What is the best dual-SIM phone you can buy in the UK?
|Best dual-SIM phone||Price||Key specifications|
|OnePlus 3T||£329||OxygenOS (Android 6.0), Snapdragon 821, 6GB RAM, 64GB storage, 5.5in Full-HD, 3400mAh|
|Xiaomi Mi5s||£282||MIUI 8.0 (Android 6.0), Snapdragon 821, 3/4GB RAM, 64GB storage, 5.15in Full-HD, 3100mAh|
|Xiaomi Mi Note 2||£472||MIUI 8.0 (Android 6.0), Snapdragon 821, 4/6GB RAM, 64/128GB storage, 5.7in Full-HD, 4070mAh|
Dual-SIM smartphones let you use two SIMs in a single phone. Most people who use dual-SIM phones find the functionality useful for mixing work and pleasure, rather than carrying separate phones for their work- and personal contracts. See all phone reviews
Also see: Best Phone Deals
Dual-SIM phones are also useful for maintaining two personal contracts, however, whereby one might offer a good rate on calls and texts, and the other offers unlimited data. Or perhaps you frequently travel abroad, and would like to carry a UK SIM for when you're at home and another that is local to the country you're visiting. Also see: Best kids' phones 2017
Whatever your reason for requiring a dual-SIM phone, a problem in the UK is that most smartphones do not include the functionality as standard. Indeed, hardly any of the phones we are sent for review are dual-SIM models, and even where dual-SIM versions are available they are rarely intended to go on sale in the UK. Also see: Best smartphones 2017.
Dual-SIM phones are incredibly popular outside the UK and in the developing world, but for some reason us Brits are being left out of the dual-SIM party. And we want in.
This is one reason why the grey market has become a popular solution for picking up a dual-SIM phone, but there are risks involved - read our advice on buying grey-market dual-SIM phones.
Another way you can find a dual-SIM phone is to search a site such as Amazon or eBay for 'dual-SIM phone', 'dual-SIM Samsung' or 'dual-SIM Sony' and so on. Having seen the standard single-SIM versions that are intended for UK sale we have no doubt that many of these are great phones, but having not personally laid our hands on the dual-SIM variants we're reluctant to recommend them here.
They also tend to go off sale as soon as we add them to the round-up. Of course, you are more than welcome to recommend these phones in the comments below.
In this group test we recommend only phones that are sold in the UK with dual-SIM functionality as standard, and that we have personally reviewed. And in the future, we're hoping that the increased demand for dual-SIM phones means we will begin to see more and more dual-SIM smartphones supplied to us for review. Also see: Best budget phones and best phones under £50.
How do dual-SIM phones work?
Something we've noticed when shopping for dual-SIM phones is that the manufacturer very rarely provides any information about the functionality other than it exists. It doesn't tell you how the dual-SIM functionality works in practice, nor whether both SIMs support 3G, or even what size SIM cards they accept.
As we've learned you can never assume: you'll need to contact the manufacturer or check spec tables, reviews or forums to find out this information.
For that latter concern, as technology journalists who are always having to swap SIMs between the various phones we have in for review, we have found the best solution is to adopt a Nano-SIM for our personal smartphone, then pair it with an adaptor when we need to use it in a phone that supports Mini- or Micro-SIMs. SIM adaptors are very cheap, but some are better than others.
We like the MediaDevil Simdevil, which comes with Nano- to Micro, Nano- to Mini and Micro- to Mini adaptors, plus a SIM tray ejector tool. It costs £3.97 from Amazon. If you're planning to stick with the phone, however, you can always request a new SIM of the correct size for free from your network operator, then swap over your number. Also see: Best sounding phone 2017.
In all the dual-SIM phones we've tested both SIMs are on standby at all times (known as dual-standby phones), but you can actively use only one SIM at a time. This means that either SIM can accept a phone call or text at any time, without you having to actively swap between them or reboot the phone.
However, if you get a call on one number while a call is active on the other, it won't start ringing in your ear or give you the option to put the first caller on hold - the call will simply not be successful.
What is the difference between Dual-Standby and Dual-Active?
Dual-standby phones require you to specify one SIM or the other for data, though unless specified you can choose between the two on the fly for calls and texts.
Dual-active SIM phones also exist, which use two modems and allow you to receive calls on both numbers at once. We've not tested any dual-active phones. See also: Best Android smartphones in UK: What's the best Android phone you can buy in 2017?
If it's you who wants to make a call or send a text, Android has a standard SIM Management menu that lets you specify which SIM should be used for voice calls, video calls, messages and mobile data. You can either specify a particular SIM for each of these tasks, or leave the setting at Always ask.
