Your buying guide for the best dual-SIM phones in 2017
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.
Dual-SIM phones are incredibly popular outside the UK, but for some reason us Brits are being left out of the dual-SIM party.
This is one reason why the Chinese 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.
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 4G, or even what size SIM cards they accept.
You can never assume: you’ll need to contact the manufacturer or check spec tables, reviews or forums to find out this information. Also see: Best budget phones
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. Also see: Best kids’ phones 2017
What is the difference between Dual-Standby and Dual-Active?
Dual-active SIM phones use two modems and allow you to receive calls on both numbers at once. See also: Best Android smartphones
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.
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 4G on only one SIM at a time. Also see: Best smartphones 2017.
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.
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. Also see: Best new phones coming in 2017.
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.
The OnePlus 5 is a logical refinement of the young company’s back catalogue. It marries solid design with excellent software in a package under £500. But a year ago, it did this all for a sliver over £300.
The phone feels like the end of OnePlus phase one and a bridge to whatever the company does next. It might not be the obvious bargain price OnePlus is known for but it’s still significantly cheaper, is incredibly fast and has improved cameras.
There are downsides with no waterproofing, Quad HD screen or wireless charging. We strongly recommend considering this phone if you’ve been tempted by the Galaxy S8 or LG G6 but can’t stretch to them – the fact it’s in that conversation is testament to OnePlus’ continuing impressive achievements.
Read our OnePlus 5 review.
This really is an amazing phone, and only the Chinese software puts us off recommending it for a UK audience. It is crazy fast, crazy beautiful and crazy priced. If you know your way around Android go and get one, and you won’t be disappointed.
Read our Xiaomi Mi6 review.
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.
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.
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.
Running Flyme OS 5 out of the box, the well-built Meizu Pro 6 Plus is a fantastic Android phone with some seriously good performance, a vibrant and high-resolution screen and a decent camera. Unfortunately, though cheaper than UK flagships, at £399 (before import duty) it’s still too pricey to properly compete with the Galaxy S7 and OnePlus 3T. Neither are we in love with Flyme OS.
Read our Meizu Pro 6 Plus review.
There’s plenty of competition in Android’s budget market, but the Moto G5 is the best around right now. The build quality alone feels like it belongs on a much more expensive phone, while the fingerprint gesture controls genuinely improve the Android experience. The benchmarks and battery hold it back, but they’re not unreasonable given the price – and you won’t find a much better looking phone at £169.
Read our Moto G5 review.
The UMIDIGI Z Pro offers fantastic value at just over £200. It has a large battery, a decent screen and powerful performance. The dual-camera doesn’t offer quite the relief we were hoping for following poor performance from the UMI Z, but this is still a great phone.
Read our UMIDIGI Z Pro review.
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.