How to add an eSIM to your iPhone

Here’s how to add an eSIM to any supported iPhone, from the iPhone XR to the iPhone 14.

Image: Adobe Stock

With the iPhone 14 US lineup, Apple has thrown the physical SIM card slot overboard. This means that if you want to add another SIM card, for another carrier or for another country, you will have to turn to a built-in SIM card or eSIM. Support for eSIM has been available on iPhones since the iPhone XR. So whether you have a new US model iPhone 14 without a physical SIM or an older iPhone with both a physical and built-in SIM, adding an eSIM to your phone eliminates the hassle of fiddling with a physical SIM.

The disadvantage is that not all mobile providers or plans support eSIM. Adoption is on the rise, and hopefully Apple’s move with the US iPhone 14 will spur more carriers to jump on the bandwagon. For now, though, certain carriers support it, many don’t, and some only support it with postpaid plans and not prepaid plans. Check this Apple support page to see if your preferred carrier supports it by country.

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Even if your chosen carrier doesn’t offer eSIM, you may be able to use the feature through an independent carrier, a handy option if you’re visiting another country and only need a week or two of coverage. My wife and I recently traveled 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 plans. Instead, I turned to an eSIM provider called Airalo, who were able to provide the service I needed for our time in London.

Depending on the carrier, subscription and country, you can obtain the eSIM in two ways: in a store or online. With Airalo, I was able to easily sign up and pay online through my phone, then download a QR code to set up the service.

Here’s how to add an eSIM to your iPhone. Actual steps may vary slightly by carrier or service, but this is the basic process. Also, the steps I describe assume you’ve already set up one primary carrier on your iPhone and want to add a second one through an eSIM.

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Make sure you’re connected to your iPhone, either via Wi-Fi or your existing cellular plan. On your phone, go to Settings and select Cellular. Tap the option for Add eSIM. The Set Up Cellular screen offers two options: Transfer from nearby iPhone and Using QR code. Unless you’re switching from one iPhone to another, choose the QR code option (Image A).

Image A

Screenshot of the iphone menu.
Image: Apple

The next screen will ask 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 you do have an activation code and other information, tap the option for Enter details manually and enter the required information (Figure B).

Figure B

Screenshot of the eSIM menu
Image: Apple

Both your primary SIM card and the secondary SIM card will appear on the mobile screen. A prompt may appear asking you to assign a specific name or label to each SIM to distinguish one from the other. Your primary SIM card may be labeled Primary. For your eSIM, choose the Label option and assign it the name of your choice. In my case, I used the Travel label (Figure C).

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Figure C

Screenshot of mobile menu in iPhone
Image: Apple

Then you have to decide how you want to use each SIM card. 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 Cellular Data option and then choose the SIM card you want to use for your data. Turn on the switch for: Allow mobile data switching if you want both SIM cards to provide mobile data. Return to the previous screen and select Default Voice Line. Choose the SIM card you want to use your phone calls with and then go back to the previous screen (Figure D).

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Figure D

Screenshot of the Cellular Data menu on iPhone.
Image: Apple

Now you need to select each of the SIM cards to configure certain settings. Select your primary SIM card. Make sure it is enabled and all other settings are correct. For example, if you don’t use your primary SIM card for data, disable the data roaming option. Then select your secondary SIM card and do the same. If you are using this SIM card for mobile data, enable the data roaming option (Figure E).

Figure E

Screenshot of the iPhone's mobile menu.
Image: Apple

You should now be good to have both your primary SIM and your new eSIM active. If you have chosen a prepaid plan, the eSIM service will automatically expire based on the duration of the coverage. When you no longer need the service, you can disable and even remove the eSIM from your mobile 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 Remove E-SIM and follow the prompts to remove it. After removing the eSIM, select your primary SIM card and check all settings to make sure they are configured correctly (Figure F).

Figure F

Screenshot of the iPhone's mobile menu.
Image: Apple

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