How to set up eSIM on the iPhone and use two lines on the same device

How to set up eSIM on the iPhone and use two lines on the same device

Since the launch of XS and XR iPhones, Apple started to accept two phone lines on the same device, with eSIM compatibility, an electronic chip embedded in the hardware.

In this article we will summarize how this feature works.



Dual SIM

Current iPhones come with the option of Dual SIM, that is, it is possible to use two operator chips, one physical (nano-SIM) and the other incorporated in the device (eSIM).

The dual chip has long existed in normally cheaper phones, including pirates. Apple was slow to implement because it is something that creates discomfort among operators, who have always put great pressure on the apple not to adopt the technology. After all, none of them want their customer to use the service of a competitor at the same time.



ESIM is a digital SIM that allows the activation of a cellular plan from your operator without needing a physical nano-SIM. The Apple Watch cell phone model has one of these inside, but it doesn’t work the same way as on the iPhone (as it creates a clone of a number that already exists).

Initially, few operators in the world support eSIM. On this page you can see an updated list of them. In Brazil, the two operators that offer this option for now are Claro and Vivo.


ESIM compatible models

Only the following iPhone models are compatible with eSIM:

  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone XS and XS Plus
  • iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone SE (2020)
  • Models released after these

If your current iPhone model is not one of the above, then you cannot activate two cell lines at the same time on it.


Using two lines at the same time

There are several good reasons why someone might want to use two cell lines on the same iPhone:

  • Have the personal number and another professional number on the same device
  • Choose between the connection and data service, depending on the price of the different plans
  • Use a local line for international travel, keeping yours active to receive messages

The iPhone can simultaneously make and receive calls and send and receive SMS from two different numbers. However, it can only use one cellular data network at a time.

When both lines are active, two operators appear when you pull up the Control Center. One is the line primary (P) and another to secondary (S).

And during normal use, you will see the sign symbol like this:

The user can make and receive calls and SMS messages from any of the lines. If one is being used and the other line receives a call, it goes directly to voicemail. Therefore, Apple suggests that you activate forwarding from one line to another, so that you do not miss important calls.

The primary line is that of the physical SIM (nano-SIM), while the secondary call is that of eSIM. You can define what the Pattern, that is, the one that will be used to send messages, make phone and FaceTime calls. You can do all of these with both numbers, but you will have to manually switch to the non-standard line if you want to use it for such purposes.

In principle, when you call a contact, iPhone will use the standard line to place the call. But you can specify a specific operator for each contact by choosing the “preferred cell plan“.

To use the data plan on the device, you must choose one of the two lines. This is done in the Adjustments.


How to activate eSIM

There are two ways to activate a line on the device’s internal eSIM:

  1. Scanning a QR code
  2. Using the operator application

That is, the activation really it depends on the operator offering the service. Without it, there is no way to activate eSIM.

At the beginning, both Claro and Vivo are activating eSIM only in physical stores, and the attendants do this. In the future, this can be done online and even receiving the code by SMS, as in other countries.

To start eSIM activation, you need to contact Settings> Mobile and touch “Add Cellular Plan“.

It will ask you to scan the QR code provided by your operator. You can also manually enter the data provided by it.

Activation can also be done directly in the operator’s application, if she makes this function available to the customer.

After activating the second line, you must configure how you want them to work on your device. You can tell which one you want to be your default number, or what will be used for cellular data.


This is basically how the two phone lines work on the iPhone. If you are traveling to another country and want to know a practical way to use eSIM, check out this other article.