Dual-SIM phones allow you to easily manage (and make or receive calls on) two numbers on a single handset. This means you can juggle a work and a personal contact without switching devices, have separate data plans for home and abroad, or just get up to a bunch of sneaky business.
In this article we explain how to add a second SIM to any iPhone from 2011 or later, and run it as a dual-SIM handset. We cover eSIMs, a simple method that works on the latest generation of phones, and Bluetooth accessories which do the job if you're running something older.
For related advice, read How to unlock an iPhone, which lets you use any SIM with your device.
Which method should I use to run dual SIMs?
Apple has never offered a phone with two physical SIM slots (in the UK and US, at least), but the latest iPhones offer a smart workaround: the XR, XS and XS Max have both an externally accessible nano SIM tray and an internal eSIM that lets you set up additional carrier plans.
If you've got an XR, XS or XS Max, therefore, an eSIM is the method for you.
(Note that in China, the new iPhones do get twin SIM trays, so you can run dual SIMs without any fuss whatsoever. The method used in this tutorial applies to other parts of the world, including the UK and US.)
What of earlier iPhones? Not a problem. If you've got an iPhone X, 8, 7 or earlier (indeed any iPhone 4s or later will work) you can use a Bluetooth card adapter to run a second SIM. We explain this method later in the article.
What's an eSIM?
Let's start with eSIMs. The e stands for embedded. Your eSIM is soldered to the phone's motherboard and cannot be removed.
But the clever thing about an eSIM is that you don't need to remove it. It works with multiple carriers, so you can change plan without changing the SIM.
For more information on this topic, see What is an eSIM?
Setting up your eSIM
Your handset needs to be an iPhone XR, XS or XS Max, and Apple says it will need to be running iOS 12.1 or later. (Here's how to update iOS.) Assuming the two plans you'll be subscribing to are from different carriers, the phone will also need to be unlocked.
Not all carriers support eSIMs; in the UK only EE does, while US customers can choose from AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. Apple provides a list of compatible carriers in each country.
We'll assume at this point that you've set up the nano SIM in the usual way, and have a phone number and data plan. We now want to set up the eSIM with the second plan.
Contact the carrier you've chosen for the eSIM plan (we recommend shopping around if there's more than one option in your territory) and explain what you want to do.
Once you've agreed terms, payments and so on, you will need to set up the plan using details provided by the carrier: it's possible to enter these manually but the company will probably make it easier by sending you a QR code, or let you set up via its app. Any of these methods will be quicker than waiting for a physical SIM to be delivered.
Your carrier may send you a QR code for setting up the plan. If so, open the Settings app on your phone and go to Mobile Data, then tap Add Data Plan (in the UK), or Cellular, then tap Add Cellular Plan (in the US).
You should then scan the QR code with the phone's camera and (if requested) enter the confirmation code provided by your carrier.
Alternatively, you can set up an eSIM using your carrier's iOS app. Visit the App Store and search for and download the app, then open it. The app will walk you through the setup process.
Managing your plans
We're nearly there, but it's necessary to follow a few more steps to ensure the two plans work effectively together.
You will next be asked to label the plans to avoid confusion ('work' and 'home' are obvious choices, for example). You can change these labels in future by going to Settings > Cellular (or Mobile Data), tapping one of your numbers and selecting Cellular Plan Label or Data Plan Label.
Finally, you need to decide which of your two numbers should be the default for iMessage and FaceTime, and whether you want to use your secondary number for data only.
And that's it! You're now set up with two carrier plans on a single iPhone handset.
How to switch between phone numbers
The iPhone will make calls from the default number if it's not told otherwise. But it's easy to temporarily switch to the non-default number when making a call.
If you're using the numberpad, you just need to tap the number shown at the top of the screen and then select the one you'd prefer to use. If calling from Favourites, you need to tap the i next to the name, and then tap your current number.
If calling from Contacts, tap Preferred Data Plan/Preferred Cellular Plan and select the number you want to use. Handily, your iPhone will remember your preference and use the same number next time you call that contact.
Setting up a third plan
It's possible to set up a third plan, if you wish, by following the same steps above. Note, however, that you can have only one eSIM plan active at a time - you'll have to switch between them in Settings.
How to remove an eSIM plan
Note that you can wipe a plan from your eSIM by going to Settings > Mobile Data (or Cellular), tapping the plan and then selecting Remove Data Plan (or Remove Cellular Plan).
Using dual-SIM with a pre-XS iPhone requires you to buy some additional hardware. Search Amazon UK or Amazon US for "dual sim iPhone adapter" and you'll see some of the options. In most cases you will insert a second SIM into a card adapter which connects to your iPhone via Bluetooth.
In the following tutorial, we're going to use the NeeCoo Magic Card, which can be bought from GearBest for $51.95 (about £41), with $1.60 shipping to the UK.
Check your phone is compatible
Your iOS Bluetooth needs to be 4.0 or up. Therefore the NeeCoo Magic Card only works with iPhone 4s or later. Your iOS version needs to be 7.0 or up. Note also that the NeeCoo Magic Card only takes Micro SIM cards - check Amazon for options which work with nano SIMs.
How the NeeCoo Magic Card works
The device measures 85 x 54 x 4mm, easily slipping into your pocket or wallet when you're abroad.
It has network bands GSM850MHz, EGSM900MHZ, DCS1800MHz and PCS1900MHZ. This means you can call, text, take photos and have access to your iPhone contact list, but bear in mind you can't use data.
The NeeCoo Magic Card has a rechargeable battery, so make sure it's fully charged before using it for the first time. It comes with a USB charger.
The 380mAh battery lasts for three hours talktime, or 80 hours standby.
Download More Card, insert SIM
To use a second SIM on your iPhone with the NeeCoo Magic Card, you need to first download MoreCard from the App Store for free.
Tap Allow to let the app access your notifications, contacts, microphone and Bluetooth connection.
Make sure your iPhone's Bluetooth is on. Before turning on the NeeCoo Magic Card device, insert a Micro SIM card into the card slot you can see in the picture below.
Long-press the button next to the Micro SIM card slot to turn the device on. You should see green and red LED lights on the side of the device flash. This means it's ready to pair.
Pairing iPhone and NeeCoo Magic Card
Open up the MoreCard app on your iPhone. Go to Settings, then tap Device.
It will automatically search for the Binding Device. The name Neecoo_Me2_34CO should appear.
Tap the device name, and then you will be asked for a password. Type the default password 0000.
This should take you to the MoreCard Settings.
If the SIM card is successfully registered to the network, a green LED light on the device will flash slowly, and the carrier's name will be displayed on the top of your screen.
You can now use the second SIM to call, message and take photos, with access to your iPhone contacts.
You can choose to unbind the device at any time.
What to do if the connection doesn't work
If the NeeCoo Magic Card doesn't auto connect to your iPhone, close the MoreCard app and reopen it again. And make sure your iPhone's Bluetooth is turned on.
If the SIM card failed to register to a network the green LED light will flash rapidly on the device and the carrier's name won't appear on your iPhone screen.
Unplug and re-insert the Micro SIM card into the device and turn the device off and on to retry.