Dual-SIM phones are simple to explain: they let you use two SIM cards in a single phone. Whether you’re travelling abroad or juggling work and family, these models can be a handy alternative to using two separate phones. They’re easy to use too - just pick a phone, get a free SIM card, put one in the other and you’re off to the races!
However, choosing the right phone isn’t quite so easy. In this article, we’ll tell you what you need to know about dual-SIM phones, how to get them and which models should be at the top of your list.
How do dual-SIM phones work?
So, we know that phones use SIM cards to connect to different mobile networks. Dual-SIM phones have two physical slots for SIM cards as well as circuitry that allow two mobile network connections to be made simultaneously.
The practical upshot of this is that you can put two different SIM cards into your phone at once, then choose which to use for each call you make or text you send. You can also choose which to use for data. Usually, your phone will stay connected to both networks simultaneously, so you can take texts and calls from either line. However, most phones won’t let you accept a call on your second line if you’re already on a call on the first. Your two SIM cards might be called SIM1 and SIM2, their names might be based on the networks you’re using or you could even be able to rename them to whatever makes sense, like “Personal” and “Work”. Speaking of which…
Why use a dual-SIM phone?
Having a dual-SIM phone can be super useful in several scenarios, e.g.:
- You have a work SIM and a personal SIM and don’t want to carry two different phones all the time
- You have one SIM card that offers cheap data rates, while the other offers a better deal for texts and calls
- You want to use a local SIM while on holiday and still allowing people to get in touch with you on your everyday SIM
However, there are some downsides to dual-SIM phones as well. Staying connected to two mobile networks has a small impact on battery life, and you may find that you are forced to choose between using your second slot for a second SIM card or for a Micro SD card. However, these downsides are normally overshadowed by the benefits!
How to get a second SIM card
Thankfully, this is the easy part! Just pick up a free SIM card from your favourite mobile network (that’s giffgaff, right?) and you’re ready to go.
How to get a dual-SIM phone
In the UK, dual-SIM phones are not yet mainstream, so you’re left with two choices: pick up a dual-SIM phone from the limited selection available, or import a phone from a country where dual-SIM comes standard, which includes most countries in Asia such as China, South Korea, Japan and India.
If you decide to stay in the UK, you will have a smaller pool of phones to choose from, but you will get the benefit of an easier repair and warranty procedure, English language instructions and more relevant pre-installed apps and services.
Otherwise, you’ll need to think about how to get your dual-SIM phone. If you’re ever on holiday in a country where dual-SIM models are commonplace, e.g. most countries in Asia, then that could be a good opportunity to get a new phone - particularly if you stick to brands like Samsung or LG that are also offered in the UK.
You could also buy from a speciality import site with a cool name, such as GearBest, BangGood, AliExpress, GeekBuying or Coolicool. Prices are often cheaper if you buy from these sites, but shipping times are longer, warranty coverage can be patchy and import duty is almost always charged. You are also likely to get a phone that may be set to work in English, but may come with apps and services pre-installed that are of no interest to you while Google services (e.g. the Play Store, Chrome, YouTube) may be missing.
Best dual-SIM phones for travelling
So, the best dual-SIM phones for travelling. For this list, we’ll look just at phones that are readily available in the UK, including three models available from UK retailers, and two from online import sites. Let’s get started with the import models.
Xiaomi is one of the biggest electronics makers in the world, and their smartphones are top-notch. The Mi 8 SE is one of their most popular models, offering mid-range performance at a budget price. There’s a Snapdragon 710 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and 5.88-inch notched display. This particular phone also comes with the Google Play Store pre-installed, helping to avoid one of the usual issues of an imported model. It’s also absolutely gorgeous!
This phone looks like a flagship phone from earlier this year, yet costs less than £100. It includes a super-tall 5.5-inch display (with no notch), a MediaTek 6739 quad-core processor, dual rear cameras, 3GB of RAM and 16GB of storage (which you should expand via Micro SD, ideally). The performance of this phone won’t match that of other phones on our list, but it’s so cheap that it’s the perfect vacation burner phone.
3. Honor 10
The Honor 10 (not to be confused with the earlier Honor View 10) is another excellent flagship-grade phone that costs a little under £400. Huawei’s Honor brand is all about bringing the latest features to daring new price points, and the Honor 10 delivers in a big way. The phone includes a sub-surface fingerprint reader, dual 24-megapixel/16-megapixel rear cameras, a capacious 3400mAh battery and a high-end Kirin 970 processor. It’s gorgeous too, with an eye-catching pearlescent sheen in blue or green and a super-tall notched display. Awesome!
The Huawei P20 Pro is one of the best smartphones of the year thanks to its incredible triple rear cameras, gorgeous design and powerful internals. The P20 Lite is not quite as good, but it is a heck of a lot cheaper at just £300 for a dual-SIM model. The phone has the same notched display as the P20 Pro, capable dual 16-megapixel rear cameras and a speedy mid-range Kirin 659 processor. A fingerprint reader, 3000mAh battery and USB-C fast charging are also included.
5. Motorola G6
What about a phone that isn’t Chinese? Well, those are hard to come by, but good old American Motorola won’t let you down, right? Well, actually Motorola is owned by Chinese firm Lenovo, but their G6 smartphone is still one of the best budget phones on the market – and it’s got two SIM slots! You can also enjoy a 5.7-inch tall display (sans notch), dual rear cameras, clean Android 8.1, a water-resistant body and solid mid-range specs like an Octa-core Snapdragon 450 processor backed with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Not bad for £239!
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