The Usefulness of Dual SIM Phones

What’s this blog about? Saving money. What’s having a Dual SIM Phone about? Saving money… amongst other things.

If you are ever tossing up between a single SIM and dual SIM option of a phone, there is no reason to pick the single SIM version, all other things being equal.

What is a Dual SIM phone?

As the name suggests, a dual SIM phone refers to a phone that is capable of physically carrying two SIM cards, and is also able to simultaneously receive phone calls and SMS on both SIMs. Your use of data is typically from a single SIM, which in all honesty, is all you need. I can’t ever think of a scenario where you’d want data to be simultaneously used from two SIMs. Can you?

These used to be a rarity (10+ years ago?), but have become extremely commonplace in the last 5 years, especially on Android devices in South East Asia.

They’re commonly used by users in countries where reception is inconsistent on different telcos. They can also just be used by cheapskates, like me. Or – they can just be used for convenience, by lazy buggers, who are too lazy to change out their SIM every time they cross the border.

How much do they cost?

At the time of writing, ~RM350, or ~SGD$150 for a Redmi 8A. This is one of the most affordable models you can buy from a recognised and easily accessible brand. Here are the search results for the search term “Redmi 8A” on Shopee Malaysia and Shopee Singapore. From Australia? It’s about $140+ AUD on AliExpress

You can have a play with GSMArena’s Advanced Search Tool, but to give you an idea of the breadth of choice you have…

  1. There are 284 phones in their cheapest price bracket of €50, or $68 USD, of which 46 run on Android
  2. There are 4238 dual SIM phones, of which 3455 run on Android
  3. There are 184 dual SIM phones that have been released in 2020, of which 2 are in the cheapest price bracket of €50 or $58 USD

What about iPhones?

If you use an iPhone, you might be on the wrong website. This is “The Bulging Wallet”, where I try to teach people how to live frugally. Look at how many options you have that don’t cost you $600+…

Ok, I’m kidding, don’t shoot me. Maybe you love the OS, or you’re too invested in the Apple ecosystem.

Here’s an excerpt from the iPhone Wikipedia.

The iPhone XS and later iPhones added eSIM support in addition to nano-SIM, therefore they support Dual SIM functionality.

From memory, I recall the Chinese version of the iPhones mentioned above have two physical slots. If you have anything but a Chinese iPhone, and you have an iPhone XS or later, then you’ve got one physical SIM slot and an eSIM. eSIM technology is pretty rare, so it’s, frankly speaking, as good as not having dual SIM.

However, the Malaysian teclo, Yoodo, actually support eSIM, so this could be a very realistic option for Malaysians using modern iPhones to consider. Fortunately, they’re a pretty good telco anyway!

I don’t want to change from my current single SIM phone. Are there any other options?

Well, yes, but I can’t comment on these accessories as I’ve never used them. But you could get something like what you see on Google. There are companies that manufacture such accessories.

Otherwise, you could always just, carry around another phone.

Are there triple or quad SIM phones?

What on earth? Now you’re just getting greedy…

According to GSMArena, yes. There are 24 triple SIM phones, of which 6 run on Android. The most recent of which was released in December 2016.

There are 2 quad SIM phones, neither of which run on Android.

I know I called you greedy just a moment ago, but as I said at the start, having a dual SIM is never worse than a single SIM, all other things being equal, so I would not at all be against a triple or quad, or unlimited SIM phone. However, considering the last Android released with triple SIM capability is almost 4 years old, I wouldn’t consider it in the interest of longevity. There just aren’t enough options to make triple SIM realistic at this stage.

Personally, I’d rather pin my hopes on eSIM technology taking off and that paving the way for multiple SIM devices beyond dual SIMs. I get the impression that manufacturers might be “wasting” space on triple SIM when they could be using that space for something else, which is probably why (I’m speculating) we don’t have more of them. Not to mention, dual SIM is probably, in most people’s eyes, more than sufficient.


Concluding Thoughts

It has definitely crossed my mind that with how digital everything is getting, at times, it certainly feels a little baffling that eSIM isn’t already the norm. We’re in an era where you can login to everything with a username and password, or a PIN, or a fingerprint, or an authentication token. Why haven’t we gotten there with our mobile services, instead of this little piece of plastic that we commonly know as a SIM card?

The answer is – I don’t know 😀

I’m no expert in this field by any means, and I would presume there is a reason for it, but it’s not something that I’ve done extensive research on.

In any case, as long as (multi) eSIM technology is not the norm, dual SIM phones are can be an essential tool in your money saving arsenal.

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