With the iPhone 14 U.S. lineup, Apple has jettisoned the physical SIM card slot. This means that if you want to add another SIM, either for a different carrier or for a different country, you have to turn to an embedded SIM, or eSIM. Support for eSIM has been available on iPhones since the iPhone XR. So whether you have a new U.S. model iPhone 14 with no physical SIM or an older iPhone with both a physical and embedded SIM, adding an eSIM to your phone saves you the hassle of fiddling with a physical SIM card.
On the downside, not all cellular carriers or plans support eSIM. Adoption is increasing, and hopefully Apple’s move with the U.S. iPhone 14 will spur more carriers to jump on the bandwagon. For now, though, certain carriers support it, many don’t, and some support it only with postpaid subscriptions and not prepaid plans. To see if your desired carrier supports it by country, consult this support page from Apple.
Even if your chosen carrier doesn’t offer eSIM, you may be able to use the feature through an independent provider, a helpful option if you’re visiting another country and just need coverage for a week or two. My wife and I recently took a trip to London and I wanted to add an eSIM to my iPhone to get local data coverage. The default carrier supported eSIM but only for postpaid subscriptions. Instead, I turned to an eSIM provider named Airalo, which was able to offer the service I needed for our time in London.
Depending on the carrier, plan and country, you obtain the eSIM one of two ways—either in a retail store or online. With Airalo, I was able to simply sign up and pay for the access online through my phone and then download a QR code that let me set up the service.
Now, here’s how to add an eSIM to your iPhone. The actual steps may vary slightly from one carrier or service to another, but this is the basic process. Also, the steps I describe assume you already have one primary carrier set up on your iPhone and wish to add a second one through an eSIM.
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Make sure you’re connected with your iPhone, either through Wi-Fi or through your existing cellular plan. On your phone, go to Settings and select Cellular. Tap the option for Add eSIM. The screen for Set Up Cellular offers two options: Transfer from Nearby iPhone and Use QR Code. Unless you’re switching from one iPhone to another, choose the option for QR Code (Figure A).
The next screen prompts you to enter the QR code, which you should have received when you signed up for the eSIM. If you don’t have a QR code but do have an activation code and other information, tap the option for Enter Details Manually and enter the necessary details (Figure B).
Both your primary SIM and the secondary SIM will appear on the Cellular screen. A prompt may pop up asking you to assign a specific name or label to each SIM to distinguish one from the other. Your primary SIM might have a label of Primary. For your eSIM, choose the option for Label and assign it the name of your choice. In my case, I used the label Travel (Figure C).
Next, you’ll need to decide how you plan to use each SIM. In my case, I still wanted to use my primary SIM for voice calls and text messages and my secondary SIM for data. At the top of the Cellular screen, tap the option for Cellular Data and then choose the SIM you wish to use for your data. Turn on the switch for Allow Cellular Data Switching if you want both SIMs to provide cellular data. Return to the previous screen and select Default Voice Line. Choose the SIM you want to use your phone calls and then go back to the previous screen (Figure D).
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Now you need to select each of the SIMs to configure certain settings. Select your primary SIM. Make sure it’s turned on and that all the other settings are correct. For example, if you’re not using your primary SIM for data, turn off the option for Data Roaming. Next, select your secondary SIM and do the same. If you are using this SIM for cellular data, turn on the option for Data Roaming (Figure E).
You should now be good to go with both your primary SIM and your new eSIM active. If you chose a prepaid plan, the eSIM service will automatically expire based on the length of the coverage. When you no longer need the service, you can disable and even remove the eSIM from your cellular profile. To disable the eSIM, select it and turn off the switch for Turn On This Line. To remove it completely, tap the button for Delete eSIM and follow the prompts to delete it. After deleting the eSIM, select your primary SIM and review all the settings to make sure they’re configured properly (Figure F).