How To Use eSIM and Dual SIM on iPhone 11, XR, & XS

For all of you that love traveling internationally but don’t love the data bills that sometimes surprise, with dual SIM and eSIM technology, you can add a local data plan when traveling outside of your home country or region.

Your iPhone needs to run iOS 12.1.1 or later to support eSIM technology. If you want an eSIM from a different carrier than your current SIM, your iPhone must be unlocked.

What’s The Difference Between Dual SIM And eSIM On iPhone?

Essentially nothing–both dual SIM and eSIM allow you to have two distinct plans on your iPhone 11, XR, and XS/XS Max. Both give you two phone numbers to make and receive calls and text messages.

However, your iPhone can only use one data network at a time–that’s true for eSIM and dual-SIM phones.

What’s an eSIM?

eSim stands for embedded SIM. It’s a software solution instead of a physical one. And it’s not as new to Apple products as you think!

Apple uses eSIMs in devices like the Apple Watch LTE models (like the Series 3 and 4) and some iPad Pro models.

The main difference is that an eSIM is a digital SIM while dual SIM is a phone that physically has two SIM card slots. With eSIM, there’s no need for two SIM cards.

international sim card

Instead, your eSIM activates a mobile plan without having to use a physical SIM card. That eSIM is stored digitally on your iPhone.

And you can even store multiple eSIMs on your iPhone. However, you can only use one eSIM at a time.

What’s My iPhone 11, XR, and XS Have–Dual SIM or eSIM?

eSIM on iPhone is offered on most iPhones 11 models, XRs and XS/XS Max models around the world, except for mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

For China (and its regions) the iPhone 11 models, XS/XS Max, and iPhone XR feature Dual SIM with two nano-SIM card slots.

Can an eSim be used with a VOIP service?

At this time, no you cannot use VOIP for the eSIM.

eSIM is available to customers from Mobile/Cellular Phone Carriers that support Apple’s eSIM technology.

How-To Set-Up Dual SIM on Your iPhone 

To use Dual SIM, you need an iPhone 11 model, XS/XSMax, or iPhone XR and two nano-SIM cards. And remember, physical dual SIMs are for Mainland China and its territories, like Hong Kong and Macau.

If using two different carriers, you also need an unlocked iPhone.

 

How To Install the Dual Nano-SIM Cards (for China & its territories)

  1. Update to latest iOS version (at least iOS 12.1)
  2. Insert a paper clip or SIM eject tool into the small hole of the SIM card tray
  3. Remove your SIM tray
  4. Look for the notch in one corner of the new SIM card
  5. Place the new SIM card into the bottom of the tray—it will fit only one way, because of the notch
  6. Insert the other SIM card into the top tray
  7. Reinsert the SIM tray into the device

How To Set-Up eSIM on Your iPhone

  • Update to the latest version of iOS (12.1 or above)
    • Note that the first public versions of iOS 12 (12.0 & 12.0.1) do not support eSIM
  • Get a QR code from the carrier, use the carrier’s app if available, or enter eSIM information manually
    • Your wireless carrier must support eSIM technology
    • If using two different carriers (like when traveling), your iPhone must be unlocked
    • If a CDMA carrier (like Verizon or Sprint) provides your physical nano-SIM (main SIM), your eSIM cannot also support CDMA

If You Have a QR Code

    1. Go to Settings > Cellular
    2. Tap Add Cellular Plan
    3. Scan the QR Code
      1. Enter an Activation Code if requested
    4. Don’t forget to label your new plan so you can differentiate your plans
      1. Your main SIM defaults to the label Primary–but you can change that
      2. For example, label one as work and the other as home or one as home and another as travel
      3. Labels help you identify which plan is active, what number is receiving a call or text message, and so forth
    5. Open Control Center, you should see both of your plans in the top right or when you go to Settings > Cellular 

 

If You Use a Carrier’s App

  1. Install the App on your iPhone, if not already installed
  2. Open the App and purchase a plan directly via the app
    1. The App recognizes your iPhone’s eSIM support
  3. Follow in-app directions and create a new plan
  4. Don’t forget to label your new plan so you can differentiate your plans
    1. Your main SIM defaults to the label Primary–but you can change that
    2. For example, label one as work and the other as home or one as home and another as travel
    3. Labels help you identify which plan is active, what number is receiving a call or text message, and so forth
  5. Open Control Center, you should see both of your plans in the top right or when you go to Settings > Cellular

