Take a dual-Sim phone on your next holiday

If you’re a regular traveller, investing in a dual-Sim smartphone could free you up from having to carry around two phones, says Emma Lunn.


Travel light with a dual-Sim-enabled phone
(Image credit: AntonioGuillem)

If you're a regular traveller, or have separate phone numbers for business and personal use, investing in a dual-Sim smartphone could free you up from having to carry around two phones everywhere you go. A subscriber identity module (Sim) card is the piece of plastic which slots into your smartphone and identifies you to the mobile network, allowing you to make and receive calls, connect to the internet, and be charged according to your tariff.

Traditionally, mobile phones only had one Sim slot, but dual-Sim handsets have become the norm in many countries. The majority of Chinese phones, for example, are dual Sim. The UK has been slow to catch on to this type of handset, despite the benefits it offers.

A dual-Sim phone enables the use of two Sim cards simultaneously, allowing you to make calls, send texts and use data from either card. There are two main types of dual-Sim handset: "dual standby" and "dual active". Dual standby (DSDS) handsets are the most common. The Huawei P8, OnePlus 5, Microsoft Lumia 640, and Moto G5 handsets are all dual standby.

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With a DSDS phone, both Sim cards are powered up at the same time and both connected to their respective mobile-phone networks. This means you can receive incoming calls and text messages on either card. However, only one Sim card can be in active use at a given time. So if you receive an incoming phone call on the first Sim, your data connection on the second will be dropped automatically.

Dual active (DSDA) phones are a more advanced form of dual-Sim technology, a bit like having two phones in your pocket at the same time. Both Sim cards can be active at the same time, meaning if you're making a call on one of the cards, you can still receive incoming calls and messages using the second Sim.

The important thing for dual-Sim users is to use the right Sim at the right time, says Ru Bhikha of comparison site uSwitch.com. "There's usually a notification or prompt to make you aware but if, for example, you're a frequent traveller and have a dedicated travel-friendly' Sim specifically for your trips abroad, make that the Sim you're using when roaming, or else you could quickly chomp into your allowance or rack up unexpected charges," he says.

Buying a dual Sim phone needn't break the bank there are plenty of budget options. The Tech Advisor website recommends several dual Sim handsets from Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi, which can be imported to the UK via Chinese online retailer GearBest.com. The Xiaomi Mi5s 4G, for example, costs just £237, though prices start from as low as £14 (for the B550 Quad Band Dual Sim Phone).

Understandably, some consumers may have concerns about returns or after-sales care from a foreign retailer. It's also important to be aware that some of these handsets won't be served by UK networks, "so make sure you check that your dual-Sim handset and Sim-only networks are compatible before purchasing", says Bhikha. If you'd rather buy from a UK retailer, you can buy Lenovo's Moto G5 for £160 or Huawei's Honor 8 for £370, both via Amazon. The only major smartphone manufacturer that doesn't make dual-Sim phones is Apple which might explain why they haven't yet become the norm in the UK.

In the news this week...

Most of us are guilty of ticking that tiny box just before finalising a purchase saying that we have read all the terms and conditions (T&Cs) without having done so, says Lindsay Cook in the Financial Times. It takes too long the T&Cs of some insurance companies are longer than Hamlet, according to consumer group Which and the terms are often "convoluted and contradictory". But failing to read them can have serious repercussions.

It's how insurance firms avoid paying for claims because of "pre-existing conditions"; how car leasing companies disguise the expense of personal contract plans; and how Facebook gets away with mining our personal data. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is working on a draft paper on greater transparency and the government plans to "beef up" legislation in the next two years, but until then the best option is to "study the small print and ask questions".

Advisers working for wealth manager St James's Place (SJP), which manages more than £75bn for around 570,000 clients, are "misleading" clients over charges, exaggerating the performance of their funds, and failing to make clear that they are not offering "independent financial advice", in an "alleged breach of FCA rules", says Ali Hussain in The Sunday Times. Consumer group Which sent in a team of undercover researchers to speak with 12 of SJP's 3,400 financial advisers.

Three failed to say they were restricted to selling from a limited product range; three "grossly exaggerated" potential returns; and four failed to describe charges in detail, which is against FCA guidelines. Among those who did provide information, some said the initial charge was 4.5% and others 5%, with ongoing charges put at between 1.25% and 2.3%. Candid Financial Advice, by contrast, charges up to 1% initially and an annual 0.6% thereafter, notes Hussain.

As of 13 January 2018 it will be illegal for a UK firm to charge a UK customer a fee for using a credit or debit card or a linked service such as Apple pay or Paypal, says Megan French on MoneySavingExpert.com. While firms are currently not allowed to make a profit on this "processing" fee, for smaller transactions the surcharge can amount to as much of 20% of what is spent.

Emma Lunn

Emma Lunn is a multi-award-winning journalist who specialises in personal finance and consumer issues. With more than 18 years’ experience in personal finance, Emma has covered topics including mortgages, first-time buyers, leasehold, banking, debt, budgeting, broadband, energy, pensions and investments. Emma’s one of the most prolific freelance personal finance journalists with a back catalogue of work in newspapers such as The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, the Mail on Sunday and the Mirror. As a freelancer she has also completed various in-house contracts at The Guardian, The Independent, Mortgage Solutions, Orange and Moneywise. 

She also writes regularly for specialist magazines and websites such as Property Hub, Mortgage Strategy and YourMoney.com. She’s particularly proud of her work writing about the leasehold sector and a Guardian front-page story about a dodgy landlord. She has a real passion for helping people learn about money – especially when many people are struggling to get by in today’s challenging economic climate – and prides herself on simplifying complex subjects.