Guide to: Buying a dual-SIM phone in South Africa

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A dual-SIM phone is a cellphone that can accept two SIM cards and keep both numbers online for receiving calls or using mobile data simultaneously.

A Huawei Nova Y70 Plus dual-SIM phone, with two Vodacom SIM cards.
A Huawei Nova Y70 Plus dual-SIM phone, with two Vodacom SIM cards.

Dual-SIM card phones are convenient, cheap, save money, and are supported by popular brands like Apple iPhone, Huawei, Oppo, and Samsung!

Who uses dual-SIM phones?

South Africans love using dual-SIM cellphones for a variety of reasons, but the most common include:

  • Every day people who don’t want the hassle of carrying two phones also want an inexpensive and convenient way to have access to use two cellphone numbers at the same time.
  • Corporate people, especially those who receive a cellphone allowance, want to use the same phone for business and pleasure but want two separate cellphone numbers for either one.
  • Smartphone users who want to have a SIM-only data contract on one line and then a prepaid line for making and receiving calls.
  • Advanced smartphone users who use dual apps on their phones. They may have WhatsApp installed for both cellphone numbers on the same phone.

How do dual-SIM phones work?

Dual-SIM phones work by allowing you to make two cellular network connections to the network in one cellphone.

Connecting using your two SIM cards depends on the manufacturer and the mobile network operator. You may be able to configure the phone to decide whether to connect your SIM cards: simultaneously, switch automatically, or permanently connected. It is therefore important to enquire at your nearest cellphone shop and your cellular company to determine how you will connect on your chosen dual-SIM phone.

There are mainly three ways to connect, and here is an example – if you have inserted your SIM cards in their respective SIM 1 and SIM 2 slots, your connectivity can be:

  • Passive Dual SIM: SIM 1 will be active, whilst SIM 2 will be completely unreachable. If you want to use SIM 2 you will manually change your phone settings to make SIM 2 active, while SIM 1 becomes inactive.
  • Dual Active: Both SIM 1 and SIM 2 are active at the same time. If you are on a call on SIM 1 and someone calls your SIM 2 cellphone number it will show an incoming call. Mobile data will only be routed through one SIM card at a time, though.
  • Dual Standby: Both SIM cards will be active, but only if the other SIM is not currently being used.

Managing your dual-SIM phone

This is done in your phone’s SIM management, or other SIM management apps. A SIM management tool will also take care of your default settings, like your default calling SIM card and default mobile data SIM card.

Managing your SIM cards in a dual-SIM smartphone.
Managing two SIM cards in a dual-SIM smartphone.

What about network-locked dual-SIM phones?

Your mobile network operator may not have dual-SIM phones you can buy on contract, or if they do they will not allow you to use a different network on SIM 2 (We’re looking at you, Vodacom!).

Check whether your network operator will allow you to unlock your dual-SIM card after one year or two after purchasing your phone from them. This is important if your second SIM card will be in from rain or MTN.

But, of course, you can buy a cheap dual-SIM smartphone that is network unlocked to use as you want.

Dual-SIM questions

Can you get a dual-SIM iPhone?

Yes, you can use a nano-SIM and an eSIM. This includes the iPhone 12, iPhone 11, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. This depends if your network operator allows the use of an eSIM, though.

Can you get a 5G connection on a dual-SIM phone?

Yes, if it’s activated. Some premium phones like the iPhone 12 are able to connect to the 5G network using your data-only SIM card.

Is an eSIM a dual-SIM?

Yes, a device that can take a normal nano-SIM or micro-SIM and also has an eSIM within the same device is considered dual-SIM. But, network operators may disable the eSIM on the cellphone as in the case of many iPhones, or they may opt to activate it on a smartwatch like in the case of a Huawei Smart Watch.

WhatsApp for dual sim android phones

WhatsApp works by registering an account using your cellphone number. Once you have an account you can access your messages using data from either of your SIM cards. So, if you’re using a dual-SIM phone and you registered WhatsApp using your MTN number you can switch on the data on your Vodacom SIM card and still access WhatsApp messages on your MTN number.

Moemedi Segoje

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