In this Soda S2 review, Mister Mo takes you through this amazing mid-range 4G smartphone that punches above its weight.
The Soda brand may be unknown to you. That is because they are new. Soda Mobile is about two years old in the smartphone market. But from what i have seen of their devices, they are doing the Lord’s work.
Soda S2 Review: Quick Specs
- Display: 6.2 inches, 1520 x 720 pixels, IPS LCD notch display,
- Processor: Mediatek Helio P22
- RAM: 3 GB
- Internal Storage: 32 GB
- Memory Card Support: Hybrid slot.
- SIM Type: Nano SIM; Dual SIM
- Main Camera: 13 MP + 2 MP dual camera
- Selfie Camera: 8 MP
- Battery: 4000 mAh battery
Soda S2 Review: Quick Pros And Cons
Before we dive into the review proper, starting with the major pros and cons of this device.
- Lightweight build
- Dual camera at the back
- Big 4000 mAh battery
- 3 GB RAM
- 32 GB internal storage
- Good performance
- Reverse charge
- Plug and use a flash drive and other USB devices
- Battery takes time to top up
Soda S2 Review: Hardware and Design
In keeping up with trends, the S2 has a FullView display with a notch. I am no fan of notches, but at least I can tolerate them. Our review unit is in colour black.
It is a well built device with a very slim profile. It also feels very lightweight in the hand, thanks to the plastic shell. It feels like metal though, especially the back cover. It really feels like metal. But the rest of the body is unmistakably plastic.
The S2 is a pleasant device to look at and to hold.
Soda S2 Review: Software
The Soda S2 runs Android 8.1 Oreo with Soda Mobile’s custom user interface built on top. Called Passion UI, it is a lightweight skin with little bloat.
It has System Manager, FM Radio, Calendar, File Explorer, Music, Sound recorder, and Notes built in. The built-in email app sucks. Why? I tried adding my business Gmail account to it and it couldn’t set it up automatically with just the username and password. The app required me to manually enter all those configuration settings that non-technical people find difficult, and even at that, I couldn’t get it done.
The Calendar app is one of the nicest we have seen. In addition to looks, it lets you add your Google account and others to sync your calendars.
By default, Passion UI has all apps laid out flat on the desktop, iPhone-style. You swipe horizontally to access your apps. But it offers you the option to change it to the classic Android style with an app menu. I prefer the latter.
Curious about software updates, I ran the system update app a number of times but kept getting an error that said, “Network error, please check network”. My internet connection was working fine all the time though, so something is definitely wrong there.
Soda S2 Review: Network, Telephony
The S2 holds on to network signals well, and 4G locking is particularly good: it stayed on 4G 99% of the time. In-call audio is average – not bad and not outstanding in any way.
Soda S2 Review: Display and Multimedia
Sound reproduction is almost always one of the Achilles Heels of budget smartphones. The speaker is loud but the audio lacks bass and depth.
In direct sunlight, the display fades a bit and you may need to crank it up to the brightest setting to see clearly.
Soda S2 Review: Photography and Video Recording
Another traditional Achilles Heel for budget phones is photography and video recording. Great camera technology is expensive, meaning that there are limits to what budget smartphone cameras can pull off.
Thankfully, better camera performance is no longer a rarity at this price. And the S2’s dual camera is one of the better ones. It takes good pictures and particularly handles low light shots well. The pictures are not flagship grade, of course, but they are quite good for its class.
Soda Mobile has put a 13 MP + 2 MP dual camera at the back of the S2. I love the ring of that, but how does it perform? I took a trip to one of my favourite parks in Lagos and took some sample photos for you to examine.
Soda S2 dual camera photos:
Soda S2 selfie camera ( 8 megapixels):
What do you think of the picture quality of both cameras?
Soda S2 Review: Multitasking and Performance
This is one of the strong points of the S2. The Helio P22 processor and 3 GB RAM provide a very pleasant user experience. If you are new to performance metrics on Android smartphones, here is a quick tip: if you want a smooth experience, the least amount of RAM you should get is 3 GB. And for storage, get 32 GB. If you take lots of pictures and videos, you will run out of storage space fast on a 16 GB phone. I know you can get a memory card, but it isn’t the same experience. Trust me.
The 3 GB of RAM clearly helps with app switching. It is the kind of experience we expected.
In the course of preparing this Soda S2 review, we installed and ran GeekBench on the phone and got the following scores:
- Single-Core Score: 827;
- Multi-Core Score: 3457.
Swiping and tapping through the menu is smooth, and the fingerprint sensor responds quickly when needed. In summary, performance is good. During the period we had it, the phone did not heat up while in use.
The S2 has 32 GB internal storage. You can add a memory card, and because it has OTG, you can plug in a flash drive to copy files. You can also plug on other USB accessories.
Soda S2 Review: Battery life
Battery life is solid. The 4000 mAh battery keeps its end of the bargain, so you do not run out of power all day. On our first run, the S2 battery kept it alive for over 28 hours – and we had 4G internet and Wifi on for most of that time. We even had the phone’s hotspot on for about 6 hours.
Oh, the bliss of using a phone who’s battery won’t run out in 24 hours!
But then, without fast charging, it takes that big battery 4 hours to go from 10% to 99%. Four hours. And it was four hours of barely using the phone. We just put it down and let it charge (internet and hotspot were on though). How I wish that it had fast battery charging – even the slowest kind – built in, but I would be asking for too much. For N40,000, the Soda S2 is already leagues ahead of competing mobile phones.
The icing on the cake is that the S2 also has reverse charge, meaning you can use it to charge other devices via a USB cable.
Soda S2 Review: Final Words
The Soda S2 is a value-packed budget smartphone that punches above its weight. It offers capabilities that are found on more expensive smartphones.
Soda Mobile may not be a big name in smartphones, but they have built a solid one here. You are not likely to find a smartphone with better value-for-money in the market right now.
Wrapping up this Soda S2 review, I have nothing but praise for this amazing smartphone.
MobilityArena Review Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
Other Soda S2 Resources
Founder of MobilityArena. Yomi’s journey in mobile started in 2001. Besides obsessing over mobile phones, he also started creating WAP sites (early mobile-friendly websites created with WML). He began writing about phones in 2004 and has been at it since then. He has owned over 200 devices, from Symbian, Palm, PocketPC/Windows Mobile, BlackBerry/BB10, webOS, Windows Phone, Firefox, Ubuntu Touch, to Android, iOS, and KaiOS operating systems.