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Using old phone, new SIM

I replaced my iPhone 8 with a new iPhone SE, and wondering if I can just use the old phone with a local SIM while traveling. Since the carrier deactivated old phone, is it effectively unlocked?

Posted by
2700 posts

Just because the phone has been deactivated, does not mean it is unlocked. If you have fulfilled any contractual obligations, your original carrier should unlock your phone. I believe Apple customer service can tell if your phone is unlocked. If the phone is locked and you are having trouble getting it unlocked, you could always go to Unlock Ninja and pay for a code to unlock it. Or use your SE.

Posted by
6508 posts

Thanks Philip. Yes I could use my current phone, but I thought it would be handy to re-use my old phone to have a phone just for travel without going back and forth with the SIMs.

Posted by
411 posts

Stan, thanks for asking this question! I had the same one. I’m wondering if I can get a SIM card for Slovenia and Italy before I go so I can hit the ground running.

Posted by
7456 posts

My old iPhone 7 worked perfectly all over Europe with a SIM card I bought at a TIM store in Puglia. It was never locked.

Posted by
781 posts

Could you explain this process in a bit more depth for those of us who probably have a drawer full of old iPhones but would not think of activating an old one for travel. Do you use your home number or start temporary service? Any other details that the less tech-savvy should know?

Posted by
735 posts

Stan, isn’t the second generation SE equipped with dual sim? Perhaps you could just add a local sim to your new phone?

Posted by
6508 posts

thanks Barbara, that was beyond my knowledge level. But I also thought it was a good question in general, as I was pondering whether to throw my old phone out or not.

Posted by
2700 posts

Hey Stan! Instead of tossing the old phone, there are services that will purchase it - and other electronics. When I got my new iPhone, I sold my old one to Decluttr.. Very easy to do, reputable and got a nice check that provided a great dinner for 2!

Posted by
411 posts

I'm not very tech savvy - does CWSocial's post apply to an iPhone too or just an Android?

Has anyone just gotten a SIM card when they land at the airport?

Posted by
2700 posts

Works with any unlocked GSM phone. SIM cards are available at the airports either from company owned stores such as TIM at FCO in Rome or sundry stores such as Relay. I’ve bought them at both places. Also there’s a host of info on the Travel Tips section of this site.

Posted by
1086 posts

Unlocking Your Phone.
I am not too familiar with iPhones, but the process I used to unlock an Android phone (e.g., a Samsung) is probably similar: Your carrier gives you a code -- a password, so to speak -- that you key in to the phone that "opens" it up for use with any other phone company. There may be a way to start this process by a software command, but I think I always got it started by putting in a SIM card from another company to get the phone to tell me that it needed to be unlocked and I could then begin the process. (Borrowing someone else's SIM to put in your phone to see if it will work is the easiest way to see if your phone is locked or unlocked.)

Dual SIMs.
I have read that the latest iPhone SE has a dual SIM feature. I encourage you to look into that possibilty, but it does require a bit of effort and working with your carrier. I have a Pixel phone (4a 5G), and this is what I did with my phone, but the procedure with an Apple phone should be similar.

First, in my phone and in the latest iPhones, dual SIM capability does not mean that the phone has slots for two SIM cards. (That setup is how dual SIM phones used to work, but if a U.S. carrier offered such a phone, I never heard of it.) These days, dual SIM means that your phone has an eSIM feature and the standard physical SIM slot. A SIM card basically contains an account number that lets your phone company know that your phone should be connected to the network. An eSIM is simply a digital account number built into the phone. (They call it an IMEI number, which is a bit confusing because your phone hardware has an IMEI number, too.) Your phone menu should show you what your digital eSIM number is for your phone.

Here is a link to what Apple says about using an eSIM: Using Dual SIM with an eSIM. Here is a link specific to the iPhone SE:
setup eSIM on iPhone SE. (I haven't read these links thoroughly, so there may be better instructions out there.)

Here is what I have done. My Pixel has an eSIM number and a slot for a regular SIM. I called my carrier (T-Mobile) and got them to register my phone number to my eSIM number, switching the phone from the old physical SIM card. It took a bit of learning on the customer service representative's part because I don't think he'd done such a switch before. But it worked and I no longer needed an actual SIM card to be in my phone. (Note: When I change phones in the future, I will have to get T-Mobile to switch my number to the new phone. I can't just pop a SIM card out and put it in the new phone.)

Advantages of Dual SIMS.
Here is what is cool about having a dual SIM phone: I put a physical SIM card for another number in my phone and both numbers now work. My phone will ring if either is called or if I get a text to either number. The physical SIM is from a little used phone to which we transferred our former "home" landline telephone number. For international travel, however, I can instead put a local foreign SIM in that slot and have my regular U.S. number and the local foreign number work at the same time. On my phone, I have the option to decide each time I make an outgoing call or send a text which number to use. Also, I can set which number to use for mobile data, which is especially useful when outside the U.S. and the local foreign SIM has better (and less expensive) data limits for Internet usage.

Once I started using the dual SIM features, I do not ever want to go back to a single SIM phone.