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Do you need a dual-SIM smartphone?

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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Do I need a dual-sim phone? The answer is probably not. Most people sign a carrier contract and live with that service for two years. 


There is a small niche group that could benefit from a dual-SIM phone, and this is an article for them. Who are these mythical "special" people:

  • users with a personal and professional mobile phone line that want to carry one phone
  • users that travel often and want to use a low-cost SIM in their destination
  • users that live in regions were carriers aren't national providers, and "good" coverage requires service from 2 providers (much of Asia)
  • users that can find low cost unlimited data-only SIM and want another SIM for voice calls and text messaging, 

Not all dual SIM phones are created equal. 

Categories of dual sim phones

Passive dual-sim phones

Passive dual-SIM phones can only use one of the SIM cards at a time which means the user can switch between SIMs using software or a physical switch. 

Standy dual sim phones

Standby dual sim phones (often with the MediaTek chipset) use both SIMs using time multiplexing. Anytime you start using one of the sims (to make a call, send a message or use data), the other SIM is ignored. If someone calls the second sim when the first one is "active", the caller would receive a busy signal.

Active dial sim phones

Active dual-sim phones are capable of using both sims simultaneously and typically have to IMEIs since the phones come equipped with two radios. 

and we continue...

Because things weren't complicated enough, there is also the concept of unequal connectors. Some phones will be passive or active dual sim but may only be able to support full speed 4G on the primary SIM while slowing down to 3G/2G for the second sim.

Some buys mistakenly assume you can leverage both SIMs simultaneously for doubly fast data connectivity. This simply isn't the case. Dual sim capable phones do not perform network bonding to allow dual network stream aggregation. 

When I upgraded my daily drive smartphone, I switched from an iPhone 6s Plus to a Note 8 dual sim. When not travelling, the second slot hosts my SD card, but when I travel, I will load my KnowRoaming SIM. 

I know several account executives that use dual sim phones (one with their personal sim and the other with their work one). This means they can carry one device yet send/receive messages from either. Even in Canada, I know people that use dual sim phones with low-cost fringe providers. They use these providers when in their home zone for cheap service but switch to a pay as you go national carrier when outside of their "home" coverage area.

My Note 8 SIM Manager

  • I can choose if both SIMs are active.
  • I can choose which service to use with which SIM by default (calls, texts, mobile data).
  • I can even ask the phone to confirm which SIM card to use before each call.
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Another important consideration

With carriers that support VoLTE (Voice over LTE) or VoWIFI (Voice over WIFI), this functionality is typically only supported on the primary SIM slot. Don't expect both to support VoLTE and VoWIFI. 

Where do I buy a dual sim phone?

Most North American phone models do not come in dual sim versions. The most common way to buy a dual sim phone is either from an importer or you have to import one from a region that sells these devices.

My 128GB dual sim Note 8 was imported from Hong Kong by a Montreal based smartphone importer called PDA Plaza (this is not an ad and is not a sponsored post). I was able to buy my dual sim phone cheaper than what I would have paid locally from Samsung, Bestbuy or my carrier.

There are many options to choose from including Samsung, LG, Asus, OnePlus, etc. Just make sure you check the specifications and ensure the device supports the dual sim model you are looking for.

Examples

Asus Zenphone 5

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OnePlus 5T

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Huawei Mate 10 Pro

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Xiamo Red Mi dual sim

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Toronto's KnowRoaming partners with TCL Alcatel for SIMFREE global phone

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

Related Articles:

At Mobile World Congress

KnowRoaming (a Toronto based telecom company) has announced a partnership with global handset producer TCL Communications. 

The integration of our SoftSIM in Alcatel’s Pop 4-6 4G, A2 XL, and A3 XL handsets gives Alcatel’s customers a seamless way to stay connected and use their device as if they were at home
— Gregory Gundelfinger, CEO KnowRoaming

 

Three upcoming Alcatel handsets will have the KnowRoaming SoftSim embedded in the phones. This means users will gain access to the global KnowRoaming network (50+ countries) and benefit from reduced roaming rates.

Free unlimited video calling when you travel

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

In November, I wrote an article that explained the new free unlimited Whatsapp offer from KnowRoaming for travellers. 

TL;DR: All KnowRoaming customers get free unlimited Whatsapp text, picture and voice messaging in any of the countries KR supports.

When you consider Whatsapp is the primary communication tool for most users and that KnowRoaming has an extensive global roaming partnership network, it was a great win for their customers.

The only thing that was not free was video messaging. Video messaging was specifically excluded but this week, KnowRoaming added it to its free Whatsapp offering. So the KnowRoaming free unlimited global use offer includes all Whatsapp services:

  • Text and picture messaging
  • voice calling
  • video calling

And it is automatically available to all KnowRoaming customers. If you have KnowRoaming credit, and you should if you travel, they will refund Whatsapp usage charges every couple of hours. 

