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Upgrading to iPhone 14? You Won't Be Able to Just Swap Your SIM Card

The latest Apple iPhones get rid of physical SIM cards, instead adding the eSIM.

Apple iPhone 14 eSim menu
Upgrading to an iPhone 14 may be a bit tougher due to the addition of eSims.
Apple/Screenshot by Sarah Lord/CNET

This story is part of Focal Point iPhone 2022, CNET's collection of news, tips and advice around Apple's most popular product.

Looking to upgrade to the iPhone 14? It's not going to be as simple as taking your SIM card out of your current phone and plopping it in. Apple announced at Wednesday's "Far Out" event that the company is fully embracing virtual embedded SIM cards -- aka eSIMs -- as the default, a change it has been gradually moving toward for years. That means there will not be a physical SIM card tray on US models.

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. Last year's 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. 

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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 also could 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 users three months of unlimited data to compare its 5G network versus an existing provider. 

Should you want to switch, eSIM could streamline the process and allow you to be up and running significantly quicker than waiting for a physical card to be mailed out or taking your handset into a store.