🥇 How to switch from a physical SIM card to an eSIM on your iPhone

6 min


Would you like to transfer your current carrier line to an eSIM to release the nano SIM card slot of your iPhone for travel, business purposes, data-only connections or other applications? Contrary to some opinion, you can actually only activate the telephone service with an eSIM! You do not need a physical SIM card from your local wireless service provider to take full advantage of the mobile phone service.

Switching from a SIM card to an eSIM is easier than you think – as long as your current mobile operator supports eSIM technology and your device is not tied to a specific mobile operator!

If your iPhone is unlocked, you can use eSIM plans or SIM cards from other providers. If your iPhone is tied to a carrier, you can only use SIM cards and eSIMs from that specific carrier. This means that you cannot use SIMs or eSIMs from international network operators on your device!

I wantRavel the world with my iPhone!
iPhone XR with globe wallpaper

I recently used this process for a forthcoming trip abroad with my current airline, Verizon. For this trip, I intend to buy SIM cards from local operators for use in every country. I wanted to keep my US number active for WiFi calls, iMessage and FaceTime, but I wanted to get a local data SIM card for cheap internet and app access.

For this reason, the integrated nano-SIM card slot of my iPhone XR had to be open, since most network operators in the countries I visited do not yet support eSIMs.

It is also much easier to buy and use physical SIM cards in any country or region when you are traveling overseas or on business. You can find them at almost every airport, train station or hotel.

I did the following to transfer my Verizon service to an eSIM

How to convert your iPhone from a SIM card to an eSIM

Step 1: Check if your current network operator supports eSIM

Even if it seems obvious, not all phone companies support eSIMs, even if this is the case on your iPhone!

eSIM icon on iPhone

First of all, you should check whether your mobile operator offers eSIM services

  • Call the customer service of your telephone company
  • You can find a list of eSIM providers on Apple’s support website. They update the list at least once a month, so it’s pretty accurate
  • For prepaid accounts, contact your mobile operator to find out whether you can activate the eSIM service for your account

Step 2: Prepare to switch from a physical SIM card to an eSIM

  • Go to your iPhone Settings app
  • tap General> About
  • Scroll down to the section Digital SIM card
  • Copy, write down, take a screenshot, or otherwise write it down IMEI number listed – you need this to switch to the eSIM service
    iPhone XR Digital SIM
  • Double or triple check to make sure you have the correct IMEI number
  • Have an email address ready for your wireless service provider to send an email to QR code to you
  • Make sure your iPhone has WiFi or cellular service before calling your carrier’s customer service
  • Turn off your iPhone before you make the call

Step 3: Call your carrier’s customer service group on another phone (not the iPhone you want to switch to the eSIM service for).

I wish I could tell you that you can complete this.You can make the transfer without a call through your operator’s online site or your operator’s app. But it just didn’t work for me! I had to call Verizon directly.

And it is important that you call on a different phone – any phone is suitable, even a landline connection!

Your wireless service provider cannot switch your service from a physical SIM card to an eSIM when you call from the iPhone that you want to switch to eSIM.

As soon as you reach a customer service representative

  1. Let them know that you want to change your service from a physical SIM card to eSIM – also called SIM-to-eSIM exchange for an active phone number
    1. Tell the agent that you want to keep the same phone number, service plan, and options. You want everything to stay the way it is and move it to an eSIM
    2. If the representative asks the reason, tell them that the physical SIM slot must be open for travel purposes so that you can buy SIM cards in the countries you want to visit
    3. When the agent asks for your iPhone’s SIM card number (ICCID), say you are keeping it
  2. Specify your iPhone representative when prompted Digital SIM IMEI number from step 2
  3. Once this IMEI number has been accepted by Digital SIM, your wireless service provider will generate a new electronic ICCID number for your eSIM service
  4. Give the agent an email address to send you a QR code. You need this code to set up the eSIM on your iPhone
  5. Open this email on a computer, iPad, tablet, or other mobile device (does not have to be an Apple product).
    Qr code for Verizon eSIM activation
  6. Turn on your iPhone
  7. If you are using the iPhone on which you want to use the eSIM service, go to Settings> Cellular> Add cellular plan
    Add a cellular plan to your iPhone with eSIM or Dual SIM
  8. Scan the emails QR code with the rear-view camera of your iPhone in the screen window
    1. To enter the details yourself, press Enter details manually
    2. Ask the operator’s customer service representative to provide you with the activation code. If you do not have this information, click Cancel to get the information before proceeding
      eSIM QR Code Scan on iPhone
  9. If necessary, enter a verification code provided by your wireless service provider
  10. After scanning the QR code, a screen may appear confirming that a new cellular plan can be added. If so, tap Add cellular plan
    Add Verizon cellular plan
  11. Wait for the activation process to finish. This can take up to 15-20 minutes
  12. When prompted to choose a default line, choose primary for your new plan (this is a critical step – you want your eSIM to be your main and main line as we intend to delete the SIM card plan)
    Choose the default line for iPhones with Dual Sims message
  13. When asked for the name of your cellular plan, choose the new plan as primary
    eSIM label new plan
  14. Press Continue to save your selection

Step 4: check your eSIM

  1. Remove the physical SIM card while your iPhone is still on
    Remove the SIM card from your iPhone XR
  2. Go to Settings> Cellular
  3. Check out the section mobile plans– If you see the same phone number there twice, restart the device and then return to this setting
  4. Tap the old plan (SIM card) and select Remove the cellular plan
    Remove your old SIM card cellular plan
    1. If the old SIM card plan is not displayed, that’s fine
  5. Go to Settings> Cellular
    1. Check whether the cellular data is activated
      Enable these buttons if your iPhone cellular data is not working.
  6. Test your eSIM plan
    1. Turn off WiFi (Settings> WLAN> Off), so that you know that you are testing the plan of your eSIM
    2. Send a message
    3. Ask someone to send you a text
    4. Call someone
    5. Ask someone to call you
    6. Open Safari and search some websites
    7. Open YouTube, Netflix or similar and stream content

Wrap up

Although some preparation and certain steps may be required, it is relatively easy and straightforward to switch your current mobile phone service from using a SIM card to using an eSIM.

The process described above involved using Verizon (in the US), but the steps for most cellular operators are similar.

Using the eSIM at home and the SIM card when traveling, I can keep my home number for iMessages, FaceTime and even WiFi calls! In addition, the times when I had to remove my SIM card for the duration of my trip – and there was a risk of losing it altogether – were over.

As more and more network operators support eSIM, we may no longer need to buy SIM cards at all – neither at home nor when visiting abroad. I am looking forward to this day!

readers’ tips

  • For your information. If you have only activated eSIM with your network operator, this device is NOT covered by the insurance of your network operator or a guarantee offered by your network operator. Apple continues to cover your device through AppleCare
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