Apple has gone all in on the eSIM (embedded SIM), a programmable internal version of the SIM (subscriber identity module) card used to ID your phone to cellular networks. With the U.S. models of its iPhone 14 series, Apple has gotten rid of a physical slot for the SIM card. But it also continues to expand eSIM flexibility on other iPhone models and iPads.
For decades, a SIM acted as a secure hardware component that fit into a slot on phones used on most networks worldwide. A SIM provides hardcoded unique ID information for a phone to join a home network or ID itself while roaming. A SIM lets a carrier associate one or more phone numbers and billing information with a given cellular device. (Technically, SIMs were used on one oftwo kinds of cellular networks, the ones that used the GSM standard. GSM predominated and became the basis for the evolution into 4G and 5G technologies. The competing standard, CDMA,is nearly extinct.)
What is an eSIM, exactly? Which iPhones and iPads work with one–or more? And how do you manage an eSIM? Let’s explore those questions.
What is an eSIM?
SIMs were designed in an era of flip phones and earlier, providing an external piece of prefabricated circuitry impossible to manage in the hardware of the time. A modern iPhone, iPad, or similar Android and other devices only need a SIM to feed the old cellular infrastructure.
An eSIM is still a piece of circuitry, but it’s embedded into a phone or tablet, and it’s reprogrammable. It can essentially load the data necessary to interact with a cellular network just as if it were a removable card with a fixed identity baked in. Carriers have to update their networks to work with eSIMs to handle activation and integration with their billing systems, but an eSIM serves the same function.
Is an eSIM better than a SIM card?
Not having to mess with SIMs is a huge benefit. First off, you can typically activate an eSIM for monthly service or as-you-go plans on your phone without any interaction with a customer service representative and you almost never an in-person visit to a cellular store.
Second, you don’t have to wait to receive the piece of circuit-laden plastic that is a SIM. Third, you no longer have to manage opening the SIM slot–using Apple’s SIM removal tool that you certainly can’t find when you need and turn to a paperclip instead–and handling a toddler-fingernail-sized SIM and putting in another. I’ve dropped a SIM irretrievably into a digital piano keyboard, and others went skittering across airport cafe floors when I’ve arrived with my family in another country and needed to swap in local service.
Does eSIM affect a phone being unlocked or locked?
While an eSIM is programmable and handled entirely digitally, it has no effect on whether a phone or tablet that incorporates the technology is locked or unlocked by the carrier on whose network you’re using your device. Your ability to unlock your iPhone to use on another network relies on the policies of the carrier, whether you’re using a SIM or an eSIM. Follow these links for the details at,T-Mobile, andVerizon.
There’s concern that carriers could use the eSIM-only iPhone 14 and future models as a way to ensure lock-in to their network. However, that’s already the case with carriers who lock a phone to their network with physical SIMs, so it’s hard to see how an eSIM provides a more stringent limitation.
How do I get cell service outside the U.S.?
You once had to swap a hardware SIM out when traveling to another country. With an eSIM, you can still add a second plan for outside your area. When you return home, you just deactivate the eSIM. However, there are some countries that have not adopted eSIM yet, and an eSIM-only iPhone 14 or later model may not work for you in some countries or for your preferred carriers there. Analysts think Apple is trying to jumpstart eSIM adoption with this move. It might work.
Before you travel, check with your carrier to see if they offer service in the country you are traveling to. Even if your iPhone remains locked for domestic services, many carriers let you use service outside your home country or region if you meet certain conditions (like having paid off your phone if the carrier is financing its purchase or a certain amount of time has passed since you established an account), or they may offer add-ons for your plan that allows for international coverage.
Apple has a list of wireless carriers and worldwide service providers that offer eSIM service.
Which iPhones and iPads support eSIMs?
Apple added support for an eSIM in addition to a removable SIM starting with the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. That removable SIM plus eSIM combination continues through the iPhone 14 series, except for U.S.-only iPhone 14 models.
With the iPhone 13 series, you can use a removable SIM plus an eSIMortwo eSIMs for your service. This model marks a transition to where some carriers will choose to activate an eSIM for your primary service or give you the option. In both cases, that allows you to still have an eSIM “slot” free for roaming.
The iPhone 14 series lets you have one or two active eSIMs, while reportedly letting you store up to eight eSIMs that you can swap in and out. Apple hasn’t released this detail, and it’s unclear whether iPhone 14 models outside the U.S. will also allow the same offline eSIM storage.
Frequent travelers across many countries will appreciate being able to store many eSIMs. Those of us who travel less often or less broadly will likely add eSIM service only when we’re on a trip, with the eSIM’s service expiring within a set number of days after activation.