If you choose the latter, the next time you want to make a call or send a text you will be asked which SIM you want to use.
Motorola improves on this with its dual-SIM Moto G, with its Automatic SIM selection able to track your SIM usage and then suggest or automatically use a particular SIM for a certain mode of contact.
The data connection is where there seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to dual-SIM phones. Whereas both SIM slots on some dual-SIM phones are capable of supporting 3G or 4G connections, you can use 3G on only one SIM at a time.
Unlike with calls and texts the data connection can't be on standby for both SIMs: you must specify which SIM you want to use rather than select one when prompted.
Of course, this isn't always the case, and some phones support 3G/4G only on their first SIM slot, and you can't change the data connection for browsing the web or making video calls. You can still specify which SIM should be used for calls and texts.
By default, when you are using the data connection on one SIM and a phone call comes in to the other it will pause the data connection on the first. In the Moto G you'll find a Connection priority menu, which lets you specify that calls should instead go to voicemail instead of interrupting your browsing.
There is no such option on the other dual-SIM phones we've tested, but it's not something we'd be likely to change in any case.
The Elephone P5000 momentarily threw us when we tried to switch the data connection from one SIM to the other. When we tried to change the data connection from O2 to Vodafone it popped up a message suggesting 3G wasn't supported by the Vodafone SIM.
We knew it was, which suggested that the second SIM slot it resided in was capable of only 2G. In fact, we found that if we first changed the Video call setting from O2 to Vodafone we could then change the data connection without issue.
(Note that if your data connection is 'Off' this is because your Wi-Fi is switched on.) Also see: Best new phones coming in 2017.
Which SIM is configured to use the data connection is instantly evident from the navigation bar, with the SIM in slot 1 displayed in blue and the SIM in slot 2 displayed in green. One will be marked with G and the other 3G.
You can change these colours and whether or not the phone number is displayed within the SIM Management menu to make it more instantly obvious which is which. The Moto G and ZTE Blade S6 also lets you change the SIM card name.
Another issue when using dual-SIM phones is where your contacts are stored. We found that by default the contacts from both SIM cards are stored in the phonebook.
If you'd rather see the contacts from only one SIM, tap the three dots icon (within the Contacts app) and choose 'Contacts to display'. You can then select All contacts, Gmail contacts, phone contacts or one of your two SIMs.
Usually when you add a contact you get a pop-up menu asking whether you want to store the contact on your phone memory, your SIM or your Google account. Here you'll now see two SIMs in the list rather than one.
A quick way to turn this off and prevent you always having to choose is to open the SIM management menu, select Contact binding and then select a specific SIM.
The NeeCoo Magic Card is a £30.85 gadget available from GearBest that lets you add another SIM to a standard iPhone. A gold credit-card-sized (85x54x4mm) device that slips easily into a pocket or wallet, the MeeCoo allows you to insert a Nano-SIM card and then connect it to your iPhone over Bluetooth 4.0 from up to 10m away.
You'll need to download the free MoreCard app from the App Store to configure the NeeCoo Magic Card, which requires iOS 7.1 or later. This lets you manage contacts, calls and texts for the second SIM from your iPhone.
Network support includes GSM 850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz and 1900MHz, so you can use the NeeCoo to make and receive phone calls and texts from a second SIM, but you won't be able to use its data allowance.
The NeeCoo Magic Card is a well-designed device with a lightweight magnesium-aluminium alloy body with tempered glass front and rear. A hole in one corner lets you add it to a keyring, while a small button on the side also allows the NeeCoo to act as a remote camera shutter.
The NeeCoo contains a small 380mAh battery that is recharged over Micro-USB. It should last 80 hours on standby or provide three hours of talktime.
Physically inserting a second SIM into a single-SIM phone would be impossible without altering its design in some way, but it is possible to achieve the same feat by adding a second phone number.
OnOff is an app for iPhone and Android that lets you have multiple phone numbers on one phone. Right now it supports French and UK numbers, which work like any other number for receiving phone calls and text messages. More conveniently, though, you can turn off these numbers when it suits.
This means you could potentially give your work colleagues or clients one phone number that is switched off outside office hours. Or you could give your friends a number that is switched off during office hours.
Another bonus: should your phone battery die, you can log into the app on a friend's phone and still get your calls and texts.
The app itself is free, and you get a free trial with limited functionality for one phone number. If you like it you can then 'activate' that number, which unlocks all the features of the app. You can set up multiple lines, though these must be paid for too.
OnOff pricing starts at 79p per month, with full details here.
