Google is Adding Dual SIM Features to its Dialer App Despite Lack of Dual SIM on the Pixel

By | 20th November 2017

Dual SIM smartphones are popular in many parts of the world. A Dual SIM phone has two SIM slots, which means that users can use SIM cards of two different carriers in a single device. At one time, few Android smartphones had support for Dual SIM. However, the feature has exploded in popularity in the last few years, to the point where phones with dual SIM slots are common in many regions such as India, the Middle East and Africa, etc.

This has resulted in smartphone manufacturers releasing Dual SIM variants of their phones for specific markets. Other OEMs then went a step further and equipped all their smartphones with dual SIM slots. In some countries such as India, users these days are hard-pressed to find smartphones which only have a single SIM slot, as all the popular phones now have two SIM slots. Users, too, have embraced this feature to benefit from flexibility, cheaper prices (for example, by using the calling services of one carrier and mobile data from another carrier), and carrying one device instead of two separate ‘Work’ and ‘Personal’ devices.

The feature never became popular in the West, though. This was because of multiple reasons, but the primary reason is that in markets such as the US, phones are primarily sold by carriers – which have no interest in selling phones with two SIM slots in order to keep the consumer locked-in to their services. OEMs such as OnePlus do sell Dual SIM phones unlocked in the US, but overall, the feature continues to be a niche one in the Western market.

This is why Google still does not have Dual SIM support in its Pixel phones. Nexus devices did not support dual SIMs either. The company also did not release a separate Dual SIM variant of the Pixel and Pixel 2 for regions where Dual SIM support is the norm, making flagships from other OEMs like Samsung all the more appealing.

Now, though, we have seen three commits that have been accepted into AOSP. These commits confirm that Google is adding Dual SIM features to its Dialer app, despite the lack of Dual SIM on the Pixel devices. It should be noted that there are multiple Dual SIM smartphones which use relatively stock Android, so even if Google does not implement two SIM slots in the next-generation Pixel, other phones will benefit as the OEMs won’t have to add in the functionality themselves.

Commit number 541646 is titled: ‘Implement preferred SIM‘. The description states:

Before prompting the user to select the SIM, CallingAccountSelector will lookup the fallback preferred SIM database to see if a preferred SIM is already set and bypass the selection. If the number is in contacts the user will also have the option to store the selected SIM as preferred.

It means that Google is implementing a preferred SIM database, which will mean users won’t have to select their preferred SIM all the time. The CallingAccountSelector will see if a preferred SIM is already set, and if so, it will then bypass the selection. It should be noted that this feature has already been added by multiple OEMs in their ROMs.

The second commit is numbered 541790 and is titled: ‘Implement suggested SIM‘. The description states:

This CL adds a module that can query providers to aid users choosing which SIM to call with.

The commit implements suggested SIM functionality, in which the Dialer will suggest users which SIM to use for any function by querying providers.

Finally, commit number 541802 is titled: ‘Add preferred SIM meta-data to dialer manifest‘. Its description states:

Contacts need to check the meta-data to decide if the preferred SIM UI should be shown.

The contacts app will check the preferred SIM meta-data to decide if the user will be shown the preferred SIM UI or not. Related to the first commit, this means that the UI will not be shown if the meta-data shows that users have already selected their preferred SIM card.

These features have now been merged in the AOSP Dialer. They are a welcome addition, considering that the popularity of Dual SIM Android smartphones is not going to die anytime soon. Google may even have a plan to equip future Pixel series with two SIM slots, at least for specific regions.