Two of something is usually better than one and it’s no different with SIM cards. Dual SIM phones are the unsung heroes of the smartphone world, largely flying under the radar. In this guide, we’ll run through the benefits and perils of dual SIM smartphones, some popular models available in Australia and how you can buy one.
Dual SIM Phones in Australia
There are quite a few smartphones in Australia with dual-SIM capability – OPPO seems to be the manufacturer leading the way with several of its newer smartphones featuring dual-SIM capabilities. Some dual SIM devices might be available to purchase outright only, while others might be available to be bundled in with a phone plan. Make sure you check the specifications before buying, and also note that if buying through a phone plan provider, you might find that the dual SIM function is disabled.
How do dual SIM phones work?
Simply put, dual SIM phones can take two SIM cards at once. Most models are only ‘single configuration’ – meaning you can only use one SIM card at once – and have to switch to the other SIM in your phone’s settings. This means that if someone is trying to reach you on your other SIM card while it’s not in use, they won’t be able to – similar to having your phone switched off. This could be bad news for anyone who needs to be contactable at all hours, or if you have contacts overseas.
Many dual SIM smartphones have the primary SIM slot, and a hybrid slot. This can be used for a second SIM or a micro SD card, but not both. Some phones have also started using eSIM technology, which doesn’t use a physical SIM card.
Dual SIM Phone Plans
Some of the biggest phone releases of 2021 include dual SIM capabilities, however, these versions might not be available in Australia, or may only be available to purchase outright. Sometimes dual-SIM functions are also disabled or it may be unclear whether a telco is stocking a dual-SIM version of the device.
Some telcos are more upfront about this, so you’ll know whether your device is dual-SIM capable or not. Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Woolworths Mobile currently carry a wide range of dual-SIM phones, offered by a variety of manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung and OPPO.
Telstra Upfront plans
The following table shows selected published Telstra Upfront plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.
Optus postpaid plans
The following table shows selected published postpaid Optus plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products that may have links to a referral partner.
Vodafone postpaid plans
The following table shows selected published postpaid Vodafone plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products that may have links to a referral partner.
Woolworths Mobile postpaid plans
The following table shows selected published postpaid Woolworths Mobile plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products that may have links to a referral partner.
What is an eSIM?
Some phones (in particular, newer flagship phones made by Apple and Samsung) offer only one SIM slot and a non-physical “eSIM”, which lets you have access to two plans in the one phone, while only having one SIM. For eSIM capabilities though, your carrier will need to support the technology. Currently only Optus, Telstra, Truphone and Vodafone support eSIM capability.
How do eSIM phones work?
Instead of using a physical SIM card, eSIM-capable phones carry SIM capabilities without the need for the insertable chip. eSIM’s bind to the phone, although you can unbind them to switch your plan over to another phone. This is a good solution if you want two numbers to be active at the same time, although most providers don’t have plans with eSIM functionality.
Benefits and purposes of dual SIM phones
There are many benefits and potential uses for a dual SIM or eSIM smartphone, such as:
- You have a work phone and a personal phone and want to combine them, or you want a work number you are able to switch off outside of office hours.
- You want a basic ‘everyday’ plan and an extra SIM with lots of data for streaming TV shows and movies.
- You travel overseas a lot and want one slot dedicated towards your plan back home and one for your overseas SIM.
- You have one plan with better international rates and want to use that for calling family or friends overseas.
- You travel around rural Australia a lot and find one provider gets better coverage than the other.
However, dual SIM cards are not without their downsides. Very few phones, and next to none in Australia, are ‘dual active’, meaning two SIMs are able to be used at once. This means you have to manually switch between the two SIM cards in your phone’s settings. And in all likelihood, this also means you’ll be subject to paying two phone bills, unless one of these bills is paid for by your employer.
Some dual SIM smartphones only allow for the secondary SIM tray to be 3G compatible, meaning you can’t enjoy top 4G speeds in the second tray. Dual SIM smartphones may also have to be purchased outright, as ones bundled with phone plans may have the feature disabled. There are lots of uses for a dual SIM smartphone, but keep in mind the potential downsides.
