Dual SIM smartphones have been around for a quite a while now, but have become increasingly more popular amongst travellers and working professionals. These can be especially useful to those who do both (namely, remote workers and digital nomads), moving from country to country in the space of weeks or months.
A dual SIM smartphone allows you the flexibility of:
- Using one SIM card for calls and another for data.
- Using two different phone numbers at once (e.g. personal and work numbers).
- Swapping out local SIM cards as you travel, whilst keeping your primary number for banking, two-factor authentication and other security purposes.
Despite the increased popularity of dual SIM smartphones, the options are relatively small and have been traditionally limited to Android. That being said, Apple has started to introduce eSIM compatibility for its new iPhones. Think of eSIM as a virtual SIM card that works alongside your standard plastic one – great news, although this only applies to certain carriers. For more information, see the support pages from Apple and Google.
With the list below, I’ve identified the best dual SIM smartphones from budget to the high-end. However, I’ve also made careful note to only include options that are unlocked and are unlikely to become obsolete after a year. This means that you can use any network across the world, and can rest assured that your new phone has a solid track record.
Keeping all of this in mind, the top picks are as follows:
Dual SIM or not, the Google Pixel 3a is what I recommend to friends and family. Based on the excellent Pixel 3, you get pure Android software straight from Google and a top of the line camera in a no-frills smartphone. It's a real no brainer. And it's cheap. The only downside? It supports a single physical SIM card and an eSIM - so pick your carrier carefully.
The iPhone has long set the standard for smartphones for the last decade. While some might argue that Androids represents better value for money, but it's hard to deny that Apple still has a level of refinement that most brands have yet to achieve. And for the jetsetters, the peace of mind of having Apple Stores in major cities is a huge plus.
Samsung has historically been the natural rival of Apple in terms of innovation and design, and this is the latest iteration of their flagship Galaxy line. With a beautiful 'Cinematic Infinity' display, excellent camera, fingerprint ID - as well as expandable memory and a headphone jack - the S10 series can silence any tech critic by simply ticking all the boxes, one by one.
For years, the OnePlus has been winning fans by offering flagship level technology at very approachable prices. Since creating their own flagship 'OnePlus 7 Pro', a lot of the top-end tech has trickled down to the standard OnePlus 7 - which is still far better than most flagship phones at half the price, making it incredibly great value for money.
While the Pixel maintains a strong reputation for mobile photography, their strategy has been largely software based. Huawei combines their own software magic with Leica technology - three times, in fact: the rear alone has a wide, ultrawide and telephoto lens. DxOMark gives the P30 Pro one of the highest camera ratings possible right now.
If all you need is a smartphone that's cheap, does everything well and 'just works', the Moto G series has been the obvious choice for years. The G7 is their latest iteration, with the 'Power' variant having the largest battery capacity and (somehow, at the time of writing) is also the cheapest. As far as budget phones go - dual SIM or not - this is the clear standout.
There are a number of runner ups and variants to the same model, so I’ll be mentioning these as we go through each of the choices below.
Now, let’s jump into the details.
Google started manufacturing the Pixel line in 2013, following the Nexus line from 2010. That might not sound significant, but since they also invented Android, that means that they, like Apple, have had complete control over both the software and hardware side of building the perfect smartphone for nearly a decade. And they’re getting extremely good at it.
The Google Pixel 3a is the baby brother of the Google Pixel 3, stripped down of all the fancy bells and whistles to a level when everything just works – functional and simple. It’s still no slouch though: in particular it’s retained the same award-winning camera and has first access to all of Google’s algorithmic photography magic.
Honestly, there’s very little to complain about. It outperforms everything else near its price point, is the only range of smartphones that offer a “pure” Android experience (everything else is slightly modified) and has one of the best flagship cameras. If you think it’s too small, Google also has the larger Google Pixel 3a XL available.
The Pixel 3a has one physical SIM card slot and also supports eSIM – something that hasn’t even come to the Pixel 3. If you want a Google flagship with dual SIM, you might need to wait until the next release, likely closer to the end of the year.
The words “Apple” and “iPhone” have surpassed cult status to become the norm, and there’s a reason for that: they’re extremely good, constantly break boundaries of consumer user experience, and are loved by anyone from a scale of tech geek to technophobe. That’s a difficult feat.
The Apple iPhone XS is their top model at the moment and is one of the first Apple smartphones that support dual SIMs. Like the Google Pixels, this is limited to one physical SIM card slot and an eSIM, so be sure to check if this works with your phone carrier.
There’s no doubt that iPhones are expensive, but it’s for a reason: beautifully iconic design, intuitive user experiences and of course: go to any Apple Store to get in-person tech support around the world if you need it. If you’d like a bigger screen or a cheaper version, there are also two other variants that support dual SIM: the larger iPhone XS Max and the cheaper iPhone XR.
For many years, their Galaxy series has been the Android smartphone to beat, and this generation is no different.
The Galaxy S10+ is the supercharged version of the regular S10, both featuring top of the line specs, and an absolutely gorgeous screen – in fact, Samsung provides OLED screen panels for Apple’s flagship phones (among others) and has a monopoly over OLED technology, which is the best consumer screen technology available right now.
To put the cherry on top, all models of the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note range are among the top 10 best smartphone cameras of all time – so for most, it comes down to personal preference on screen size, budget and storage space. And if you ever need support, Samsung is the only non-Apple company to have physical stores around the world.
