Are you planning on taking your SIM card out of your current phone, and putting it inside of a new phone?

Many people have questions regarding what actually happens when the SIM card is transferred, as well as what data moves to the new phone along with it.

In this article, I’ll be covering in detail what exactly you can expect when the SIM card is placed into the new phone.

Let’s get into it!

What Will Happen If You Put Your SIM Card In Another Phone?

SIM Card

Although moving a SIM card to a new phone sounds like a big deal the first time you do it, the reality is that it is fairly anticlimactic.

Typically, what will happen is that calls will simply be routed from your old phone, to the new phone instead. Likewise, if you take the SIM card out and place it back into the old phone, that phone will start receiving calls again.

The way SIM cards work is actually pretty straightforward. Many people believe that SIM cards are responsible for providing you your phone number, but that isn’t exactly true.

Instead, SIM cards essentially act as an identifier for the account you have with your cellular carrier. It’s almost as if it communicates with your cellular provider, saying, “hey, this phone belongs to this account. Look up their phone number and the plan they have with you, so we can provide them with service.”

Because a SIM card can only be used on one phone at a time, the phone that has the SIM card inside of it will be able to use your plan – receiving phone calls, SMS texts, and using the carrier’s cellular network to browse the internet.

Meanwhile, the old phone will lose these privileges.

There is one exception to this, however.

If the new phone you’re putting the SIM card is locked by a different carrier, it will reject your SIM card and refuse to work with it.

What Does It Mean For A Phone To Be Locked, And How Do You Unlock It?

Most people don’t experience what it’s like for a phone to be locked, until they try putting a new SIM card into their phone!

When a phone is locked, it essentially means it will only accept SIM cards from a certain carrier – most often, the one that the phone was originally purchased from.

This is because many carriers subsidize the cost of phones by requiring a contract for a certain number of months. If a carrier can guarantee you’ll purchase cellular service them for a minimum of three years for example, they may be able to sell you the phone at a substantial discount.

While most phones can be purchased in an unlocked state, this may come with a significant cost upfront – upwards of $1,000 for the newest iPhones, for example.

So, how do you get a phone unlocked?

Unlocks typically need to be carried out by the specific carrier the phone is locked to. If your phone is eligible to be unlocked, you can submit an unlock request, which typically takes a few business days to complete.

AT&T for example allows you to do this directly through their website, within your account portal.

Contact your specific carrier for assistance. They will be able to help you with the unlock process. For reference, here are the phone numbers of the four largest cellular providers in the United States:

AT&T: 1-800-331-0500

Verizon: 1-800-837-4966

T-Mobile: 1-800-937-8997

Sprint: 1-888-211-4727

Will Contacts Be Transferred When You Move The SIM To A New Phone?

Are contacts stored on your phone’s SIM card, and will they be automatically moved to the new phone when you transfer the SIM?

For most modern smartphones, the answer is no.

In the past, it was common practice for SIM cards to also store the phone’s contacts. SIM cards have very little additional memory, and contacts were small enough to be stored on them without any issues.

So, since typing out a large address book on a small keypad took such a long time, storing the contacts on the SIM card was very convenient.

However, it is no longer common practice for SIM cards to store your contacts. Not only is it a potential security risk, but it also isn’t that necessary.

iPhone allows you to automatically save your contacts to iCloud, and Android also allows you to save them to your Google account.

This means you can simply log into your account on the new phone, and sync your contacts should you wish to do so.

Ultimately this is a much more secure solution, which makes storing contacts on the SIM card obsolete.

Will Any Other Data Be Transferred With The SIM Card?

With contacts out of the way, let’s now focus on other data. Will any other information (such as text messages or photos) be transferred along with the SIM card?

The answer is no here as well.

While older cell phones used to sometimes store SMS messages on the SIM card, this is no longer common practice. Meanwhile, larger data like photos, videos, apps and other media are far too large to fit on the SIM card’s limited storage space.

If you want to transfer these without syncing them to cloud storage and redownloading them, it’s easiest to use an SD card instead, if your phone supports one. For more information on SD vs SIM cards, click here.

Again, this is actually a good thing. If all of this data was left on the SIM card, it would be trivial for someone to bypass your phone’s lock screen, and steal your data directly off the card itself.

So, phone manufacturers are right to restrict this data to the phone’s internal storage, and prevent any of it from ending up on the SIM card itself.


Most of the time, the only thing that will happen when you move a SIM card to the new phone is that phone will be provided service by your carrier.

All calls to your phone number will be routed to that phone instead, and your old phone will lose access to carrier features like calling, SMS, and cellular data.

I hope that you’ve found this article helpful, and it managed to answer all of your questions about transferring your SIM. If you have any other questions about SIM cards, please ask them using the comment form below.

Wishing you the best,

– James McAllister

About the author 

James McAllister

James is the owner of He started his first blog at the age of 11, and has since gone on to start several successful businesses. In total, these businesses have sold hundreds of thousands of units and have touched millions of lives. Here on, he shares his knowledge that brought him to where he is today. If you want to connect with James, follow him on your favorite social networks!

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