I said in my previous post that I was not thrilled Apple decided to remove physical SIM card slot from the new iPhone 14 models sold in the US as that would make traveling outside of the country more troublesome. But that wasn't big enough of an issue for me to not pre-order the new iPhone 14 Pro. I'm sure I could figure something out when the time comes.
So to get ahead of the iPhone release day, I figured I should convert my current physical SIM card in my iPhone 12 Pro to be eSIM. iPhones have had support for eSIM since the iPhone XS released in 2018, I just never bothered to get on the bandwagon.
Apple has a handy support page outlining pretty much all you need to know about eSIM on iPhone. All I had to do was following the instructions on that page on how to convert physical SIM to eSIM and I was done in less than 5 minutes. For some carriers you would have to go through hoops to do this conversion, but with my AT&T SIM there was that "Convert to eSIM" button that took care of everything I needed right in the Settings app. So credits to AT&T on that.
The iPhone day came and I was able to transfer the eSIM to my iPhone 14 Pro without a hiccup even though AT&T service at my place has been utterly garbage since moving to Colorado.
Switching Carrier While on eSIM
Since AT&T service was so bad and full of dead zones here in Colorado, I decided that it's time to switch. My plan wasn't that great either as I only got 4GB of 4G data, and to upgrade to 5G with more data would cost more than I was willing to pay for.
Jess uses T-mobile and she is getting much better coverage around these parts, including 5G. Verizon Wireless was a no-go as I need a GSM phone for traveling so T-mobile was really my only option. But their cheapest plan was still more expensive than I'd like.
I had been hearing about Mint Mobile recently, and since it uses the T-mobile network I decided to check it out.
Trial with Mint Mobile
Mint Mobile offers a free 7-day trial and it could be activated right within their app (which is a much better app than AT&T app). It walked me through the steps and installed a new eSIM on my phone. Within minutes, I had a brand-new network active on my phone alongside my existing AT&T plan. No need to wait for the physical SIM card to arrive in the mail.
This was my first experience with dual SIM on my phone and I was really impressed at how nice and easy it was to configure and manage the two eSIMs on iOS. I could select which number to use for voice or data. So I could use my AT&T number for voice and Mint Mobile for data. The coolest part was the phone can automatically switch the data network depending on which one currently has better service.
Transferring Number and Activating Mint Mobile Service
It didn't take much for me to be convinced by Mint Mobile. The bar was already pretty low to begin with (no pun intended). Their plan is significantly cheaper too. I picked their 10GB plan with 5G that costs only $20 a month for the first 3 months, and $35 a month for 3 months after that. One thing to note is with Mint Mobile, you have to pay 3, 6, or 12 months in advance, which makes sense given how low their prices are.
I was paying AT&T $55 a month for my measly plan. So I’m now paying almost 2 times less per month and get more than twice the data, including 5G.
Similar to the trial, after I purchased the plan, I did the number transfer and activation right in the app. Again, the process was really smooth. I'm documenting it here in case it might be useful to others.
In your AT&T account, go to your profile page, and select the "People & permissions" tab.
Scroll down to the "Transfer phone number" section and select "Request a new PIN". This will generate a six-digit PIN that you'll need to provide to transfer the number to another provider. Also take note of the account number at the top of the page.
In the Mint Mobile app, in the activation flow, put in your AT&T account number and PIN when prompted. They will submit the number transfer request with AT&T.
You should receive a text from Mint saying that the number failed to transfer. But don't retry yet as you should also get a text from AT&T saying that they received a request to transfer your number. Follow the instructions by replying with the code in the text.
Now that you've authorized AT&T to transfer the number, resubmit the transfer request in the Mint Mobile app. This now should go through successfully.
It's probably a good idea to restart your phone at this point.
Now in Settings > Cellular, you should see two eSIMs listed both with your number. You can tell that the transfer went successfully since your number is now associated to an eSIM on Mint network, and the AT&T line shows no service. You can turn off and/or delete the old eSIM and everything should now be working.
From buying the plan to transferring my number and activating it on my phone, the whole process took less than an hour in the comfort of my home. There was no customer representative I needed to talk to, no waiting for the SIM card in the mail, or visiting a store to activate the plan. I must say I am pretty sold on the eSIM lifestyle.
I imagine once this is more widely adopted in the coming years, we’ll all look back and think how archaic it was that we needed a hole in our phone for a tiny plastic card so that we could get cell service on it, just like needing a CD drive in computers so we could play movies.
It would no doubt be a bit annoying when I go to Thailand. This Apple support page does list a couple of carriers in Thailand that support eSIM, and my research on their websites seem to suggest that I should be able to activate a phone plan with eSIM while I’m there. I’ll update this post with my experience on that.