store an additional 250 names on each SIM card and you can designate a dedicated emergency number for each card. The phone comes with 25 polyphonic ringtones or you can use your own music files. What's more, you can save callers to groups and pair them with a photo or video. For entering test the D888 supports English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Chinese.