Our Indian correspondent – Asif Shaik, explains why
If you are not acquainted with the wild popularity of dual SIM mobile phones in India, please let me explain. Recently, in India HTC completely discontinued its ultra-popular flagship HTC One (single SIM version) and replaced it with HTC One Dual SIM in collaboration with MNO [Mobile Network Operator] Tata Docomo. The Indian mobile phone market is very similar to Chinese market where consumers prefer value more than anything else. There are almost 481 smartphones on sale in India (including colour variations), out of which, 243 models have dual SIM feature. Almost every popular Android smartphone in the mid-range price segment in India has the dual SIM feature.
According to CyberMedia Research, around 50.8 million dual-SIM handsets were sold in India in Q2, 2013.
This figure was 44.9 million in the first quarter which is a healthy 13 per cent growth QoQ [Quarter on Quarter].
During Q2 2013, almost 85 per cent of the total handsets sold were dual SIM ones.
After the introduction of dual SIM feature from low-quality Chinese handsets, Nokia and other major players were reluctant to include this in to their mobile phones except Samsung, which understood this demand much earlier than other international mobile phone brands.
Samsung has dual SIM versions of almost every mobile in their offering. The Samsung Galaxy S Duos, even after being exceptionally poor in performance, enjoyed a great success due to its dual SIM compatibility feature.
Even after a recent price drop, it is still overpriced when you compare its performance to similarly priced handsets.
A while back, Orange Telecommunications introduced a feature called ‘Line Two‘ in UK, which gave consumers a second number [line] so they could call on separate lines.
Users could subscribe to different plans for these lines but both of those lines will be locked to Orange network, thereby crippling thegreatest possible advantage of dual SIM.
Unlike markets such as the UK where mobile phone industry is heavily driven by post-paid contracted plans, the Indian market relies heavily on pre-paid or PAYG (Pay As You Go) plans.
Indian consumers have to pay for the mobile phone handset upfront, as opposed to network locked handsets which are sold in the USA and large parts of Europe.
Indian consumers take the advantage of dual SIM mobiles in a very wide variety of manners. Almost all of these dual SIM subscribers use different carriers for better reception and lowering tariffs.
As the Indian geographic region is divided into 22 telecom circles, each operator has to bid for a license to operate in these particular circles.
This leads to operators having varying amount of coverage based on telecom circle license.
Frequent inter-state travellers, use dual SIM mobiles to get better reception – also simultaneously bypassing roaming tariffs.
A large part of consumers also use this feature to lower the tariff by using one carrier for calls and texts while other for Internet usage.
A small percentage of consumers also use the dual SIM feature to split personal and work communication.
Uninor (Indian subsidiary of Telenor ASA, Norway), a relatively newer telecom operator in India has high hopes from the increasing popularity of dual-SIM handsets to increase its subscriber number.
Thanks to its newly found focus, (see here)Uninor recently broke even in five out of six circles in India where it operates.
This scenario is not only evident in India but also in surrounding countries including China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
According to Strategy Analytics, almost 92 per cent of mobiles phones shipped or sold in India by 2014 will be equipped with dual SIM functionality.
Due to such immense popularity of this feature, brands like MediaTek and Qualcomm are taking special efforts in making it easier and cheaper to build lower cost dual SIM smartphones using their SoCs.
There are even rumours of Nokia working on a dual SIM version of ultra-popular Lumia 720 this year.
Microsoft is also said to be working with Micromax to bring lower cost dual SIM Windows Phones to consumers in Asia.