The Apple event last night marked the debut of dual-SIM functionality on iPhone models, a feature users have been clamouring for in markets such as China and India for years. With two SIMs available to them, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR users will be able to use two numbers at the same time. Unlike the dual-SIM setups we have seen in Android phones for several years now, there will be no secondary SIM slot in the new iPhone XS and iPhone XR models, except in China, Hong Kong, and Macau. Instead, the three new models will adopt the eSIM standard, which lets telecom operators set up a second SIM remotely by pushing a user’s credentials onto the device. Here’s how the dual-SIM function on the new iPhone models will work.
First of all, dual-SIM functionality will not be available out of the box on any of the three new iPhones. Apple will enable this later this year with a software update. An eSIM is soldered onto each phone’s motherboard, so no hardware changes are needed for the second SIM to work. In India, Airtel and Reliance Jio support eSIM as of now, with other operators expected to join them in the future.
To set up the secondary SIM, you just need to follow these steps:
- Go to Cellular under Settings, and tap on Add Cellular Plan
- Your telecom operator would have provided you a QR Code. Just scan that, and all the required settings will be downloaded to your phone.
- Next, you might be asked to enter a confirmation code to enable the eSIM. Simply enter the number the operator has provided you
If you don’t want to scan a QR code, you can select the Enter Details Manually option at the bottom.
According to an Apple Support page, you will be able to save more than one profile (number) on your eSIM. This means that you can use the services of more than two telecom operators on the same iPhone. However, only a maximum of two numbers — one of them being the physical SIM — will be active at the same time. You will be able to label your additional eSIM profiles however you like to make it easy to identify each one’s number. You can switch between which number you want as the primary or secondary at any time.
When you set a number as primary, it will be used for calls, SMS messages, mobile data, iMessage, and FaceTime. It will also be the default number when you call someone who is not in your contacts. The secondary number will be able to receive calls and texts. Of course, you can swap the two at any time. Lastly, there is an option to keep the secondary SIM just for cellular data, while everything else is routed through the primary one.
Whenever you call a contact, the iPhone will automatically place the call from the number that was used to call that same contact the last time. So if you used the secondary number to call a friend, the next call or SMS to that person will also be from the secondary number. You can always change this by going into a person’s contact card and selecting the other number to be the default, under Preferred Cellular Plan. You will also have the option to switch between phone numbers before placing a call or sending a text.
If you are on a call using either of the SIMs and get a call on the other one, you will not hear a call waiting tone or see a missed call notification, because Apple has used a dual-standby scheme which means that one SIM is not available while the other is in use on a call. You can, however, send callers directly to voicemail, if it has been set up. You can also set up call forwarding so that calls to either SIM are routed to your other one. These functions will depend on mobile operator support. In India, you should get the missed call SMS notification, if you currently get that when someone tries calling you when your phone is switched off or out of coverage area.