Dual-SIM Phones Gaining Popularity in India

Demand for mobile phones that can accept two SIM (subscriber identity module) cards has picked up strongly in India, but Nokia, the dominant handset vendor in India, is late to the market.

Dual SIM phones currently account roughly for close to about 15 percent of mobile phones sales in the country, and the market is growing fast, said Anshul Gupta, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Nokia plans to launch its first dual-SIM phone, the Nokia C2, in India in the next few months.

Competitor Samsung said its dual-SIM phones, introduced in the second quarter of last year, will account for 12 to 15 percent of mobile phones sold by the company this year. That's up from about 8 percent of unit sales last year, said Ruchika Batra, a spokeswoman. The company is launching more dual-SIM models this year, she added.

The market is mainly driven by users who want to switch between carriers to take advantage of the best deals, said Gupta. Business and professional users may also use these phones to have a separate mobile number for personal and official calls, he added.

A large number of buyers of Samsung's dual SIM phones use the two SIMs on the phone to switch between network providers if coverage gets patchy, or when they are traveling between cities, Batra said.

The market for dual SIM mobile phones is dominated currently by locally branded phones, and phones from Chinese vendors selling into India, according to Gupta.

Such vendors are providing increasing competition for big-name players like Nokia, which had a 54.1 percent share of the India's 101.54 million-unit mobile phone market in 2009, according to research firm IDC India. The company's share is bound to go down as more vendors enter the Indian market, IDC India said in April.

Indian and Chinese vendors are making inroads at the low end of the Indian mobile phone market by offering a combination of features such as dual SIM, powerful speakerphones and a battery life of up to 30 days, Gupta said. These vendors have stripped some features, like the camera and Wi-Fi, from mobile phones to lower costs, and instead focused on features like long battery life which are so critical in rural markets, he added.

India had 617.5 million [m] mobile subscribers at the end of May, according to data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

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