We’ve only just had our best early look at an Apple phone since that time someone accidentally left a prototype in a pub but there’s something else that you might have overlooked in the excitement. Rumour is a fickle beast, especially when Apple is the subject, but there’s a fairly credible case for the company doing something unprecedented with an iPhone soon — making a dual-SIM variant.
If you blinked you might have missed it but earlier this week we mentioned that Apple might be planning on dropping a dual-SIM iPhone — on select regions — some time this year. As it turns out, there’s mounting evidence to support this.
Earlier this year the sort of folks who poke through source code found direct references to a second SIM in the iOS 12 beta 5. There were mentions of “second SIM status” and “second SIM tray status” found in an area responsible for diagnostics. In case anything there seems ambiguous, there was another reference found to a “dual sim device” in the same beta code.
None of which is any kind of actual proof that Apple’s going to be dropping a dual-SIM iPhone on us just yet — though it does mean that they’re preparing iOS for the possibility. But there are other rumours around…
A recent Bloomberg report claims that this is the year that we’re going to see dual-SIM iPhones appear, in some regions of the world. There’s little by way of actual evidence offered, except for the word of “people with knowledge of the plans” — which isn’t a reason to discount the information. An iPhone with two-SIM capability will give Apple a leg up in at least one region: China.
Apple faces a lot of competition in and from the Chinese market and one of the idiosyncrasies of that market is that dual-SIM handsets are almost the norm. By way of example, every Xiaomi smartphone currently available for sale in South Africa has dual-SIM capability, from the budget lineup to the company’s range-toppers. That’s not an unusual development for Chinese handsets, which suggests if Apple really wants to compete in that country (not that they’re doing badly), they’re probably going to have to do a little imitating.
There are also other countries where dual-SIM smartphones are proving popular. India and parts of Africa (including South Africa) are growing more used to having two SIM cards in a single phone. Here at home, it usually means one SIM for phone calls and another, like Rain’s data-only offering, for whatever one’s online poison is. But for Apple, the only place where there’s a tangible benefit to including the feature is China — which is why it’s most likely to appear there first. Which is fine. If it does, it’ll eventually turn up elsewhere too.
Time will tell whether we’re going to see Apple sending a dual-SIM iPhone to China this year and other markets (which will be named later) or if we’re looking at another of those vapourware rumours like the Apple-made television set or motor vehicle. It should all be cleared up by the end of 12 September, when Apple’s annual announcement event takes place. The car is definitely coming, though. Someday.