This story is part of Focal Point iPhone 2022, CNET’s collection of news, tips and advice around Apple’s most popular product.
Upgrading to the iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Plus, iPhone 14 Pro or Pro Max requires a new step for most customers: Instead of moving your SIM card from a previous iPhone into the new one, you’ll need to set up an eSIM instead. When Apple announced the iPhone 14 line, the company revealed that US models wouldn’t have the physical SIM card tray that has been commonly used across the phone industry. Internationally however, the iPhone 14 line retains the SIM card tray for now.
With eSIMs you will still be able to take full advantage of a carrier’s 4G LTE or 5G networks and use your phone the same way you have in the past. Apple has supported eSIMs on iPhones dating back to 2018’s iPhone XS, XS Max and XR, and has long supported the technology on its recent cellular iPads and Apple Watches. The iPhone 13 line even allowed for multiple eSIMs to be enabled at once, useful for those looking to have a work number and personal number on just one device.
By embracing eSIMs, Apple and other manufacturers can also begin to ditch the physical SIM card slot, allowing for more space for additional features on future devices.
AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon all support using eSIM, as do a number of smaller or prepaid providers like Mint Mobile, Google Fi or Verizon-owned Visible.
While the core experience shouldn’t change, there could be a few notable benefits to no longer needing to get a physical SIM card from a carrier. If a network adds a new feature, the provider can just push an update directly to the phone, whereas in the past you may have needed to order a new SIM card.
Upgrading from 4G devices to 5G, for example, required a new SIM card at some carriers to be able to connect to the new networks. When buying a phone from a carrier or with a carrier installment plan, you usually get the new SIM card in the box, so this isn’t much of an issue. If you were buying unlocked directly from Apple, however, you may have needed to get a new SIM.
Using eSIMs will make it easier for consumers to explore or switch cellular providers. T-Mobile and Verizon’s Visible have been using eSIMs as a way to give people the ability to try out their respective networks on their existing devices. Last week T-Mobile updated its trial program to now give interested people three months of unlimited data to compare its 5G network with their existing provider.
Should you want to switch, eSIM streamlines the process and allows you to be up and running significantly quicker than waiting for a physical card to be mailed or taking your handset into a store.