Apple also supports eSIMs on Wi-Fi/cellular iPads starting with the 5th generation iPad mini, 7th generation iPad, 3rd generation iPad Air, 3rd generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and 1st generation 11-inch iPad Pro. An iPad can store two eSIM profiles but only activate one at a time.
How are eSIMs activated?
Apple notes there are three different kinds of eSIM support varying by carrier:
- eSIM Carrier Activation:You can activate a new phone with an eSIM assigned to the phone.
- eSIM Quick Transfer:If you have an existing iPhone with a phone number assigned to it–whether a physical SIM or an eSIM–you can transfer that phone to a new iPhone’s eSIM. For a physical SIM, there’s an extra step you can carry out on your phone to “convert” it to an eSIM.
- Other methods:Some carriers may require you to scan a QR code to activate an eSIM or use a carrier-provided app. This is generally the case when purchasing a pay-as-you-go or time-limited plan for travel.
A combination of carrier instructions and Apple on-screen assistance, often in Settings > Cellular, guides you through this process on an iPhone.
On an iPad, Apple has always had us activate cellular plans through Settings > Cellular Data. That’s the same with an eSIM. Because iPads don’t directly use a phone number, enabling and switching services is simpler. (Nominally, a carrier assigns a number for billing purposes, but you can’t use it for texting or voice calls.) An eSIM can be activated when you sign up for a plan on your iPad, by scanning a QR code, or by using a carrier app, depending on the carrier.
You can see Apple’s regularly updated rundown on which carriers support which eSIM featureson this support page.
Where are eSIM settings?
Once you have two SIMs active in any combination, you manage them through Settings > Cellular or Settings > Cellular Data, where they appear as different sections under the main heading. You’ll also see two rows in the status bar, one for each carrier, containing the network name and connection status for each using Apple’s cellular symbols.
When you use apps that support cellular service on an iPhone, you can pick which line to use for text messages and phone calls, as well as control which plan carries your cellular data. Appleprovides a detailed guidefor configuring two lines and choosing which service to use for each call or other purpose.
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Yes, the iPhone 14 models are a dual-SIM iPhones with full support for nano-SIM and eSIM. In the United States the iPhone 14 & iPhone 14 Plus are eSIM-only—Users can have two eSIMs at once (and store more than that).Does iPhone 14 support eSIM? ›
Yes, the iPhone 14 models are a dual-SIM iPhones with full support for nano-SIM and eSIM. In the United States the iPhone 14 & iPhone 14 Plus are eSIM-only—Users can have two eSIMs at once (and store more than that).Why i can t activate eSIM on iPhone 14? ›
Update Your iPhone Firmware
Depending on the network provider, your iPhone might need the latest version of iOS to activate and use eSIM. Go to Settings > General > Software Update > Check for update. Make sure to install the latest version of iOS to use eSIM on the iPhone 14.
Once you have confirmed that your device is compatible, you can get the eSIM QR code by following the instructions provided by your network provider. The process may vary slightly depending on the network provider, but it generally involves downloading their app and scanning the eSIM QR code.Can I use eSIM and physical SIM at the same time? ›
You can use Dual SIM by using a physical SIM and an eSIM. iPhone 13 models and later also support two active eSIMs. iPhone models without a physical SIM tray support two active eSIMs. Find out how to activate a mobile plan on an eSIM.How do I know if my iPhone eSIM is activated? ›
- Launch the “Settings” app on your iPhone or iPad.
- Scroll down and tap the “Cellular” or “Mobile Data” option.
- Check under the SIMs section and make sure the eSIM is listed.
- If you can't see it, then it is not activated yet.
Only unlocked phones are compatible with eSIMs. You should make sure that your phone is unlocked before buying an eSIM from the Holafly store.Why eSIM activation failed? ›
If the code is unreadable, damaged, or invalid, the activation will fail. Network connectivity issues: A stable internet connection is required to download and activate an eSIM profile. Connectivity issues can prevent activation.How long does eSIM activation take? ›
The activation of an eSIM usually takes anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours. However, in most cases, if there are no issues with the carrier's network and the QR code is valid, the activation process is often completed within 5 to 10 minutes.Why did my eSIM fail to activate? ›
As for Android users, check that the coverage in the area where you are is strong enough. And if not, you can restart the device and restart the “Mobile/Cellular Data” option until it starts working. Also, people can reset the network of the device in the same way as with an iOS device.
All iPhone models that support eSIM can have multiple eSIMs and use Dual SIM with two active SIMs at the same time. You can use Dual SIM by using a physical SIM and an eSIM. iPhone 13 models and later also support two active eSIMs. iPhone models without a physical SIM tray support two active eSIMs.Does iPhone 14 plus have Dual SIM? ›
To use Dual SIM, you need iOS 12.1 or later, two nano-SIM cards and one of these iPhone models: iPhone 14. iPhone 14 Plus. iPhone 14 Pro.