How to Use eSIM on iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR

BY Rajesh Pandey

Published 6 Oct 2018

With the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and the iPhone XR, Apple is finally fulfilling a major wish of its customers in China and parts of Asia: Dual SIM functionality. The iPhone XS series is the first from Apple to feature Dual SIM technology but just like the company does every time, its implementation is widely different from everything else in the market. And the way it is implemented, the Dual SIM feature of the iPhone XS and iPhone XR might not even work in most parts of the world.

So, if you are wondering how to use the Dual SIM functionality on the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, or iPhone XR, read below.

1. There’s only One SIM Slot

Unlike other Dual SIM devices, the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR only feature a single nanoSIM slot except for the units sold in China. For the second SIM, Apple is using the eSIM technology which it first debuted on its iPad lineup followed by the Apple Watch Series 3 LTE last year. This allows the company to save on internal space which can then be used for other components.

Apple is selling a dual-SIM variant of the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR with two physical nanoSIM slots but that’s only limited to China. Wondering why? Read below.

2. Carriers Need to Support eSIM

The biggest issue with eSIM right now is that it also needs to be supported by your carrier. So, if none of the carriers in your country support eSIM, you are out of luck as you cannot take advantage of the dual-SIM capabilities of the iPhone XS and iPhone XR.

Right now, eSIM support is offered by select carriers in 10 countries across the world. This includes Austria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, India, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S. In these countries also, not all operators support eSIM technology.

If you live in any other part of the world, you are out of luck and the only thing you can do is wait for carriers in your region to start supporting eSIM technology. It is due to this reason why Apple has launched a special version of the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR in China with two physical nanoSIM slots. Due to government regulations in the country, the eSIM technology is unlikely to be widely adopted anytime soon.

However, Apple could not have launched its new iPhones without dual-SIM support in China since it has become an important feature to have for customers in the region. At the moment, it is unclear if the Chinese variant of the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR with two physical nanoSIM slots will work properly in other parts of the world or not.

3. Limitations

There are some limitations as to how you can use two SIMs on your iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, or iPhone XR.

  • To connect your iPhone XS or iPhone XR to two different network operators, you must own an unlocked device. On a carrier locked iPhone, you will be limited to using two SIMs from the same operator.
  • If you use a CDMA SIM in the first slot, you cannot connect to another CDMA network with the secondary SIM.
  • Finally, the dual-SIM feature on the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max is not enabled as of now. It will be enabled with the upcoming iOS 12.1 update.

4. How to Setup eSIM on iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR

It is strongly recommended that you keep your primary number’s nanoSIM and use eSIM for the secondary number.

Step 1: Scan the eSIM’s QR Code

To set up eSIM on your iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, or iPhone XR, you will either need to download your carrier’s official app or use a QR code generated by them.

To scan the QR code, launch the Settings app, and navigate to Cellular.

Tap Add Cellular Plan and then scan the QR code provided by your carrier. You might have to enter a confirmation code provided by your carrier for security purposes as well.

Alternatively, you can use your carrier’s app to select a plan and activate the number on your iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, or iPhone XR.

There’s also the option of storing multiple eSIM information on your iPhone XS or iPhone XR, though at any given point of time, you can only have one eSIM active.

Step 2: Label the Two SIM Cards

To help make it easier to manage multiple SIMs on your iPhone XS or iPhone XR, it is important that you label them. If you have two separate numbers for Personal and Business or for Business and Travel, you can label them accordingly. Your iPhone will refer to your SIM cards via this label so this is important. If you want, you can also enter a custom label name.

You will be automatically prompted to label the numbers after initially setting up dual-SIMs on your iPhone.

You can also do it later on from Settings -> Cellular, select the SIM whose label you want to change followed by the Cellular Plan Label option.

Cellular Plan Label

Step 3: Set a Default SIM

Make sure to set a default number as this will be the one used by iMessage and FaceTime for sending/receiving messages. Your default line will automatically be automatically used for cellular services, mobile data, phone calls, and SMS. You do have the option of using your secondary number for mobile data purposes, while your primary number will be used for voice, SMS, iMessage etc.

iOS 12 Default SIM number

5. How to Check Signal Strength of Primary and Secondary SIM

You will be able to see the signal strength for both SIM cards on the status bar itself. The primary SIM will display its signal strength as usual, with the secondary SIM signal strength being shown right below it in the form of four dots as you can see below.

iPhone XS Dual SIM

You can get a better idea of the signal strength and which carrier both SIMs are connected to by swiping down on the top right corner to access the Control Center.

iPhone XS Dual SIM

6. How to Switch Between Primary and Secondary SIM For Calls

By default, your iPhone will automatically use your primary number to call any contact or for sending an SMS. Alternatively, it will use the same number which you used to call a contact the last time around. So, if you called someone using your secondary number, your iPhone will automatically call that contact using your secondary number henceforth.

To switch between numbers from the Phone app, simply enter the phone number and proceed to tap your primary number’s label you see at the top and tap on the other number to switch to the second line.

iPhone XS Dual SIM

7. How to Switch Between Primary and Secondary SIM for iMessage and FaceTime

Switching numbers for iMessage and FaceTime is slightly more complicated. Follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to Settings -> Messages.
  2. Tap iMessage and FaceTime Line.
  3. Tap the number you want to use.

If you live in China or manage to get your hands on the iPhone XS or iPhone XR variant with two physical nanoSIM slots, all the steps shown above barring the eSIM setup process will also be applicable for you.

Are you happy that Apple has finally added Dual SIM support to this year’s iPhone lineup? Or are you bummed with how the company has implemented it?