Sometimes a single phone number isn’t enough — if you need to go abroad, for example, or need separate business and personal numbers, two is definitely better than one. Until recently, unless your phone could accommodate two SIMs, you were out of luck. However, Apple has now made it possible for owners of an iPhone XR, iPhone XS, or iPhone XS Max to add a second line of service by using an eSIM (or digital SIM), bypassing the need for a physical SIM card.
This will let you easily add a local carrier if you travel internationally. You can even have two different plans on the same phone — say, one for voice and messages and one for data. Although currently your choice of carriers in the US is a little limited: only Verizon and AT&T offer eSIM capabilities, with T-Mobile coming later this year.
If you want to add an eSIM to your iPhone, and are either a customer of one of those two carriers (or are willing to become one), here’s how to do it.
A few things to keep in mind before you start. First, this is not a free service — you’re purchasing a second line, with all the expenses that go with it. Your phone also needs to be running iOS 12.1.1 or later. And if you want to have plans from two different carriers, your phone must be unlocked. Otherwise, both your SIMs will have to be from the same carrier.
First, you will need to purchase a new eSIM account via the AT&T website, You’re going to need your device’s IMEI number (the unique number that identifies your specific phone). To locate it, tap on Settings, then General, and then About.
Once you’ve purchased the eSIM plan, you’ll want to set up your phone for dual SIMs.
Go to Settings, Cellular, and Add Cellular Plan. Scan the QR code from your carrier with your phone. Then look at the bottom of your screen, and tap Enter Details Manually. Select Add Cellular Plan and you’ll see both your previous plan and the new plan; you can label them as you wish (“Personal” and “Work,” for example). Hit Done, and on the next screen choose which line you want to be your default.
Note that while both phone numbers can be active at the same time (so you can be on a call with one and get a call from the other), you can only use one data plan at a time. If you want to switch to the data plan you’re using, go to your Cellular menu, choose Cellular Data and then select Cellular Data Switching.
And if you use FirstNet, AT&T’s service for first responders, be aware that, according to AT&T, the second SIM may interfere with the first SIM’s connectivity.
If you’re using Verizon, you can perform the entire process from the My Verizon app. Open the app and tap Join Now and then Get Started.
The next stage in the process is to locate and register your IMEI by going to Settings, then General, and then About. Scroll to the Digital SIM IMEI, and copy it by tapping and holding.
You’ve got the number; now you have to go back to your My Verizon app, tap the field that reads Digital SIM IMEI Number, paste in the IMEI by tapping and holding, and then hit Check eligibility. (Note: Pre-pay plans will not work with the eSIM.)
Assuming you’re eligible, you’ll then get a series of screens that will lead you through the process of activating your new service, including selecting a phone number (if you’re coming from another service, you can port over your existing number), creating a PIN, and — oh, yes — entering your billing information. Once that’s done, you’ll get an email with a QR code. On your iPhone, go to Settings, Cellular, and Add Cellular Plan, and then scan the QR code from the email so you can do the final account setup.
Phew! Done. Congratulations, you now have two phone numbers (and two data plans) on the same iPhone.