Read next: Best new phones coming in 2017
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1. OnePlus 3T
- Reviewed on: 22 March 17
- RRP: From £399, From US$439
The OnePlus 3T will be unfairly compared, for now at least, to the phone that came before it. So let’s ignore it. On its own, the OnePlus 3T is everything a modern smartphone should be; slim, fast, and responsive, with above average battery life and cameras that produce stunning images. And then there’s the price. OnePlus may not like being known for it, but £399 remains an absolutely amazing price point for the phone on offer.
As long as you don’t want an iPhone, this Android handset stands side by side with the Samsung Galaxy S7 as the best example of a smartphone on the market today – once we’ve all got over that it came a little sooner than we had expected.
Read our OnePlus 3T review.
2. Xiaomi Mi5s
- Reviewed on: 29 November 16
- RRP: £282.75, US$352.69
We cannot recommend the Xiaomi Mi5s enough. This is the smartphone every 2016 flagship wanted to be, and it comes with a price tag half that of theirs. Fantastic build quality, fantastic performance, fantastic storage, battery and connectivity options - the Xiaomi Mi5s gets a big thumbs-up from us.
Read our Xiaomi Mi5s review.
- Reviewed on: 13 March 17
- RRP: £497.04, US$619.99
The Mi Note 2 was wrongly overshadowed at its launch. This is a gorgeous big-screen Android phone with very decent performance, a great camera and plenty of storage. We'd like to see a Quad-HD screen on Xiaomi's flagship phone, but this one should prove plenty sharp and clear. Google apps are not preinstalled, but there is a workaround if you are happy to do some tweaking.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Note 2 review.
- Reviewed on: 23 February 17
- RRP: £799.91, US$997.78
It might sound expensive, but the £799 Xiaomi Mi Mix actually offers very good value when you consider its meaty core hardware and generous 256GB of storage - it's certainly less than you'd pay for an iPhone 7 Plus. This isn't a phone you buy with budget in mind, however: the Mi Mix is the phone you buy when you want onlookers to say "Oh my gosh, what is that? It's amazing - I want one of those!" The Mi Mix is a revolutionary phone that we hope is a sign of things to come, with that gorgeous bezel-less display, beautiful ceramic body, fantastic performance, long, long battery life and all the other fancy tech we can't even pronounce, let alone understand. No matter - it works. Highly recommended.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Mix review.
5. Xiaomi Mi 5
- Reviewed on: 31 May 16
- RRP: £263.75 (plus import duty), US$300
A fantastic Android flagship that comes in at an outrageously low price, the Xiaomi Mi 5 has the braun and the beauty to match the greats. Perhaps not a wise choice for first time Android users, but those comfortable in customising the setup will love the excellent-value, gorgeously designed Xiaomi Mi 5.
Read our Xiaomi Mi 5 review.
6. UMI Z
- Reviewed on: 31 January 17
- RRP: £192.40, 239.99
The UMI Z is an excellent-value Android phone with a large battery, a decent screen, the most powerful MediaTek processor you can get and a very good selfie camera. Unfortunately the primary camera doesn't quite live up, but it's otherwise difficult to fault. With full UK 4G connectivity it's a great buy.
Read our UMI Z review.
- Reviewed on: 21 September 16
- RRP: £256.04, 329.99
The Xiaomi Redmi Pro offers unbeatable value for money at around £250, undercutting every flagship yet offering much the same performance and many comparable features. Due to the lack of Google Play and a number of Chinese preinstalled apps we’d recommend Xiaomi phones only to seasoned Android users, however.
Read our Xiaomi Redmi Pro review.
8. Honor 8
- Reviewed on: 5 September 16
- RRP: £369.99, US$399
The Honor 8 is a fantastic smartphone, but the price has gone up from the Honor 7. In return for the additional expense you get a fantastic dual-camera, a sleek and stylish design, a faster fingerprint sensor and a beautiful display, which combined make the Honor 8 a worthy competitor to the OnePlus 3.
Read our Honor 8 review.
9. Lenovo P2
- Reviewed on: 26 January 17
- RRP: £199.99
The Lenovo P2 is really being sold on the strength of its battery, and the great news is that it lives up to the company’s hype, offering you days of usage and a power bank in a pinch. Throw in the premium design and build quality, and you have a phone that delivers tremendous value for money. It may not boast flagship performance, but by the time you hit your third day without charging, you’re not likely to care that much.
Read our Lenovo P2 review.
- Reviewed on: 5 July 16
- RRP: £399
The new Samsung Galaxy A7 for 2016 is a great-looking upgrade over its predecessor, with outstanding battery life and a few other welcome tweaks, but there is no escaping the fact it is overpriced at £399. That’s even more apparent when you consider the better-specced, more fully featured and significantly faster Galaxy S6 is available for £40 less.