What about competitors?

I used SkyRoam many times during my global trips but stopped when I realized their account management webpage (adding credits, storing credit card information, etc) was all being transacted in a non-secure manner. Wrote about it here. Mistakes happen but the most frustrating part of the entire SkyRoam issue is that they ignored me for the longest time then promised to fix it ASAP but didn't. Obviously customer security isn't their top priority.

The SkyRoam global WIFI Hotspot should be considered un-secure and I strongly recommend travellers find other options.

I am waiting for the GeeFi to ship but until then, I will stop to KnowRoaming.

The KnowRoaming issues

KnowRoaming works very well when enabled but enabling it isn't easy and reliable. You need an unlocked phone and I have had issues where the app couldn't connect to the internet in the remote location and thus wouldn't let me enable the KnowRoaming sticker. 

Then once you activate the plan, you have to install the KnowRoaming profile which means you can't VPN when using KnowRoaming. This VPN limitation is a major problem when using public wifi. 

The third issue is related to speed. All KnowRoaming connections are 3G even if the partner network and your smartphone support LTE. I was told this is being looked at but I haven't been given any promises or dates.

Conclusion

After everything is said and done, KnowRoaming is (in my mind) the best solution for global roaming on the cheap today. I am anxious to test the new crop of global roaming hotspots that will hit the market early 2017. 

KnowRoaming really needs to spend the time and money to completely rework its app and to make the enable/disable process easier. 

The hidden danger of using the SkyRoam global WIFI Hotspot

GeneralEdward Kiledjian5 Comments

November 25 2016 update at the end of the article. TL;DR the service is still vulnerable.

Since I traveled a lot in the past, I am always looking for new tech to make travel simpler,. easier or more enjoyable. Since smartphones are indispensable travel tools, I was very excited when SkyRoam was released and wrote several articles about it. 

But as a security guy, there is a hidden danger that I wanted to share with my audience. The danger is present even before you take your first trip and is related to how to you add day-passes to your account.

When you visit their portal, you are greeted with this login page

Notice that the page you are on is not encrypted

This means that anyone can easily intercept your username/password as you type it in. 

The page does not even temporarily switch to encrypted during the login. Everything stays plain text. This  is completely unacceptable on a modern web where WIFI attacks are easy and fast. Certificates to encrypt the connection are cheap and readily available (even free with services like LetsEncrypt) . So companies have no excuse not to encrypt the connection: its either incompetence or a complete disregard for the security of their users (in my opinion). 

I recommend you go in and delete your default payment info on file. To  do this, click on the Account tab and then choose payment options and delete it.

I have daypasses which I will consume but wont add any more due to their lax stance regarding security, particularly the security of my credit card and login information. Even the credit card entry page is not protected.

This is pretty bad and I'm not sure how Visa and Mastercard aren't intervening. To be transparent, I have tweeted this issue multiple times over the last 3 months. When I didn't receive a response, I called their helpdesk 3 weeks ago and told the agent to open a ticket. When I did not receive a confirmation email (about a ticket being opened), I opened another ticket myself with a screenshot and clear description a week ago. I never received a response and the issue was never fixed.

Look for alternatives

I am anxiously waiting for the arrival of the GeeFi global hotspot which is expected to provide LTE service for $9.99 with unlimited bandwidth. Based on everything I have read, I am relatively sure GeeFi will take better security precautions and will be a better custodian for my confidential information. 

November 25 2016 UPDATE

Some people messaged me that the site was protected so let me check

The login page is still unencrypted

Main account page still unencryped

When you visit the page to add a credit card, they show a lock logo while its loading 

but that entire page is unencrypted

Even though someone from SkyRoam promised the issue would be resolved (9 days ago), it is still unprotected and I therefore I would still urge caution.

Use Whatsapp for free next time you travel

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

Since Apple has decided to keep Apple Messages (iMessage) locked up to its platform, users the world over have chosen Whatsapp as the most common cross platform instant messaging platform. It allows you to send files and pictures. IT allows you to make Voice Over IP calls and is just an overall well designed easy to use tool.

 Whatsapp requires a data connection (3G/LTE) to work. This means using Whatsapp while travelling requires you to buy a local SIM Card (when you travel) or buy an expensive data pack from your home carrier. Until now.

I first wrote about KnowRoaming in 2013 and explained how it can save money when travelling by switching you to a cheaper local plan travelling simply by using the company's intelligent SIM sticker.

Today KnowRoaming announced that their customers will be able to use WhatsApp for free when travelling. You don't even need to buy a data plan and no data charges are levied. As long as you have an active account with some money in it and switch to their service when you travel (which is automatic when you travel), you get free Whatsapp in any country they work in (100+ countries).

This offer is available to on any of their services (Global SIM Card, Global SIM Sticker and Global Hotspot). I use the Global Sticker Option, anytime I land in a new country, their app detects it and switches me to their service.