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How to Setup eSIM on Your iPhone

How to Setup eSIM on Your iPhone

published by Chad Evans
November 11, 2022 at 12:34 p.m.
  • eSIM stands for “electronic Subscriber Identity Module”.
  • Both SIMs and eSIMS identify you as a cellular subscriber, which is essential for using your iPhone to take calls and access data without a Wi-Fi network.
  • eSIM technology is replacing physical SIM cards in smartphones, including the iPhone 14, 14 Plus, 14 Pro, and 14 Pro Max.
  • Some iPhone owners report difficulties setting up eSIM.
  • This tutorial will walk you through the process of switching from a physical SIM to an eSIM

Switching to eSIM Isn’t Always Easy

Recently, I had the experience of upgrading two iPhones from physical SIM cards to eSIMs. One of these projects involved upgrading an iPhone 13 to an iPhone 14 Plus. The other was for my own migration from an iPhone 13 Pro Max to an iPhone 14 Pro Max. I performed each transfer with a different carrier — Visible and Xfinity.

In both cases, Apple’s technology to electronically transfer the physical SIM from the old phone to the new device’s eSIM failed. I still recommend you try this, as it will save you a trip to your carrier’s app or website if it works.

Your cellular provider will have the appropriate tools to accomplish the migration if it fails for you, as it did with both of my eSIM transfers.

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Also, Apple’s support article on this subject needs to be updated. It was written about four years ago and needs revising to reflect new phones, workflows, and screenshots.

Apple’s website was of no help to me. The company prefers you drive to the local Apple Store to get help, and maybe you’ll buy something there. We’d rather have you solve this problem in the comfort of your home, saving time and energy.

This article assumes you’re moving from an older iPhone to a new one that doesn’t have a physical SIM slot. This tutorial should be beneficial if you’re upgrading from an older iPhone to any device in the iPhone 14 lineup.

We’re going to use Visible as our carrier in this tutorial. The process for Xfinity, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket, and other cellular providers is very much the same.

Assuming you’ve migrated all of your data from your old device to your new iPhone, let’s begin transferring your physical SIM to your new iPhone’s eSIM.

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How to Setup eSim on Your iPhone

  1. After transferring the data from your old iPhone to your new iPhone, iOS will prompt you to transfer the eSIM. Although this process didn’t work out for me with two attempts, it’s worth a shot.
  2. You’ll see a Transfer SIM screen explaining that you cannot transfer your number to a new phone. Tap on Other Options at the bottom of the screen. This will display the Set Up Cellular screen.
  3. If your previous iPhone is running iOS 16.0 or later, you should be able to transfer the SIM from your last phone. Tap on “Transfer From Nearby Phone” on the Set Up Cellular Screen. The “Transfer from nearby iPhone” screen appears. Next, you will see a large message panel at the bottom of the screen labeled “Transfer Phone Number.” Even though you’re just trying to transfer the SIM and can’t move the phone number, iOS still shows this message panel.
  4. Tap “Continue” on the Transfer Phone Number message panel. You’ll see a prompt to enter a verification code sent to your older iPhone.
  5. Enter the verification code. You’ll see a message panel at the bottom telling you to “Continue on Your Other iPhone”.
  6. Open your old iPhone and follow the on-screen instructions. If this doesn’t work, don’t worry. This process did not work with both phones I set up, so I had to continue the transfer with my cellular provider. If it works, you’re done. If not, you’ll see a screen labeled “No Phone Numbers Found”.
  7. Exit the Transfer eSIM process by swiping up on your iPhone.
  8. Launch your cellular provider’s app or website. One of my transfers used the Xfinity website, and the other used Visible’s iOS app. For this tutorial, we’ll use Visible’s iOS app as an example. Xfinity’s website was similar. Most carriers’ eSIM activation workflows are equivalent.
  9. Sign in with your cellular provider’s website or app. The cellular provider’s home screen appears.
  10. With Visible, there’s a button to switch to eSIM. If your carrier’s app or website has a similar control, tap it now. If not, search the site for information on setting up an eSIM. After tapping the button, the “Enter your IMEI” screen appears.
  11. Swipe up from the bottom of your home screen to exit the app, but don’t close it. Your iPhone’s Home screen will appear.
  12. From your Home screen, launch Settings, then tap on General > About. You’ll see your iPhone’s About screen.
  13. Scroll down until you see IMEI, and hold your finger on the number. The Copy control will appear.
  14. Tap on the Copy control to save the IMEI number onto the clipboard.
  15. Swipe up on the About screen to reveal the App Switcher, then open your carrier’s app. You should be back on the “Enter Your IMEI” screen.
  16. Tap on the IMEI field to show the paste control, then paste the number into the field. You may have to confirm pasting the data. With the IMEI number pasted into the textbox, tap Next. You should see a screen verifying that your phone is compatible.
  17. Tap Next on the phone compatibility screen. You should see a screen preparing you to transfer your cellular service to your new iPhone, effectively setting up your eSIM.
  18. Tap on “Transfer service to this phone”. A verification code screen appears.
  19. Exit (but don’t close) your carrier’s app and launch Messages. Copy or memorize the verification code and paste or enter it into the field on your carrier’s app. Tap on Submit. You should see a screen with a progress indicator showing that your eSIM transfer is underway. Eventually, you’ll see an iOS screen labeled “Activate eSIM”.
  20. Tap Continue on the “Activate eSIM” screen. The Continue button will show a progress wheel and the message “Connecting to a network…” After about a minute, you should see an iOS screen labeled “Cellular Setup Complete.”
  21. Tape Done on the “Cellular Setup Complete” screen. Your carrier’s app will appear with a success screen. You’re all set! Close the app and enjoy your new iPhone!

There were some minor variations between Visible’s process and Xfinity’s. Xfinity was a little more complicated, as finding where their eSIM workflow started was challenging. It took a little searching on their website, but once found, the process was similar to Visible’s.

Call Your Carrier, Not Apple, For Assistance

If all else fails, call your carrier. If you call Apple, you’ll be on hold for a long time, only to discover that they can’t help you.

You can enter eSIM details manually, but you’ll need to contact your carrier. They’ll walk you through entering all the data necessary to add a cellular plan to your new iPhone. 

Apple could have done a better job handling eSIM. I had problems with it. Many technically inclined people I know also faced difficulties. Searching the web, I read many complaints about this process.

The good news is that once you’re on an eSIM, transferring the IMEI should be easier next time. It all depends on Apple, but I’d like to transfer the data and eSIM in one smooth process with my next iPhone.

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