The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro may ditch SIM cards in favor of eSIM in the United States, but there’s a reason why following Apple’s setup instructions for your brand new smartphone might not be such a good idea. The decision to abandon the physical SIM tray in favor of eSIM only was arguably the most contentious aspect of Apple’s big iPhone announcement in September 2022, at least for the US market. It’s a decision with advantages and disadvantages.
eSIM support is not new to the iPhone, and the iPhone 13 series was capable of supporting two active eSIM accounts at the same time. This year, however, there is no option for US users to insert a physical SIM card. Instead, a “virtual SIM” built into the phone is provisioned. Some have criticized this for potentially limiting flexibility, as it forces owners of the iPhone 14 series to rely on carriers that support eSIM.
At the same time, the switch has some advantages. One of the most significant is security: because the eSIM is an integral part of the phone, a thief will no longer be able to remove the iPhone SIM card and deactivate location tracking. Arguments in either direction are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, but if you’re about to set up a new iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Pro, or iPhone 14 Pro Max, there’s something you should keep in mind.
eSIM switching is quick but an iPhone restore isn’t
The transfer from an existing iPhone is actually quite simple, as long as you’re running iOS 16.0.1, which fixes an activation error that Apple admitted some users were experiencing. When everything is working properly — as we discovered in our iPhone 14 review — it only takes a few minutes to transfer an account from one iPhone to the other, regardless of whether you’re using a physical SIM card or an eSIM.
The problem is that restoring your new iPhone 14 from a backup slows down the rest of the iPhone setup process. Whether wired (from a Mac or PC) or via iCloud, the process of restoring photos, videos, apps, and other data can take a long time. Because iOS 16 prompts you to transfer your eSIM prior to that point, your phone number and data connection are effectively trapped on the new iPhone while it slowly restores.
You can actually wait to set up eSIM
Of course, with a physical SIM, you could simply remove it and replace it in your old phone while you wait. When you consider that restoring from a backup can take several hours, depending on the amount of data you’re transferring, that’s a long time. However, switching physical cards with an iPhone 14 is not possible in the United States. However, there is a way to postpone the transfer to iPhone 14 eSIM while still setting up your new device.
iOS 16 allows you to pause eSIM activation while still completing the rest of the iPhone setup. That way, you can ensure that all of your data is properly transferred before going into Settings and going through the (very simple) eSIM process. This won’t be an issue if you’re setting up a brand new iPhone 14, but those upgrading from an earlier version of Apple’s smartphone may want to deviate from the way the Cupertino company would prefer you set things up in order to maintain maximum flexibility.