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eSIM on iPhone: How to set it up

We tell you step by step how to configure and activate an eSIM on iPhone.

Mark Robins

October 24, 2023

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If you are an iPhone user, chances are you are wondering how to set up an eSIM on a mobile. As this feature has been added for several iPhone generations now, it’s important for people to have a clear idea of how to do this and what steps to follow.

So, here you will learn how to set up your eSIM as well as the main features you need to know about this service to use it on your iPhone properly.

iPhone devices
iPhones. Source: Unsplash

How does eSIM work on the iPhone?

The eSIM on iPhone devices works exactly like in other devices that support eSIM. Each iPhone cellphone has an embedded chip where you can download and install your Digital SIM card once you buy one from your local operator or an international eSIM carrier. Below, you will see how to install and activate your eSIM if you have an iPhone compatible with virtual SIMs.

>Get to know how to transfer your eSIM from an iPhone to an Android device<

How to set up an eSIM on iPhone

If you are thinking of buying an eSIM or you currently have one and you don’t know how to set it up, you are in the correct place! We will teach you in an easy step-by-step how to install and activate your Virtual SIM.

What do you need?

  • An eSIM-compatible iPhone
  • A QR code or app from an eSIM carrier.
  • If you have iOS 17.4 or more you can use the automatic installation, without scanning QR, only with your phone.

What do you need to do?

There are different ways to set up and activate your eSIM on iPhone, but the most common is with a QR code. Let’s take a look at two ways you can set up your eSIM. Remember, this can vary depending on your iPhone model and current iOS version.

1. Scan a QR code (provided by the network operator)

  • Go to settings, then to Mobile/Cellular data, Add eSIM, Use QR code:
  • Position the QR code from your carrier in the camera frame.
eSIM activation on an iPhone - Adding an eSIM
eSIM activation on an iPhone. Source: Holafly.
  • Scan the QR code.
  • When the Cellular Plan Detection notification appears, tap Continue.
eSIM activation on an iPhone - Scanning a QR
Scanning a QR code on an iPhone. Source: Pexels.
  • Tap Done.
  • Tap Continue
  • Select which line you want to use as the default line, tap Continue.
  • Choose the cellular line you want to use as primary line for iMessage, and tap in continue.
  • Select the line you will use for cellular data.
  • Tap Continue.
  • You will see your eSIM ready to use in the settings.

2. Manual Activation

  • Go to settings, then to Mobile/Cellular data, Add eSIM, Use QR code, and Enter details Manually:
  • For this step, you will need the SM-DP+ Address and the activation code for the eSIM.
  • Write the SM-DP+ Address and the activation code.
  • Tap in Next
eSIM activation on an iPhone - Manual activation
Manual activation process on an eSIM. Source: Holafly.
  • When the Cellular Plan Detected notification appears, tap Continue.
  • Tap Done.
  • Tap in Continue.
  • Select which line you want to use as the default line, and tap Continue.
  • Choose the line you want to use as the primary line for iMessage, and tap Continue.
  • Select the line you will use for cellular data.
  • Tap Continue.
  • You will see your virtual SIM ready to use in the settings.
eSIM activation - Choosing the default line
Choosing the cellular data when activating an eSIM. Source: Holafly.

3. Automatic Activation

Some operators like Holafly include the automatic installation function when we use their eSIM. In the case of this company, it is included in its mobile app, which allows you to use automatic installation when you buy an eSIM as long as you have iOS 17.4 or greater.

Automatic activation process on Holafly eSIM App.
Automatic activation process on Holafly eSIM App. Source: Holafly.

To use this function, we must have access to our user in the Holafly App and then follow the steps

  • The user must be logged in
  • Select the eSIM and the destination you want to install
  • Select automatic installation
  • Finally, you just have to click on the “install and activate” button
  • You can go to the cellular network menu to see your installed eSIM
Holafly eSIM installation process
Holafly automatic eSIM installation process. Source: Holafly.

What are the disadvantages of eSIM?

When using an eSIM, it’s important to keep in mind that it has some disadvantages. This is something normal to see, so let’s see what these are:

  1. These can only be used with eSIM-compatible devices.
  2. Virtual SIM cards won’t work unless the iPhone is unlocked.
  3. Hard to switch your eSIM to another device.