If You Enter eSIM Information Manually

  1. Go to Settings > Cellular (or Mobile)
  2. Scroll down the list of options and tap Add Cellular Plan
  3. At the bottom of your screen, tap Enter Details Manually
  4. Enter in the eSIM information (like phone number and other account information) provided by your eSIM carrier
  5. Don’t forget to label your new plan so you can differentiate your plans
    1. Your main SIM defaults to the label Primary–but you can change that
    2. For example, label one as work/business and the other as home/personal or one as home and another as travel
    3. Labels help you identify which plan is active, what number is receiving a call or text message, and so forth
  6. Open Control Center, you should see both of your plans in the top right or when you go to Settings > Cellular

How to set up eSIM on Verizon Wireless

Only monthly post-paid plans are eligible for eSIM service. Pre-pay plans do not qualify.

To use eSIM on your iPhone with a Verizon Wireless plan, use the My Verizon App.

  1. Download and install the My Verizon app via the App Store
  2. Copy your iPhone’s IMEI by going to Settings > General > About and locate your Digital SIM IMEI
    1. Tap and hold this number and copy it
  3. Open the My Verizon App
  4. Choose Join now
  5. When asked, paste or enter your Digital SIM IMEI
  6. Select Check Eligibility
  7. If eligible, choose Let’s Go
  8. Follow the on-screen instructions to activate your eSIM service by selecting a phone number, creating a PIN, and selecting a plan and so forth
  9. When complete, you get an email with a QR code
  10. Follow the instructions listed above in the section If You Have a QR Code

How to set up eSIM on AT&T

  1. Copy or write down your iPhone’s IMEI number by going to Settings > General > About
  2. Order and activate a new eSIM activation plan via AT&T’s website
    1. Enter your iPhone model or its IMEI number
    2. Order a new eSIM activation and activate it
  3. Go to Settings > Cellular > Add Cellular Plan
  4. Scan the QR Code
  5. Follow the instructions listed above in the section If You Have a QR Code

Change eSIM Label Information for Dual SIM and eSIM on iPhone

  1. Go to Settings > Cellular
  2. Tap the number whose label you want to change
  3. Select Cellular Plan Label and choose one of the default labels or create your own custom label
  4. For custom labels, tap Done on the keyboard when finished

Change Your iPhone’s Mobile Plan Line Defaults

By design, your iPhone uses your physical SIM as your primary phone number for things like iMessage, FaceTime, and for calls and texts to people not in your contacts.

For folks using iOS 13, both of your phone numbers can make and receive Phone app and FaceTime calls and send and receive messages using iMessage, SMS, and MMS. iOS 13 usesDual SIM Dual Standby (DSDS) technology allowing your phone to both SIMs can make and receive calls.

However, as with previous iOS versions, your iPhone can use only one cellular data network at a time.

Change your default settings to use your eSIM

  1. Go to Settings > Cellular
  2. Scroll down to Default Voice Line (you can also tap Cellular Data to make changes for your mobile data plan’s number)
  3. Checkmark the line you want as your default (for iOS 13 +)
  4. During set-up and for iOS 12 versions, change to the phone line you want to use by tapping “Use (line label) as your default line
    1. You can also specify if you want to use a line for cellular data only
    2. “Use Primary as your default line” means your primary line is used for SMS, Data, iMessage, and FaceTime while your Secondary line is available just for voice and SMS
    3. “Use Secondary as your default line” means your Secondary line is used for voice, SMS, Data, iMessage, and FaceTime while your Primary line is available for voice and SMS
    4. “Use Secondary for cellular data only” is great for folks that travel outside of their home country or region. It sets your Primary line for voice, SMS, iMessage, and FaceTime and the eSIM line as cellular data only (charges may apply, so check with your carrier)

Switch Cellular Plan SIM or eSIM with Ease

  1. To switch eSIMs, go to the Settings > Cellular
  2. Scroll to Cellular Plans
  3. Tap on the plan you want to use or change
  4. Select Turn On This Line 

Make & Receive calls with eSIM and Dual SIM iPhones

If you use iOS 12, update to iOS 13+ so you can receive calls when you using your other number.

With iOS 13+, when you’re on a call, if your carriers support WiFi calling and you enabled it, you can answer incoming calls on your other number.

For this to work, you must toggle on both WiFi Calling AND Allow Cellular Data Switching when you are on a call that isn’t your default data line.

If you ignore the call and previously set-up voicemail, you get a missed-call notification and the call automatically routes to voicemail.

