Despite the fact that the eSIM technology has been available since 2016, it wasn’t until 2018 that Apple introduced it with the iPhone XS. Thankfully, it’s been available on every iPhone since then, removing the need to use a physical SIM card to get cellular connectivity.
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One of the big benefits of having eSIM functionality is that you could have your primary phone number attached to the eSIM and then use a physical SIM card when traveling abroad. Or maybe you have a work phone number, but don’t really like the idea of carrying two different phones around with you. Just pop the SIM card into your iPhone for your work phone, and you’ll be able to use both simultaneously.
What Is An eSIM?
eSIM is short for Electronic SIM cards and removes the need for you to open the SIM card slot on your iPhone. Instead, set up your network connection can be done right from the Settings app on your iPhone, removing some of the potential headaches found with setting up a device.
The first iPhone to be released that used an eSIM was the iPhone XS and XS Max back in 2018. Since then, just about every new iPhone model ships with eSIM capabilities, provided that the functionality is available in your country. Other countries make use of a dual SIM card slot, wherein you actually insert two SIM cards into the same tray and can switch between them.
eSIM functionality is also what Apple uses to provide cellular connectivity with the Apple Watch. By doing so, Apple was able to ditch the need of a traditional SIM card slot. This allows for the design to be slimmer and lighter, while still offering network connectivity.
How to Transfer an eSIM Between iPhones
You’ve also been able to transfer an eSIM between iPhones in the past, such as when you upgrade to a new version. But with iOS 16, Apple is making it possible to transfer an eSIM between iPhones using Bluetooth, as opposed to relying on Wi-Fi or other methods. Here’s how you can do so:
- Open the Settings app on your new iPhone.
- Tap Cellular.
- Above the Cellular Data section, tap the Set Up eSIM button.
- When prompted, tap the Transfer From Another iPhone button.
From there, you’ll be prompted to the next screen which provides the following message:
“To transfer a phone number from another iPhone, make sure your other iPhone is passcode protected, nearby, unlocked, has Bluetooth turned on, and is running iOS 16 or later.”
It’s pretty obvious from this message that Apple isn’t bringing Bluetooth transfer of eSIM to older versions of iOS. And considering that iOS 16 is still in its Developer Beta phase, you might have to wait until the final version is released later this year. Apple is working with carriers to bring this functionality to more iPhone users, and that’s a potentially-frustrating process in its own right.
How to Transfer eSIM Pre-iOS 16
- On your new iPhone, open Settings > Cellular > Add Cellular Plan
- If your eSIM plan is listed, tap Add Cellular Plan at the bottom of the screen
- If you don’t see your eSIM listed, verify you signed in with the same Apple ID
- Look on your previous iPhone for a message asking if you want to transfer your eSIM phone number to your new phone
- Tap Transfer to approve
- Put your old iPhone next to your new iPhone to continue
- If your new iPhone shows a banner to Finish Setting Up Your Carrier’s Cellular Plan, tap it and choose to continue
- You are directed to your carrier’s webpage to complete the transfer of your eSIM
Once the transfer completes, place a call on your new iPhone to check that it’s working before removing your cellular plan from your previous iPhone.
Should You Use eSIM?
This really is only a question that you can answer. But there are a lot of great benefits to using an eSIM on your iPhone, even if you never travel abroad. For one, you can quickly switch between different mobile networks (read: carriers) if you want to move your phone number around.
Another benefit is that you won’t need to worry about trying to open the SIM card slot if something has gone awry with the physical SIM. Instead, any carrier or cellular updates should automatically arrive and apply themselves. eSIM is just one of those things that you might not think about, but once you try it, you don’t want to go back to the “old” way.
Andrew Myrick is a freelance writer based on the East Coast of the US. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is having a never-ending supply of different keyboards and gaming handhelds that end up collecting more dust than the consoles that are being emulated.