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What is a dual-SIM phone?

Dual-SIM phones allow you to use two phone SIMs in a single device, but that’s an approach that has both upsides and definite downsides.

Updated

Dual SIM phone open back

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At the most basic level, a dual-SIM phone is one that has two SIM card slots. This means that you could drop SIM cards from different telecommunications providers into a single phone and have them both active on your phone simultaneously.

Why would you want a dual-SIM phone?

The classic problem that the first dual-SIM phones tackled was one of phone call costs, especially for businesses. If your work supplies you with a phone (or just a SIM card) and you’ve got your own private number, it’s fiddly to keep two phones on you plus nearly impossible to handle them if they’re both ringing at the same time!

The advantages of a dual-SIM phone relate to managing both your communications and your costs. If you’ve got one SIM with unlimited calls and another that’s your direct contact number that perhaps has better international calling rates, a dual-SIM phone would allow you to pick and choose which provider you use for each service type.

Frequent travellers would also benefit from a dual-SIM device, with the ability to keep your own Australian SIM in one slot and use a prepaid SIM from your destination country in the second. This will allow you to avoid hefty international data roaming fees, but still keep your phone number accessible while overseas.

Dual-SIM phones were never massive in Australia as a direct category and they’re still somewhat rare at the full retail level, although many popular phone models are actually produced in dual-SIM variants in markets where it is more popular.

The carrier trap

The biggest issue for Australians wanting to source dual-SIM phones locally is that local carriers who offer contract phones rarely stock them, and it's not hard to see why. They don't want you even thinking about switching providers, so why introduce the concept in the first place?

What this means is that while many popular phones are actually manufactured with dual-SIM variants for the international market, they're rarely available locally on contract in a dual-SIM model. That doesn't mean that you can't get the dual-SIM version here, but it does mean you need to buy them outright so be careful to ensure that you're getting the model you want.

Which phones support dual SIM?

With the carrier trap out of the way, the good news is that it's quite easy to get a dual-SIM version of many popular Android phones, especially from international resellers or some local models sold outright in the budget or mid-range space. As an example, while not every handset sold in Australia or to Australians features dual SIM capability, the following phones are produced for some markets with dual SIM:

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Display Display Rear camera Battery size Overall rating More info More info
Apple iPhone 11
6.1
inches

828 x 1792

  • Display

    6.1 inches

    828 x 1792

  • Rear camera

    12MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    N/A
12MP + 12MP
N/A
Not yet rated
View details
Samsung Galaxy Note10
6.3
inches

1080 x 2280

  • Display

    6.3 inches

    1080 x 2280

  • Rear camera

    16MP + 12MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    3,500 mAh
16MP + 12MP + 12MP
3,500
mAh
Not yet rated
View details
Samsung Galaxy S20+
Samsung Galaxy S20+
6.7
inches

1440 x 3200

  • Display

    6.7 inches

    1440 x 3200

  • Rear camera

    64MP + 12MP + 12MP
  • Battery size

    4,500 mAh
64MP + 12MP + 12MP
4,500
mAh
Not yet rated
View details
Huawei Mate 20 Pro
6.39
inches

1140 x 3120

  • Display

    6.39 inches

    1140 x 3120

  • Rear camera

    40MP + 20MP + 8MP
  • Battery size

    4,200 mAh
40MP + 20MP + 8MP
4,200
mAh
View details
Apple iPhone SE (2020)
4.7
inches

1334 x 750

  • Display

    4.7 inches

    1334 x 750

  • Rear camera

    12MP
  • Battery size

    1,821 mAh
12MP
1,821
mAh
View details