If your carriers do not support WiFi calling, you have Allow Cellular Data Switching off, or you don’t have WiFi calling turned on, all your incoming calls go to voicemail when you are on a call.

Quickly Change which SIM or eSIM To Make Calls From

By default, your iPhone uses the same number that you used the last time you called that contact. And when calling a new number, your iPhone uses your default voice line.

But you can change your number on the go!

  1. Change phone numbers on the fly before making a call by tapping on the Primary button at the top of your dialer
  2. Choose the SIM or eSIM line you want to use

You can also specify a specific line for people in your Contacts App

  1. Tap the contact
  2. Tap the Edit button
  3. Choose Preferred Line
  4. Tap the number you want to use with that contact

Quickly Change Your Cellular Data Plan

  • Go to Settings > Cellular
  • Tap Cellular Data
  • Tap the number you want to use cellular data
  • Toggle on Cellular Data Switching to automatically switch cellular data lines when you’re on a call

When you Allow Cellular Data Switching and you get on a voice call on your voice-only number, that number automatically switches to use voice and data. So you use both voice and data while on that call.

If you turn off Allow Cellular Data Switching, when you on a voice number that isn’t your designated cellular-data number, cellular data won’t work while you’re on that call.

Change which SIM or eSIM iMessage or FaceTime uses

With iOS 13+, users can use either phone number for iMessage and FaceTime.

If using iOS 12 versions, you can only use one phone number for iMessage and FaceTime. You need to set a default line for iMessage and FaceTime to use.

For iOS 13+

Go under Settings > Messages > Send & Receive, and enable iMessage for both your phone numbers.

Both Messages and FaceTime are “sticky,” meaning they remember which number you texted from or called from the last time.

You can use iMessage or SMS/MMS to send messages with either phone number and can switch phone numbers before you send an iMessage or SMS/MMS message

How to switch numbers in Messages

  1. Open Messages
  2. Tap the New button, in the upper right corner of the screen
  3. Enter your contact’s name
  4. Tap the current phone number or its label (primary, secondary, business, and so forth)
  5. If a previous thread open up, tap open the contact card, press Edit, and choose Preferred Line
  6. Choose the number you want to use

For iOS 12

  1. Go to Settings > Messages or Settings > FaceTime
  2. Tap iMessage & FaceTime Line
  3. Select the phone number you want to use

You can also change numbers within Messages or FaceTime by tapping the blue Phone Line Button in your new message or FaceTime session.

Need More Than One eSIM?

If you travel a lot for business or pleasure and frequently need to switch between plans and carriers, you can store more than one eSIM on your iPhone.  However, you can use only one at a time.

And remember that each eSIM requires its own unique carrier plan.

How To Switch Between eSIMs?

  1. Tap Settings > Cellular > Cellular Plans
  2. Select the plan you want to use now
  3. Tap Turn On This Line

Want or Need To Remove an eSIM or nano-SIM for Dual SIM iPhones?

If you remove one of the two SIM cards or delete one or more of your eSIMs, your iDevice shows a message confirming your removal and lets you know that any eSIM (or dual SIM) line-associated contacts need to be reassigned.

Instant HotSpot Not Working After eSIM Installation?

Some users have found that after switching to eSIM on their iPhones, they are unable to access instant hotspot service. The instant hotspot simply doesn’t show up on the connected Apple devices.

Interestingly, users with active data plans associated with their eSIM account are able to set up personal hotspot but the instant hotspot fails.

There are a few workarounds for this issue.

The first is to use a physical SIM. When you plug in a physical SIM Instant Hotspot works without any issues. Some users have overcome this handicap by keeping a random prepaid SIM from a different carrier in the SIM slot as a workaround.

Other users have successfully been able to use the instant Hotspot feature by simply signing out of their Apple ID on all the devices and then logging back in. Give it a try and see if that works for you.

Wireless carriers that support eSIM

Not all mobile carriers and plans support eSIM. So it’s a good idea to check Apple’s eSIM support list to ensure your phone company supports this feature.

Can you use eSim on phones with payment plans?

Since iPhones purchased on payment plans are usually locked to the carrier, you can only use eSIMs on a locked phone that are from the same carrier.

However, some carriers (like Verizon) no longer lock their SIMs so it’s possible that you can have an eSIM from another carrier on a Verizon iPhone that still under a payment plan.

The best course of action is to call your mobile phone carrier and ask them about eSIM support–before you go ahead and get an eSIM plan from another carrier.

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