iPhone Swapping: A SIM is a SIM is a SIM?
June 11, 2009 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Two iPhones, a 2G and a 3G, on a family plan. Adding a third, a 3GS. Can I just swap the SIM cards to get the phone numbers onto the devices I want them on, or does AT&T need to get involved?

The scenario: I have two iPhones on my current family plan (actually, three, but one isn't going anywhere, so we'll leave that out of the equation). There's a 2G my wife uses, and my 3G. Miraculously, the 3GS comes out just when I started phone shopping for my daughter.

I want to get a 3GS, then "bounce" the SIMs/numbers down the line. In other words, I want the 3GS, my wife would get my current 3G, and my daughter would get the 2G. But my wife and I want to keep our numbers, and give the fresh, new number to my daughter.

In the shuffle, the new phone number SIM that comes with the 3GS would go into a 2G phone, the SIM from the 3G would go into the 3GS, and the the 2G SIM would go into the 3G. While the 3G and 3GS seem to be identical as far as AT&T is concerned, the 2G has a different plan/data with AT&T that's cheaper.

Provided all phones, including the new phone, are properly activated and running with AT&T, can I just put the SIM cards for our respective numbers into the phones I want them to be on?

My feeling is, since we'll still have the same mix of 3GS/3G/2G SIM cards running, it should all work out in the end as long as I pay. AT&T shouldn't care which SIM is in which phone. But, maybe not. Is there any need to involve AT&T in this merry-go-round, or is a SIM a SIM a SIM?
posted by pzarquon to Technology (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
all iphones, all with the same features like roadside assistance and sms packages?

you should be fine doing it yourself.
posted by phritosan at 12:32 PM on June 11, 2009

It will work. Even if you get a completely different phone, as long as it takes a SIM.

of course, the phone book and all the stuff you've put on the phone will still be there.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 12:34 PM on June 11, 2009

I would try swapping the 3G and 2G SIMs first, just to see if you get 3G data on the 3G still - the 2G SIM might be flagged as "EDGE only" in AT&T's systems. if it works, then you should just be able to swap SIM cards at will.
posted by mrg at 12:38 PM on June 11, 2009

Response by poster: phritosan: Yes, there are no "add on" services to any of the phones. We all share a tiny pool of voice minutes, and I even pay for "unlimited family SMS" (to avoid the weird disparity between how AT&T charges for text messages between the 2G and 3G).

ArgentCorvid: I just read about a guy who put his iPhone SIM into a Nokia, so I guess you're right. Fortunately, my scenario is all iPhone. Yes, I will have to sync (or, restore?) all the phones with their new "home" Macs to get the correct address books, songs, and apps onto the right phones.

posted by pzarquon at 12:40 PM on June 11, 2009

Isn't there a difference in the data plans for the 2G and the 3G/3GS? That would be my main concern, since your newest SIM card will be going into the oldest phone.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 12:40 PM on June 11, 2009

When I activated my 3G and transfered my account from my 2G, they just did it all on their end, without any need to do SIM swapping.

The bigger issue you may run into is the 2G iPhone / plan will qualify you for the $199 upgrade to the 3Gs, but the 3G plan (since it subsidized your iPhone purchase) may not be eligible to upgrade to the 3Gs for a reduced rate.

You could try to upgrade the 2G to the 3Gs, and then add on the 2G with another plan later. You could then see if ATT will swap numbers between those two phones after you have done it.
posted by mrzarquon at 12:41 PM on June 11, 2009

Your phone number, plan, etc are all on the SIM card, not the phone. It doesn't really matter what phone your SIM card is in unless you have an iphone data plan and put your SIM in a blackberry. You should have no problem just switching them out yourself.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 12:48 PM on June 11, 2009

Response by poster: mrzarquon: Fortunately, I'm not upgrading, I'm adding the 3GS, and I've confirmed that doing so gives me the $199/$299 pricing. I know I can get AT&T to move things around, but like many geeks, if I can move these numbers around on my own at home (especially since the 3GS would be shipped to me at home), I'd rather do it myself. Nice username, by the way.

peanut_mcgillicuty: Yes. I'll probably try what mrg suggests to see if putting my wife's 2G SIM in my 3G iPhone will give her 3G speed, or if she'll only get EDGE because of the SIM. One CNET video on iPhone SIMs notes that the 2G iPhones had 3G SIMs in them, even though that hardware only had an EDGE radio, so I'm hopeful that the network is limited by the iPhone hardware, not the SIM.
posted by pzarquon at 12:50 PM on June 11, 2009

You can always ask AT&T. :-) The local store near me in NYC (44th & Lexington) has friendly people in it who are always willing to answer technical questions - the one rep who was not vanished quickly. Given that you have 2 lines and are adding a third, you're a good paying customer looking to give them more money, they are likely to help you out the best they can. It's not like you're trying to jailbreak them or such.

I'd ask in person, though, since face-to-face usually gets better results than over the phone.

AT&T does track some information with what hardware goes with what SIM - they were able to tell that I swapped SIMs between two Blackberries when one died. It wasn't an issue (CEO outranks the other BB user, and we didn't have a spare), but they did notice it when I got the dead one replaced.
posted by GJSchaller at 1:41 PM on June 11, 2009

Best answer: My guess is that due to the differences in the 2G and 3G data plan, AT&T will have to get involved.
posted by joshrholloway at 2:15 PM on June 11, 2009

My husband was given a 3G by his job when they first came out. He didn't upgrade the data plan immediately and he received this text (and other related messages) from AT&T until he upgraded:

"AT&T Free Msg: Your data plan is ineligible for iPhone 3G. To prevent excess charges and enable Visual Voicemail, contact your telecom manager or AT&T"

So they can tell if you change SIMs around and you will need to talk to them if you change SIMs between phones with different data plans.
posted by immlass at 2:55 PM on June 11, 2009

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