Ask LH: Can I Swap SIMs Into My New Phone?

Ask LH: Can I Swap SIMs Into My New Phone?

Dear Lifehacker, I have an old phone with a brand new pre-paid Vodafone SIM in it. I am considering getting a new smartphone. Can I just stick the new SIM in the phone and use the 3G network when browsing? Thanks, Mr Confused

Picture: Getty Images

Dear MC,

In general, there shouldn’t be an issue shifting a SIM card from phone to phone, especially if it is, as you say, a brand new Vodafone SIM, because that’ll obviate any issues that could be present with an exceptionally old SIM card.

There are a few traps to be aware of, however. For a start, unless you’re switching to a phone under contract to Vodafone, or buying outright, the chances are good that the phone you’ll switch to is network locked. Telcos will unlock phones that are out of contract, but whether they charge a fee to do this varies somewhat. A locked Telstra phone won’t work with Vodafone, and vice versa, in other words.

Presuming you leap that hurdle, the only other detail you may need to deal with is getting the correct APN details onto the phone of your choice. This varies a little from smartphone operating system to system, but the telcos tend to have good guides as to how to make this happen on their web sites.

If all else fails, it’s not actually that costly to get yourself a new SIM card. If you want to stick with the same network you can generally get a replacement SIM for nothing, because the telcos tend to try to keep customers rather than lose them over a tiny chunk of silicon and plastic. If you’re looking further afield, our guide to the best prepaid deals should be your first stop.


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  • On newer smartphones you shouldn’t need to change the APN at all, as the change in sim card will be detected by the operating system and handled automatically.

    The Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One for example definitely do this as I have used them both overseas.

    It’s worth noting that Vodafone also lock phones on contract, but unlocking them is free.

    • They should. I have an iPhone 4S, bought it unlocked and everything worked fine including data – didn’t have to put in an APN. However, my mother recently had hers (same model) unlocked from Optus, switching to TPG. She can’t connect to the internet on it and there’s no way to put an APN (not to mention TPG runs off Optus’ network anyway iirc, so they both use “yesoptus” or something similar).

      • Apple is different. They use “carrier settings” pushed by the operating system. You need to update these in itunes, or the carrier can push them down to you remotely, then it will work.

  • One minor thing that you neglected to mention:

    If your new smartphone is an iPhone 4, iPhone 5, or Samsung Galaxy S3, they don’t take a standard SIM card.

    There are three types of SIM card that can be accepted by modern phones:
    1. Standard Sim (Nokia’s, HTC’s, old Samsung phones, iPhone 1,2,3)
    2. Micro Sim (iPhone 4, Samsung Galaxy S3)
    3. Nano Sim (iPhone 5, iPhone 5s)

    So, if you’re going out and buying a new smartphone, the answer is probably No. You cannot just grab your sim card and swap it into the new phone (you can cut a standard Sim into a Micro Sim, but you’re never going to be able to use it as a standard Sim again)

    • Good point.

      Micro SIM is now used by all new smart phones as a default standard. There are still some cheap phones that take a standard sim though.

      As a general rule, pretty well all 4G enabled smart phones take micro sim, unless it’s apple which is nano, but to add to your list:
      All Nokia Lumia phones
      Samsung S3, S4, Note 2, Note 3
      All Sony Xperia phones
      now take micro sim

  • How did this article provide so little information that is if any benefit to society?

    • That’s incorrect i’m sorry. I’ve had contract phones on Vodafone and they are definitely locked. Most of them are locked on prepaid also.

      Paying $2 to an ebay seller and providing your IMEI (serial) number will get an unlock code for you, but that’s a different story 🙂

  • Check what frequencies the phone is designed for!!!! Your top end phones will generally pick them all up but that’s about it.

    eg Optus 900mhz, Telstra 850mhz, plus the several new 4G bands around these days.

  • I just bought a Galaxy A3 but my old Sim card from Amaysim is to big ..can I use any other sim from another carrier or do I have to get it from Amaysim as im just on month to month with them …

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