How to use a dual sim with eSIM on iPhone

A detailed guide on how to use dual sim on your iPhone with eSIM and how to make the most out of it

Published: Jan 8, 2021

dual sim setup iphone two carriers

Since the iPhone XR and iPhone XS were released, iPhone owners finally have the ability to get a dual sim setup on their device, thanks to the newly added "eSIM" (Embedded SIM) slot. For many of us though, the concept of a virtual sim card can be confusing, and it can be hard to understand how to setup a dual sim on iPhone. This guide will cover all aspects you need to understand to get understand the concept of eSIM and dual sim, but more importantly how to make the best use of this great feature.

Does my iPhone offer dual sim ?

Yes, if you own the following devices, your iPhone offers dual SIM thanks to eSIM :

  • iPhone XR

  • iPhone XS

  • iPhone XS Max

  • iPhone SE

  • iPhone 11 / iPhone 11 Pro / iPhone 11 Pro Max

  • iPhone 12 / iPhone 12 Pro / iPhone 12 Pro Max

Be careful, if you bought your iPhone in China Mainland, Hong Kong, Macao, your iPhone will offer dual sim through two physical nano sim card slots instead.

Learn more about all eSIM compatible devices here

Why should I use dual sim ?

There are so many ways you can use dual sim. Here are some common usages:

  • For business: Use different phone numbers for business and personal calls.

  • When you travel: Add a local data plan when you travel outside of the country or region.

  • Because you live in a foreign country: Get a local phone number for your bank account, electricity provider, etc.

  • Because you want to save money: Have separate plans for voice and data, and save money by paying just for what you need.

You can find the best eSIM data plans here.

How can I setup a dual sim with a physical sim card and an eSIM ?

Requirements to setup your eSIM on iPhone along a physical sim card :

  • An eSIM compatible device (see above)

  • iOS 12.1 or more recent

  • A mobile operator that offers eSIM. If you want to use two different operators for your physical sim card and eSIM, then your phone must be unlocked

  • A physical sim card (which will likely be your main phone plan) already installed on your phone

Decide which sim slot will be your primary and secondary line

You can use a physical (nano) SIM card for one mobile plan and an eSIM card for one or more other mobile packages on your compatible iPhone.

We would recommend you use your physical sim card for your main phone line and your eSIM for your "removable" plans : if you are a traveller, this will be the most flexible way for you to buy and activate a new eSIM package for your trips digitally, and to avoid the hassle of buying a prepaid sim card at your destination. Of course, this will also allow you to keep your main line (physical sim) activated while you travel.

Alternatively, you can decide you prefer your main phone line to be using your eSIM slot, if your phone operator has enabled the eSIM option. In that case, your physical sim slot will be used for your "secondary" lines, and you will need to switch sim cards each time you want to switch plans on this slot.

Setup your eSIM.

There are 3 ways to setup an eSIM on iPhone :

  1. Scan the QR code sent by your provider using your camera app, and follow the install steps displayed on the iOS device.

  2. Use the provider's mobile app that will do the installation step for you (as long as the eSIM app of your provider allows it)

  3. Enter your eSIM information manually

Learn more about the setup steps for eSIM on iPhone here

A few tips to make great use of your dual sim setup

When should I activate my eSIM?

Generally, it is better you wait until you actually need to use your eSIM before you activate it. Please note that installing does not mean activating. You can still install your eSIM and activate it later.

On activation, your plan will officially start (and therefore set your expiry date). You will also start using your plan data, which might trigger roaming fees depending on your plan.

For traveling, this is why we recommend you wait until you arrive at your destination country (the country the eSIM is supposed to be used in) and wait until you actually need your plan before you activate it.

Can I rename my data plans ?

Plan labeling is a great option you should make use of because the more data plan there is the harder it will be to recognize what each plan corresponds to.

You will be seeing these labels when:

  • making/receiving Voice and FaceTime Calls

  • sending/receiving iMessage, SMS and MMS

  • assign a specific plan to use with a given contact

  • selecting which plan to use for mobile data.

Please note you can label your plan while you're adding your eSIM, but also after, by editing the data plan label.

esim data plans mangement iPhone_screenshot

With dual sim, can I select which plan to use for calls?

If your freshly dual sim setup implies that you have two phone numbers, your iPhone can make sure you do not have to choose every time you will want to contact the same number, and will remember which number you selected.

If you need to edit which number to use for your calls with a contact, you can follow those steps :

  • Select the contact.

  • Enter editing mode

  • Tap Preferred Mobile Data Plan.

  • Select the plan that you want to use for that contact.

Selecting which eSIM to use for data

As of today, only one plan at a time can use mobile data. This means that you will have to chose which line (between your physical sim and your eSIM) you want to use for mobile data.

To select the plan used for mobile data, follow these steps :

  • Go to Settings.

  • Select Cellular or Mobile Data

  • Select Mobile Data.

  • Select the plan you want to use for mobile data.

The iPhone allows Mobile Data Switching, which when turned on will let your phone use mobile data from both lines, depending on coverage and availability.

selecting which esim to choose for data_screenshot

What about 5G?

If you own a 5G compatible iPhone and both phone lines (physical and eSIM) are active, 5G will not be available. To use 5G on these iPhone models, you need to disable the dual sim mode by turning off one of your lines. Apple, at this moment, does not allow dual SIM mode with a 5G network.

Where can I find travel eSIMs? compares thousands of eSIM offers from dozens of providers in hundreds of countries. If you're about to travel to a foreign country or in another region and need an eSIM data plan, you are at the right place! Browse countries here

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