As a company, OnePlus was built on the idea of creating a smartphone that is built by listening to its customers and demonstrating great value for money. In 2019, they went a step further and with their OnePlus 7 Pro, they finally did it: creating a smartphone that competes on the level of the big dogs of Apple and Samsung – even outdoing them in some respects – yet still being cheaper.
What’s often overlooked is the standard OnePlus 7, which is now available for the international market. It’s about $200 cheaper than the Pro, which is about half the price of most flagships. And it still outperforms a lot of them.
Perhaps the only flaw is that the OnePlus 7’s camera is just not “incredible”. It’s just “very good” – and that’s enough for most people. If having the best camera is important to you, perhaps the slightly cheaper Google Pixel 3a is worth considering, although the OnePlus 7 outperforms it in almost every other category.
What many don’t know is that Huawei has been around in the telecommunications industry since the 80s, although they’ve only started receiving attention in the mainstream with their smartphones – seemingly at every price point.
The Huawei P30 Pro is their first real foray into the flagship competition, and like OnePlus, it also made waves by offering serious performance at a price point that represents great value for money.
They also surprised the public in another way: by working with Leica to produce one of the best set of smartphone cameras ever produced, with a 40MP f/1.6 main lens, a second ultra-wide 20MP lens, and even a telephoto 8MP for zooming.
At the time of writing, the P30 Pro is the 2nd highest rated cameraphone by DxOMark, just a single point behind the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ – also an exceptional dual SIM smartphone in all regards, but at double the price.
For a long time, Motorola’s Moto G series has been the budget smartphone of choice. This one is no different: with a simple but clean design and decent internals at an affordable price point.
The Moto G7 Power in particular is the version with long battery life, which is important for travellers – and since it happens to about the same price as the standard G7, you may as well get this one.
The Moto G7 features a 6.2″ HD+ display, 3GB of RAM, and its pièce de résistance, a 5000mAh battery that lasts up to 3 days on a single charge. Plus, a quick charge feature that gives you 9 hours of power after only 15 minutes of charging.
If you ever need more battery than that on your travels, I’ve written extensively on the topic of the best power banks for travel in 2019 that you should check out.
Not Your Average “Dual SIM Travel Smartphone Review”
There are tons of websites out there that churn out articles about “best this”, “best that” and “something review” just to build revenue streams. This is a little different.
This guide is based on over a decade of personal experience, research and general nerdiness. I’ve been obsessed with smartphones since my teens, playing with the original versions of Android, PDAs and my pride and joy(s) at the time: a beautiful, dark red Samsung D900i and the Nokia N96 with Symbian OS v9.3 – largely considered a failure by commercial standards, but I loved it nonetheless.
I even worked a mobile agency, designing mobile-friendly websites and apps for a while, then even dabbling in building my own Android apps in the early 2010s. My friends typically come to me with their smartphone purchasing decisions, and I spent an unnecessarily large amount of time following not just smartphone releases, but all tech news. I also now work in user experience in the tech world, so I’m constantly overhearing and discussing what’s next – but always keeping in mind the different types of people who aren’t interested in shelling out huge sums of money for the next big thing.
And now with Nomad Toolkit, I’ve made it my job to follow the news and update this article (among others) as technology develops.
What is a Dual SIM Smartphone?
Dual SIM refers to smartphones that are able to accommodate two SIM cards at the same time. This usually works in one of four ways:
- Two physical SIM card slots, both of which you can use to switch networks.
- Two physical SIM card slots, one for calls only (2G) and another for data (3G, LTE, etc.)
- One physical SIM card slot and a SIM card / memory card hybrid slot.
- One physical SIM card slot and a built-in eSIM (embedded SIM) that you can connect directly to your phone carrier, allowing two separate phone numbers.
How to Choose a Dual SIM Smartphone
Choosing your next smartphone is a deeply personal decision – with the exception of keys and your wallet, it’s likely that nothing is kept close by as much as your phone. So when trying to decide, it’s a good idea to consider what you want to use your phone for.
- Want a phone that does everything well? Get the Samsung Galaxy S10+.
- Want the best camera possible to take great photos on your travels? The Google Pixel 3a represents the pinnacle of software magic, while the Huawei P30 Pro and has the best camera hardware.
- Want something that does everything pretty well at a great price point? OnePlus 7.
- Simply need a phone that nails all the basics and on a budget? The Motorola Moto G7 Power is the way to go, with the bonus of a huge battery life.
Another thing that I like to keep in mind is the longevity of the device. If you’re a technology enthusiast and want to update your smartphone every year, that’s entirely your choice – but some of us want something that just works and will continue to work for years to come. The options that I’ve picked out in this article are likely to last you for at least a few years.
What Are The Best Dual SIM Smartphone Brands?
This is very subjective and differs depending on who you ask, but many would agree that Apple and Samsung are the market leaders, while the challenger brands have changed constantly over the last decade. However, OnePlus and Huawei in particular have really started to come into their own in recent years, and people looking for a new phone have more options than ever, at every price point.
Perhaps the only thing that hasn’t really changed in this category is the Moto G series, that has been the standard for budget smartphones for years.
In 2019, there are more options than ever when it comes to dual SIM Android phones. This is great thing, but it also makes choosing difficult. The focus of this article has been on choosing those that have a proven track record, good customer support and have a strong existing base of customers who are happy with their purchase – with the potential for this to be your phone of choice for years to come.
To recap, the top picks are:
- Personal Pick: Google Pixel 3a
- Apple Pick: iPhone XS
- Best Flagship: Samsung Galaxy S10+
- Flagship Killer: OnePlus 7
- Best Camera: Huawei P30 Pro
- Budget Pick: Motorola Moto G7 Power