Phone plans to use with dual SIM phones
As long as your smartphone is unlocked, you can use whatever SIM-only plan you wish. Keep in mind that the secondary SIM slot may only be 3G compatible, but there are several 3G-only plans out there that offer lots of data for comparatively low prices.
When you’re looking for a SIM-only plan, there are a few things to consider. Do you want prepaid or postpaid, are you happy to be on a contract or do you prefer the freedom of a month-to-month plan, plus, how much data do you need and how much are you willing to pay?
- Prepaid vs postpaid: Prepaid plans are usually with no lock-in contracts, require you to pay before you use and when you’ve used up your included value before the expiry period, you’ll generally need to recharge to continue using your plan. These plans are also available on a variety of expiry periods — from 5 or 7 days to 28, 30 or even 365 days. Postpaid is where you pay your bill at the end of the month — no recharging. The only downside is that you might have to pay for that extra use on your next bill if you go over your inclusions.
- Contract vs no lock-in plans: Contracts are where you’ve signed on for a certain period, usually 12 or 24 months, and cancelling your plan during this time will generally require you to pay a cancellation fee. No lock-in plans, also known as month-to-month plans, give you the flexibility to cancel when you need, switch plans or switch providers as needed with no big cancellation fees.
- Data: How much data you’ll need depends on how much data you will realistically use. If you only use mobile data for very occasional web browsing and emails, a plan with around 1GB of data might be enough. If you use your data regularly for social media, video and music streaming, 10GB or more might be a better option. If you’re streaming hours of videos in high definition each day, you’ll definitely need a bigger chunk of data, so maybe look at plans with data ranging from 50GB to 150GB.
- Price: How much data you need will usually determine how much you pay. The more data you want, the more you’ll pay. Plans with 1GB of data can start at under $10, while plans with over 100GB of data will generally cost somewhere around the $100 mark. There are still some cheap SIM plans that do include generous data at more reasonable prices, so its worth doing a comparison to see how much you can get for your money.
Here is a selection of postpaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database with a minimum of 10GB of data, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest, then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use Canstar Blue’s phone plan comparison tool to see a wide range of plans on offer from mobile providers. This table includes products with links to referral partners.
Here is a selection of prepaid plans from Canstar Blue’s database with a minimum of 10GB of data, listed in order of standard cost, lowest to highest, then by data allowance, largest to smallest. Use our comparison tool to see a wide range of plans from other providers. This table includes products with links to referral partners.
Is a dual SIM phone worth the switch?
You may not have considered a dual SIM smartphone before, but if you have two phones – one for personal use and one for work – or you travel around a lot, it could be your new best friend. They allow great flexibility and you can also get the most out of having two phone plans, whether that’s a plan with cheap or unlimited international calls and another with lots of data.
Dual SIM phones allow you to switch off your work phone after a long day and still retain the ability to text friends and family. However, these phones aren’t without their downsides. The major one being that one SIM tray might be 3G only and two plans cannot be used at once. Dual SIM capabilities are starting to become more normalised among phone manufacturers, so it’s safe to say the technology is always improving.
Dual SIM phones are a great idea, but are not without their downfalls – these may be enough to still warrant the use of two handsets instead of one. In any case, it pays to shop around and consider your own needs first.
There are several smartphones available in Australia (either on a plan or to buy outright), including dual SIM capability. Here is a snapshot of some popular smartphones which use Dual SIM technology:
- iPhone 13
- iPhone 13 Mini
- iPhone 13 Pro
- iPhone 13 Pro Max
- iPhone 12
- iPhone 12 Mini
- iPhone 12 Pro
- iPhone 12 Pro Max
- Motorola Moto G8
- Motorola Moto G8 Power Lite
- Motorola Moto Z
- OPPO Find X
- OPPO Find X2 Lite
- OPPO Find X2 Neo
- OPPO Find X2 Pro
- OPPO Find X3 Lite
- OPPO Find X3 Neo
- OPPO Find X3 Pro
- Samsung Galaxy S21
- Samsung Galaxy S21+
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
- Samsung Galaxy Note20
- Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra