Apple took a big risk, at least in the US, by removing the physical SIM slot for all iPhone 14 models and relying entirely on eSIM.
In my tests on three iPhones: iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone 14 Pro Max, I used the eSIM phone numbers already assigned to the phones, but didn’t experiment with the setup — specifically, the transition from a physical SIM card to a physical SIM card. any eSIM existence. But I couldn’t avoid it forever.
Apple’s promise is that transitioning from a physical number supported by a SIM slot to one, seemingly the same, supported on an eSIM-only device would be easy. The little story here is that, yes, the process is smooth and painless, but there are a few checkpoints worth considering.
As noted, for now iPhone 14 phones in the UK and elsewhere outside the US will still have SIM slots, but the writing is on the wall. Within a generation or so, Apple will likely remove physical SIM slots from all iPhone models. What I mean is, you may not need these tips right now, but bookmark this post for future use.
The need to transfer my current phone number, the one I’ve had for over 20 years, started with my desire to completely upgrade from iPhone 13 Pro to iPhone 14 Pro (48MP camera, always-on display, Dynamic Island), and make it my everyday device.
It’s worth noting that my test iPhone 14 Pro already has an eSIM number and I decided to keep that number on the phone, a decision that later impacted a few settings that I had to adjust after the transfer.
To be honest, I went into all of this with quite a bit of trepidation. I’ve tested dozens of phones over the years, usually popping out and sliding in different SIMs – with a SIM ejector tool or a straightened paper clip – to move my number around or keep a backup number on others testing devices. I upgraded my family’s phones by buying devices and then inserting their old SIM card. Even when it was time to get a new SIM card for 5G support, Verizon sent me the little card and I did the rest. Taking that physical aspect out of the equation, I felt a little disarmed.
I started by resetting the iPhone 14 Pro (after backing up the lovely photos and videos I took with it) but noticed that during the process I had the option of keeping the eSIM number currently assigned. Knowing that a single iPhone 14 can support up to eight eSIM numbers, I decided to save it.
I was surprised how quickly the iPhone 14 Pro reset; it was faster than my experiences with previous iPhone models.
The latest iPhone setup asks if you want to port an existing number to the new phone, then informs me that my current phone number will stop working on iPhone 13 Pro.
I used to do a little diving in high school and the feeling of double pressing the power button on my iPhone 13 Pro to allow my number to be transferred to eSIM on the iPhone 14 Pro was like the moments just before I attempt a comeback inside, dip it where you jump, do a scissor and then dive straight, head dropping inches from the board. Sheer terror.
On the iPhone 14 Pro screen, I saw a message telling me that it was activating the phone and then connecting to the network, in this case, Verizon.
Without any error message to speak of, I breathed a sigh of relief as the phone worked to transfer my iCloud settings from the iPhone 13 Pro.
As far as I can tell, the process went without a hitch. There was, however, some cleaning to be done.
Because I kept the original eSIM, the iPhone 14 Pro initially named the two main numbers, and I didn’t realize the phone still didn’t know which number to use first.
A little later I called my brother on the iPhone 14 Pro. He didn’t pick up. However, a few minutes later my iPhone rang and it was my brother who told me that when I first called he saw an unknown number and ignored it. He soon realized, based on the California area code, that it might have been his gadget-crazed brother testing another device.
With multiple eSIMs, your iPhone 14 won’t know which number to use until you tell it.
There are a few steps I had to follow to resolve this issue. First, I needed to rename the rows. Predefined options include:
- Cellular data
- There is also a custom name option.
Second, you need to choose in the settings which number to use as the default voice line. This will ensure that you are calling from the correct number.
By the way, there are good reasons to have multiple named eSIMs. If you enable “Allow Cellular Data Switching”, the iPhone 14 Pro (and all other eSIM-enabled iPhones) can automatically switch between eSIM numbers based on coverage and signal availability. This will save you from accidentally using your home eSIM when traveling, for example, in Europe, and paying exorbitant roaming charges.
My experience with Verizon and Apple’s SIM-to-eSIM process was smooth as silk. However, I’ve heard it’s not always that easy. American mobile editor Phil Berne told me about the difficulties he had with T-Mobile and how they had to find the process at a local T-Mobile store and try it twice until they find a QR code that simplifies the process.
There may be even bigger hurdles with smaller carriers as eSIM-only phones go around the world, but my experience proves that it’s not only possible, but having an eSIM-only iPhone 14 Pro can be better.
Thank you for your service, small SIM card. I guess I won’t miss you after all.
If you’re not quite ready to go the eSIM route, but want to consider your next smartphone upgrade, check out our roundup of the best phones.