Using old SIM in new phone

I just ordered an unlocked iPhone SE 3 without a SIM card. My plan was to swap my current card in an original SE to the new phone. Then I remembered that I had already done that once before. That is, the card was originally in an iPhone 5s.

An online search reveals a lot of conflicting information about swapping older SIM cards into newer phones.

Will SIM card from iPhone 5s work in an iPhone 13?

I think I will go to the Verizon store and ask for a new SIM card. Seems simple enough and I don’t mind wating an extra day.


EDIT: added link to relevant Apple discussion

ymmv but a transfer of the SIM card from my iPhone SE2 into my new SE3 last Friday on Consumer Cellular went without a hitch. :smile:

If it’s an SE 3, you can also have Verizon setup an eSIM rather than use a physical SIM. Either way, if you’re interested at all in 5G services, you’ll want a new physical SIM or have an eSIM set up. Older SIMs will only connect to LTE.


The other thing you might consider is using the eSIM–no worry about transferring a physical SIM

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Thanks, @ddmiller and @aforkosh, for the information on SIM and eSIM. That prompted me to do some additional research and I found this article describing the pro/con of both. Ultimately, a user decision on which is most beneficial.

I went to the Verizon store and they attempted to get the eSIM to work. After almost an hour and multiple calls to their tech support they put in a physical SIM. Worked instantly.

Online reports suggest that eSIM almost always works but there are occasional failures that require escalation to get things functional.

Glad you got it working. I had issue once with a user getting new 13 and she went from a 7. The sim in the 7, as I was told by Verizon support, didn’t support 5G so they sent a new sim card (physical one). the old worked till the new one arrived, but no 5G.
With this, I too, have an SE 3 (2022) and called ATT if I needed a new sim, moving from the 8+ to SE. ATT only cared about me buying new plan. So, I used the old sim and phone is ok.
However, unrelated, I am seeing apps hidden. Have you? its like a dozen apps have to be found via Search. Then added to home screen again.

No, not having this problem. I did a full backup via iTunes of the old phone SE2016. Then a restore of that backup to the new SE3. Documents, wallpaper, photos, etc. all transferred. Most apps showed a cloud icon to download from the app store. When done, all apps were visible and working.

The SIM card upgrade took place the next day. They were happy that I had already done the migration.

Interesting. . . I just installed a SIM that has been in use for over 7 years in an iPhone 5S and 6S. My SE3 indicates that 5G is functioning as expected. We have a rural cell tower around 300 yards from our house.

Prior to upgrading I called Consumer Cellular to confirm that I could simply swap the SIM like I’ve done in the past. They told me to go ahead as there is no need to obtain a new SIM. I’m on the ATT network (T-Mobile is the other option with Consumer Cellular.)

This was the first time that I used the Bluetooth data migration option between the 6S and SE3. The entire process took less than 5 minutes. I was happy to forgo connecting the SE3 to my Mac to transfer the data from my recent backup.

All that I know is that Verizon phones with SIMs provisioned before 5G, especially as old as that, will not connect to 5G but instead will connect to LTE when 5G is available. Not sure about AT&T. (Also AT&T is notorious for calling LTE service “5Ge” on status bars when connected to LTE rather than 5G, and did the same thing 10 years ago when LTE was new when they had phones put a label of 4G when they were actually connected to 3G.)

This may not be such a big deal on the new SE, as it can’t get the ultra-fast mmWave 5G anyway.


That’s very good news, and Consumer Cellular deserves all the credit.

A SIM card, at its core, contains the various ID numbers required to look up and use your account information, so the network knows who you are and how to bill your calls.

If Consumer Cellular can use your existing 4G phone on 5G networks, that means their database is reusing the same ID numbers. They just upgraded your account for the new features.

Verizon appears to do things differently. They seem to be assigning a new ID number for the 5G network, which is used alongside (or instead of) the numbers that identify you to the 4G and older networks. Since a 4G SIM doesn’t have a valid ID for the 5G network, it can’t connect to that network.

