Flashback: Some crazy phones had three or even four SIM card slots – Reuters

How many SIM slots does your phone have? In some regions, dual SIM models are very popular, although in recent years eSIM (embedded SIM) has begun to take over the secondary slot for an external card.

Many operators offer low-cost roaming, or no roaming at all (eg within the EU), so it has become less important to be able to insert an extra card from a local operator. But it is now, ten years ago, some manufacturers were not sure how many phone lines you might need in your pocket.

ONE? By them? Fire? Let’s start with the loneliest number. As we explained in a previous article, the first GSM phones had SIM cards – the normal sizes, the kind you might have used on a pay phone. They performed a dual function. First, they told the operator’s network who was going to pay for the call. Second, they served as storage, as early phones had no memory for phone numbers or text messages.

So the need for at least one SIM card is pretty obvious (although if you grew up in a CDMA region, you may disagree). How about two SIMs? In 2000, the Benefon Twin was unveiled, the world’s first dual SIM phone. Well, “twin” actually refers to the phone with dual-band connection, it’s actually the Benefon Twin Dual SIM that we’re interested in.



Benefon Twin Dual SIM, the first of its kind

Benefon Twin Dual SIM, the first of its kind (image credit)

The Finnish operator VLP boasted about its applicability: “Using two SIM cards in one phone will give our customers a smart and convenient way to combine the savings of our Citikka subscription and the global coverage of GSM services. Citikka Q is specially designed for users who often travel outside our Citikka Network Service Area. “ said Erik Sjøberg, CEO of VLP. “As far as we know, the Benefon Twin Dual SIM is the first GSM phone on the market with one operating system and one slot for two SIM cards, which greatly facilitates telephone control for dual-line users.

“It provides significant added value not only for customers of regional Cityphone services, but also for all users who, for whatever reason, use two separate mobile phone subscriptions,” added Mr Jorma Nieminen.

As far as we know, the Gigabyte Gsmart G1317 Rola was the first Android to have dual SIM cards. It was announced in late 2010 and launched in April 2011. Note that ViewSonic also claimed to be “first” by unveiling the ViewSonic V350 in February 2011, although it was redesigned and the launch postponed to June.

Gigabyte Gsmart G1317 Rola, the world's first Android phone with two SIM slots
Gigabyte Gsmart G1317 Rola, the world’s first Android phone with two SIM slots

The first triple SIM phone to be found arrived in 2010, the Intex IN 5030 E Tri.do. It’s an unusual name for a remarkable phone – it supported GSM + GSM + CDMA connection and could handle SIM cards from Airtel, Idea for GSM and Tata Indicom at the same time (three major companies in India at the moment).


Intex IN 5030 E Tri.do, the world's first triple SIM phone

Intex IN 5030 E Tri.do, the world's first triple SIM phone

Intex IN 5030 E Tri.do, the world’s first triple SIM phone

LG introduced its first triple SIM handset, a feature phone, in 2012. It was the LG A290. A year later, LG and MediaTek announced a collaboration to build the world’s first 3G Android smartphone.

A poster, HateU, commented: “Triple-SIM? Are you kidding me! I want a quad SIM! Otherwise I have to buy 2 different phones for my 4 SIM cards. Shame on you LG!”

The wish fulfilled – the late 2010 Flying F160 claimed to be the world’s first Quad-SIM phone. And there was even a dedicated slot for a microSD card. But that’s not the whole story.

Around the same time, another phone appeared – the OTECH F1. He also claimed to be the first, but there is no reason why the two can not be the first. In fact, when you look at their hardware, it’s pretty obvious that this is a whitebox device that’s been branded as a Flying or OTECH phone.


OTECH F1 (aka Flying F160), the world's first Quad-SIM phone

OTECH F1 (aka Flying F160), the world's first Quad-SIM phone

OTECH F1 (aka Flying F160), the world's first Quad-SIM phone

OTECH F1 (aka Flying F160), the world’s first Quad-SIM phone

Soon after, people looking for a Quad-SIM phone were spoiled for choice – a company called T&T launched four models, each priced at just $ 30. These were, of course, basic phones, and they made no secret of the fact that they were inspired by the design of the BlackBerry, Motorola and Nokia.


Cheap Quad SIM Phones - Only $ 30 Each!

Cheap Quad SIM Phones - Only $ 30 Each!

Cheap Quad SIM Phones - Only $ 30 Each!

Cheap Quad SIM Phones - Only $ 30 Each!

Cheap Quad SIM Phones - Only $ 30 Each!

Cheap Quad SIM Phones - Only $ 30 Each!

Cheap Quad SIM Phones - Only $ 30 Each!

Cheap Quad SIM Phones - Only $ 30 Each!

Cheap Quad SIM Phones – Only $ 30 Piece!

LG also released a pair of Quad-SIM phones, the LG C299 and the LG A395 in 2013. But our database does not have many phones that can accommodate four physical SIM cards. As we mentioned earlier, there is not much need these days, not even for three. Maybe not even for two physical SIM cards given the convenience of eSIM.

Have you ever owned a triple or quad SIM phone? Do you think there is still a need for such devices, especially a use case that can not be handled by eSIM?

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