iPhone SIM cards can store the same data and are identical in appearance to those used in Android phones. They conform to the same sizes, too, making it easier to switch cellular providers and devices, even if from iPhone to iPad since iPod Touch devices don’t support SIMs. With that said, using a SIM is pivotal to today’s mobile network technology, even if they are embedded, virtual, or IoT (Internet of Things) SIM cards. Thus, it is important to understand which ones are supported, and where Apple wants to go. The knowledge is also crucial for replacing, upgrading, removing, or destroying them. Thus, let’s go over what the iPhone SIM card is.
What are SIM cards used on iPhones?
Most people are familiar with some or all SIM card sizes, and Apple only used mini-SIM, micro-SIM, nano-SIM, and embedded SIM cards on their iPhones. All these feel familiar, as they are external IC (Integrated Circuit) chips encased in a plastic rim except the last one. These SIMs are used for decades and the last two are in wide use worldwide and have been employed on the newest iPhone models up until 2021.
iPhones were always considered a desirable prestige item due to their branding and trendsetting desires, but each aforementioned size had a place as technology developed. They didn’t store a lot of user data such as apps, contacts, SMSes, and call logs like on Android and other operating systems. However, SIMs in Apple devices were and still are useful as a way to avoid roaming fees for travelers. Moreover, since Apple sells unlocked devices, they give users freedom of choice and a way to juggle multiple local and international carriers.
1. Physical SIM card on iPhone models
If you’re interested in the history of SIM cards and how it affected Apple smartphones, we have you covered. These are all physical SIM cards iPhone used from inception to the time of publication in 2022:
1. Mini SIM card for iPhones
The first Apple iPhone, released in June 2007, used a mini-SIM card, 2FF, or a “standard” SIM card. The next model, from June 2008, iPhone 3G, and the 2009 Apple iPhone 3GS also used mini SIM cards. The technology persisted until 2010, which we’ll cover next. If you’re behind the curve, don’t fret. While these models are considered obsolete and only found second-hand, you can still use them. If your carrier offers a 3-in-1 SIM card kit, that one includes mini, micro, and nano-SIM cards.
You only have to keep the plastic rim, so the size reaches 25 mm x 15 mm x 0.76 mm or 0.98 in x 0.59 in x 0.030 in, the largest after a full-size SIM card. The golden chip remained almost unchanged, both physically and in terms of storage space. The only downside is the outdated iOS version which may lack many features it once offered. However, that’s expected, considering how old these models are and how rapidly the technology grows.
2. Micro SIM cards on Apple smartphones
iPhone 4, released in June 2020, introduced micro-SIM cards or 3FF as the only compatible size. However, that only applies to the GSM SIM version or the one using the Global System for Mobile communication. That’s because iPhone 4 CDMA, released in February 2021, only supports EVDO (Evolution-Data Optimized) and CDMA SIM or Code-division Multiple Access technologies and doesn’t need one. The updated but smaller GSM model, Apple iPhone 4S, from October 2011, retained the same size, micro, as its predecessor.
3. Nano SIM cards on iPhone models
The two days Apple iPhone 5 got into the customer’s hands, September 12 and September 21 in 2012, marked another upgrade, with the implementation of the nano-SIM card or 4FF as the only option. The models that followed next year, Apple iPhone 5c and iPhone 5S in September 2013 also used nano SIM cards. Since the development of physical SIMs stopped, since 0.484 in × 0.346 in × 0.026 in or 12.3 mm × 8.8 mm × 0.67 mm was already minuscule, smartphones used this size until 2022. Apple iPhone models that use a nano-SIM card, from 2012 to 2021, are as follows:
- iPhone SE (1st generation, 2nd gen., 3rd gen.)
- iPhone 5, s, c
- iPhone 6, s, s Plus
- iPhone 7, Plus
- iPhone 8, Plus
- iPhone X, XR, XS, XS Max
- iPhone 11, Pro, Pro Max
- iPhone 12, Pro, Pro Max, mini
- iPhone 13, mini, Pro, Pro Max
2. Embedded SIM card on iPhones
If you’re wondering when was an embedded-SIM card or eSIM introduced on iPhones, the first Apple iPhone models that had embedded SIM cards were iPhone XS, iPhone XR, and iPhone XS Max released in September and October 2018. The Apple iPhone models that have embedded SIM cards are:
- iPhone X, XR, XS, XS Max
- iPhone 11, Pro Max, Pro
- iPhone 12, mini, Pro Max, Pro
- iPhone 13, Pro Max, Pro, mini
- iPhone 14, Pro, Pro Max
You may notice that nearly all devices have a place on the list of physical SIMs. That’s because Apple gave their users an option. They could use a physical SIM, mostly via a hybrid SIM slot that permits one SIM and one SD card or two SD cards. Alternatively, those who were tech-forward could download the SIM profile and use the eSIM soldered onto the motherboard. Users of iPhone 14, 14 Pro, and 14 Pro Max in the United States don’t have that choice since they can only use two embedded SIM cards. However, models for other countries still have and use a dual SIM, one nano and one eSIM, or nano and dual standby SIM.
Where is the SIM on iPhones?
The location of a SIM card on iPhones has been the topic of our guide on finding the iPhone SIM card slot. In short, it is usually on the right-hand side, either as a slot for one slim or an opening to eject the SIM card tray. If you want to swap SIMs, we covered iPhone SIM removal, too. Both guides contain useful tips on maintenance and swapping. In contrast, Apple iPhone 14 models for the United States lack the slot and tray, which may make these devices slightly thinner, but also less useful.