Why are the two companies different? It’s impossible to know without talking to the engineers at the various companies, but it may simply be because Consumer Cellular doesn’t run their own network, but resells bandwidth on other networks. The SIM card you get from them (I assume) is a Consumer Cellular ID and the Consumer Cellular servers map that ID onto one or more AT&T IDs, which are actually used to place the calls. So if AT&T requires new/additional IDs, Consumer Cellular can just change the mapping in their server.

Could Verizon do something similar? They absolutely could, but they may feel that it isn’t worth the cost of adding the necessary infrastructure vs. just issuing new SIM cards when the network infrastructure gets upgraded every few years.


I recently was browsing Verizon’s web site in order to get a SIM card replacement (mine actually failed - I didn’t know that could happen), and I ran across this table about SIM compatibility and what you can expect if you migrate a SIM card to a phone with different capabilities.

A quick summary is that it may work, or may work with reduced features or may not work depending on what the SIM was activated for and what kind of phone you’re putting it in:

See also SIM Card FAQs - Replace & activate a new card | Verizon

Of course, if you’re not using Verizon, then your SIM card may behave differently when moved to a new phone.


I’ve seen similar verbiage from other carriers. Old SIMs might work but might not provide full compatibility with 5G networks. It’s always best to get a new one at this point. (Or switch to eSIM.)

It looks all versions of the iPhone 14 will be eSIM only.

In the US. Which will be irritating for anyone in the US who travels and wants to get a local pay-as-you-go SIM so they don’t have to pay extortionate roaming charges. Unfortunately eSIM availability is far from universal.

Hopefully, eSIM will become more popular internationally, since the 14 supports two eSIMs. But you’re right that if you want to get a quick prepaid SIM in a place where eSIM is not available, you’ll be out of luck.

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The solution to that is someone like GoogleFi who include free roaming and sane pricing for calls. But IME the reality is that so many people use WhatsApp/Signal/Telegram etc. that the only call I have made when travelling this year was to a UK insurance company… from Rwanda, twenty minutes was ~$2.

Not universal, but it does seem to be pretty popular.

See Find wireless carriers and worldwide service providers that offer eSIM service - Apple Support

Scroll down to the third category (carriers that support “other eSIM actvation methods”). They list carriers in 83 countries, in addition to the US. So there is a good chance that there will be at least one carrier in your destination country with support.

Of course, that list isn’t the entire world. For instance, I noticed that Israel isn’t on the list. And when I did a bit of searching, it appears that the Israeli carriers that support eSIM currently only support it for Apple Watches. Hopefully, the carriers there will add support soon.

Of course, even if your country is on the list, you’ll still need to research the details. Some countries only have one or two carriers with support and some may not offer short-term prepaid eSIM contracts to foreigners at this time. And I wouldn’t expect Apple’s web site to be complete either as carriers around to world probably all have plans to roll-out eSIM on whatever schedules they feels is appropriate for their customer-base.

Yeah, this is really the issue. In the UK, for instance, three of the four major networks support eSIMs for phones, but you have to have a monthly contract to get them. Almost none of the many other providers (mainly MVNOs) offer eSIMs, and no one at all offers a prepaid standard eSIM (e.g. one that gives you a phone number which you can make calls and texts from). This shuts off the ability for someone visiting to get a free SIM from giff gaff or Three (or whoever), put £10 credit on and get 15GB data and unlimited calls for a month.

I imagine it’s similar (or worse) in many other countries. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that Apple is doing this, because I think it will force all these mobile providers to start offering eSIMs. Even though the SIM tray has only been removed in the US this year, they will see the writing on the wall: it’s eventually going away everywhere. This is the ‘stick’ that the industry needs, it’s been extremely frustrating having provider after provider say they’re ‘testing’ eSIMs or that they’ll ‘come soon’.

I can’t wait to stop juggling little chips when I want to change my SIM, and I’m currently limited in who I can choose for my second number because of the sparse eSIM offerings. But selfishly, I’m glad Apple is using the US to force the industry to get its act together. There’s no denying that lack of a SIM tray removes a huge number of inexpensive mobile data options when travelling.

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eSIM only would be a non-starter for my ipads because I have one data account and swap it back and forth, usually to whichever leaves home with me. I’d be reluctant for the phone too, because I’d lose control over which phone is the active phone. I’d much rather not play mommy may I with a company that I don’t trust to be able to count their toes (which encompasses all communications companies).