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Why Samsung just entered the dual-SIM smartphone game

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UpdatedSamsung introduced its first two, dual-SIM Android smartphones on Thursday, the Galaxy Y Duos and Galaxy Y Pro Duos. The new handsets, one with a keyboard and one without, will initially launch in Russia next month and will roll out in other countries soon after. Each of the new Google Android 2.3(s goog) smartphones will support two phone numbers and simultaneous data with the 7.2 Mbps HSPA mobile broadband radios.

The new handsets may sound and look familiar to those who follow Samsung closely. The Galaxy Y lineup was first announced back in August, along with several other models, as Samsung decided to expand the Galaxy brand. Those phones with the “Y” label are described by the company as “entry models or strategic models for emerging markets or a younger audience more sensitive to price.” That’s why the specifications of the new Duo phones are skewed towards the low end: 832 MHz processors, 320 x 240 resolution displays and 3-megapixel, fixed-focus cameras, for example.

This combination of affordable features paired with dual-SIM capabilities, however, could appeal in countries where handset costs push some to share handsets, which is one of the uses of a dual-SIM device. One look at the targeted countries for the new Galaxy Y smartphones illustrates this: China, India, Latin America, and Africa, to name a few.

One phone can easily be used by two or more people thanks to the multiple SIM functionality: a feature Nokia(s nok) has offered in the same regions. Nokia is still offering low-end devices with two SIM slots, but its move to Windows Phone(s msft) opens the door for Samsung to broaden its audience in emerging regions. Essentially, the new Galaxy Y handsets allow Samsung to experiment in a new market to see if it’s a viable area for continued sales growth. In fact, I noted five reasons in June why Samsung will be the next smartphone king; dual-SIM support could become reason no. 6.

There’s another opportunity afforded to Samsung, however: The growing trend of BYOD, or bring your own device. Corporate employees have begun to carry two mobile devices; one provided by their employer for work purposes and their own handset of choice for personal use. Carrying two phones isn’t optimal, so one device that can separate work activities from personal ones has appeal. A dual-SIM smartphone helps with the BYOD movement by separating voice and messaging communications between personal and work modes.

Will these new low-end Galaxy Y devices start appearing in the corporate world? That’s doubtful, because they lack the oomph needed in today’s tech world. However, Samsung could migrate the dual-SIM capability up the “food chain” of its Galaxy line into the higher end phones, and that feature could be supplemented with Samsung software customizations to allow for “work” and “personal” modes. During the workday, the phone environment would be geared toward corporate activities, while off-hours, games and social networking apps would be accessible. In both cases, the dual-SIM feature would ensure both work and private communications continue to flow.

Update: Clarified that these are Samsung’s first Android-powered dual-SIM smartphones, not their first dual-SIM smartphones.

13 Responses to “Why Samsung just entered the dual-SIM smartphone game”

  1. I am based in Hong Kong and I do a lot of business in China. I have to carry 2 phones because the operator China Mobile only provides 2G coverage but they can provide a China and a Hong Kong cell phone number in 1 sim card. So in order to cope with my heavy data usage, I need to carry another phone with a local operator that provides 3G services.

    If Samsung or any other company launches a high-end android handset that supports dual sims, I will be the first one to get it. Unfortunately, there is no such handset available in the market yet.

  2. I live in Brazil, where dual SIM handsets are very popular mainly for the reason that Talmai pointed out above (in an unnecessary rude tone, may I say). They’re mostly used with pre-paid sim cards from different carriers taking advantage of better rates for “intra-network” minutes. So when calling a number from carrier A, you use carrier A’s sim card. This used to be pretty straight forward before the country implemented number portability a couple of years ago, so people would know what carrier carried a number just by the number’s prefix.

    Another use for these dual SIM phones that I can think of is one SIM for voice and another for data. Maybe it only makes sense in countries where data-only sim cards have better prices and smaller caps than data plans for voice sim cards, which is the case in Brazil. I currently have a 100MB data plan on my voice line and a 2Gb cap on a separate data-only line (both from the same carrier) and pay the same amount for both (around USD 20). A dual-sim phone would allow me to use the data-only SIM to access the Internet from my handset and my computer (tethering).

    The main problem that I find with these dual-sim phones is the battery life. I’d assume it can’t last very long.

    By the way, I’ve even seen 3-sim phones around here, although only from unknown brands.

  3. The dual-sim smartphone is something so many users clamor for but the networks don’t like it. It carry multiple phones and to be able to carry one device that let’s you pick and choose which services you want from which providers. People are not content to have a smartphone that only lets you add one email account or one calendar. Why not allow more than one voice/data line? Useful for separating business and personal calls and texts or having a “private number” that you keep alongside your regular number. It allows a much easier mix between pre and post-paid numbers as well. I hope Samsung eventually makes one with USA 3G frequencies.

  4. “handset costs push some to share handsets”??? Come’on now, do your homework… this is not the main reason! People use dual-sim phones to pick and choose rates; to benefit from specific calling plans (i.e. ATT users can call any ATT users for free); or even to simplify business travels (reduced or no roaming costs when user sim01 vs sim02)…

    You can do better Kevin…

    • Yup, that’s definitely another reason for dual-SIM handsets; my colleague Katie just returned from India and mentioned this to me. In other regions, it’s a cost of handset issue and one of the key reasons that Nokia said they went with this model: there was a whole presentation at last year’s CES on the topic, which I had in mind while writing. Sorry for overlooking the operator rate plan flexibility, which of course, is another valid reason for such phones. Thx!

      • Tarun Kumar

        Hi Kevin, I am from India and would disagree with you and your colleague Katie. The reason why a lot of Indians carry dual sim phones is either to keep their work and private lives separate OR to take advantage of different talk plans offered by different operators. Sharing is unheard of, even here, given the fact that you can buy unsubsidized basic phones from $15 with a year’s warranty which would be far more cheaper than any such phone and I would bet a phone like this would cost somewhere around $200 over here (thats the lower spec samsung android starting price phone over here). As far as Nokia dual sim handsets are concerned, trust me there are not even 10% of that market, because they were late coming to the party and could not and still cannot compete with the local companies on price. Hope this clears your understanding about this topic to some extent.