Read our Samsung Galaxy A7 2016 review.
11. Elephone S7
- Reviewed on: 12 January 17
- RRP: £177.11, US$219.99
The Elephone S7 is a very good-looking phone at an affordable price, with decent performance and a generous helping of storage. On the down side the cameras are disappointing and the rear panel is plastic. Even at this price you don't need to compromise so heavily.
Read our Elephone S7 review.
12. OnePlus 2
- Reviewed on: 8 March 16
- RRP: £249, US$249
The lack of NFC, a microSD card slot, a removable battery, and quick- and wireless charging means the OnePlus 2 is not a flagship killer. It does have some killer new features though, including USB Type-C, 4G dual-SIM support and some powerful hardware. At the reduced price of £249 (we don't recommend the 16GB OP2), it's an unrivalled deal.
Read our OnePlus 2 review.
13. OnePlus X
- Reviewed on: 15 June 16
- RRP: £189 (Onyx)
The OnePlus X was the best value smartphone of 2015. We love the premium design in a smaller form factor to the firm’s other phones. Software is a strong point and you get a gorgeous screen. However, cuts had to be made somewhere and the X is lacking features such as NFC, 11ac and Wi-Fi. It also is missing the fingerprint scanner and USB Type-C port found on the OnePlus 2. Battery life isn’t great and cameras aren’t best in class but this is a great phone for the price.
Read our OnePlus X review.
14. Asus ZenFone 3
- Reviewed on: 25 October 16
- RRP: £284.05, 361.69
The ZenFone 3 is a good all-round mid-range phone with decent performance and some nice extras under £300, but also a fair amount of bloatware. It's quite an update on the ZenFone 2, and definitely worth considering as an upgrade.
Read our Asus ZenFone 3 review.
15. Xiaomi Redmi 3S
- Reviewed on: 11 August 16
- RRP: £100, 153.93
Right now the Redmi 3S Pro is available for just an extra £5 over the 3S, but ordinarily we would have said you will struggle to find better value for money than what is offered by Xiaomi's new Redmi 3S. This budget Android phone is feature-packed and capable, and has a new fingerprint scanner. You can't expect any more for £120, just remember that Google Play isn't installed out of the box.
Read our Xiaomi Redmi 3S review.
- Reviewed on: 13 February 17
- RRP: £192.93, 245.99
The Redmi Note 4 isn’t a huge upgrade over the Redmi Note 3 in terms of core hardware, with simply a greater amount of storage and a faster processor, but the design changes are a huge improvement over its predecessor. If you don’t care about looks and can make do with less storage then the cheaper Redmi Note 3 may well meet your needs. The Redmi Note 4 remains a great buy, but the omission of Google Play support may put off some users. O2 and Giffgaff customers should also note the lack of support for 800MHz 4G.
Read our Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 review.
17. Ulefone Future
- Reviewed on: 14 July 16
- RRP: £188.57, 244.46
Ulefone has attempted to build a futuristic phone with the Future’s edge-to-edge display and USB-C port. For a mid-range Android phone performance is good, and the design is good, even if the phone is on the heavy side. We can’t turn a blind eye to the camera quality, although a software update should be able to fix the issues we saw.
Read our Ulefone Future review.
18. Xiaomi Mi Max
- Reviewed on: 29 June 16
- RRP: £212.04, US$274.89
If you want a huge phone and you don’t want to pay as large a wedge of cash, the Xiaomi Mi Max is a fantastic phablet with good looks, decent performance, strong runtime and, most importantly of all, a gigantic screen. Not ideal for novice users, but otherwise the Mi Max is a highly recommended smartphone.
Read our Xiaomi Mi Max review.
19. Bush Spira E3X
- Reviewed on: 14 September 16
- RRP: £199, n/a
If you want to buy a smartphone outright for less than £200 the Bush Spira E3X from Argos is an excellent choice. It isn't the most stylish, but it's not ugly. And it is built to last. Performance is the biggest weakness, but it is okay. And the software, battery life and camera options are about as good as you get these days, without shelling out for a £700 phone. A good, cheap smartphone.
Read our Bush Spira E3X review.
- Reviewed on: 11 August 16
- RRP: £119.99
For all its flaws, the MV1 is one of the cheapest dual-SIM phones that supports 4G. Performance is lacking, as is screen brightness, but in many respects this is a capable phone. The design may not appeal to everyone, and if it doesn’t and you don’t need 4G, it’s worth hunting down a 2nd gen Motorola G dual-SIM phone which is now a little cheaper than the MV1. There are also countless Chinese dual-SIM phones at this price.
Read our Obi Worldphone MV1 review.