Overall, there aren’t many disadvantages when using this service. However, users do need to keep this in mind to avoid issues related to the eSIM usage.

Which iPhones use eSIM

With the above paragraph, you might wonder if all iPhones have eSIM, and the answer is no. Most iPhone devices support eSIM now, but some older smartphones do not support this technology.

From the iPhone XR to the newest versions, these devices include eSIM support! It’s also important to note there are devices that are eSIM-only, such as some iPhone 14 and iPhone 15 models from the USA.

But if you want to know more about eSIM-compatible iPhone devices, we recommend you look at our post: Cellphones compatible with eSIM.

How many eSIMs iPhones can have

In most iPhone cellphones that support virtual SIM cards, you can have up to 20 eSIMs, but you can use just one eSIM or two Digital SIMs simultaneously. It depends on your iPhone model, but in a large percentage of iPhones, you can use your traditional SIM card and a virtual SIM simultaneously; this is called Dual SIM.

What is a Dual SIM card?

Dual SIM means you can use a nano-SIM (the classic) and an eSIM (virtual card) simultaneously; it means you can use data, receive and make calls with both SIMs. This is how the dual SIM works in many iPhones, but with the launch of the iPhone 14, which does not have a physical SIM slot, you can now use two eSIMs simultaneously.

You can find more information about Using Dual SIM with an eSIM on Apple’s support page.

iPhone XS. Source: Unsplash

How do I get eSIM on my iPhone?

When it comes to getting an eSIM, there are different methods available for buying one. It’s important to know this will mostly depend on where people are located!

For travelers, the options to buy an eSIM come with either local carriers or international operators. Both options will give people access to different data plans depending on what they need!

In this case, the local carriers will vary depending on where people are located. But for those in the USA, carriers like Verizon, T-Mobile, or AT&T are great alternatives to buying a prepaid eSIM USA. For those in the UK, carriers like Three, Giffgaff, and Vodafone will work when purchasing an eSIM. Also, it’s important for travelers to check whether their carrier offers eSIMs or not.

On the other hand, international mobile carriers like Holafly also offer travelers great options. In this case, people won’t have to worry about a contract or something similar. People can buy these directly from the website or by the Android or iOS app. You will even find options with coverage in entire regions as with the eSIM card Europe or eSIM for UK travel.


  • Using the Double SIM: If you want to use the dual SIM feature, i.e. use two different numbers on the same device, you have to make sure you have an unlocked iPhone (not tied to one network provider) so you can use two numbers from different providers.
  • Use multiple eSIMs: iPhone users can now use one or more eSIMs depending on the device they have. To change from eSIM, you must go to Settings, Mobile/Cellular data, then choose the plan you want to use, and click on Activate this line.
  • Rename eSIMs: you can rename each eSIM to differentiate them from each other. To change the name, you can go to Settings, Mobile/Cellular data, click on the eSIM, then on the Data plan label and select a new name.
  • Remove an eSIM from an iPhone: Just go to Settings, Mobile/Cellular data, click on the plan you want to delete, and click on Delete your data plan. Deleting the eSIM from your phone does not necessarily mean that your data plan will be canceled, so we recommend contacting the data provider first.
  • They are completely virtual, so you can buy them through online stores like Holafly or in physical stores of operators, and in both cases, receive them immediately.

FAQ about the eSIM on iPhone

Where to find the eSIM on iPhone?

You can see your eSIMs by going to Settings and taping in Cellular.

Can eSIM work on a locked iPhone?

If your iPhone is locked to use with different operators, you will be able to use an eSIM, but only with your current carrier. You can learn more about locked iPhones here.

Can I only use eSIM on iPhone?

Yes, if you have an iPhone that supports eSIM, you can use a virtual SIM as the primary line. So you will not need a physical SIM.

How do you transfer eSIM to a new iPhone?

With iOS 16, you can transfer your eSIM from an old iPhone to your new iPhone with Quick Transfer: Go to “Settings” > “Mobile/Cellular Data” > “Add eSIM” > “Transfer from Nearby iPhone”. Keep in mind, both devices must be updated with iOS 16. If you would like to know more about how to transfer an eSIM on an iPhone, read our article: How to transfer an eSIM from an iPhone to another