Which iPhones Can Use International SIM Cards

The ease of using an international SIM card on your iPhone on a trip outside North America can be particularly useful whether it is a business trip or a retreat with your family and friends for a few days. However, in order for you to use an international SIM card on your iPhone, it must be equipped with a SIM card slot.

In this post, we discuss the reasons why some iPhones do not have a SIM card reader and the importance of having one, how to check what network your iPhone is on and what to do if your iPhone does not come equipped with a SIM card slot.


GSM Vs CDMA Networks

The main reason why there are iPhones without SIM card readers is because of your phone's network and the model of your iPhone. In the US and Canada, there are two main phone networks, GSM and CDMA.

GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network phones, such as T-Mobile and AT&T, require a SIM card to operate the phone. Since all the customer data is contained in the SIM card, you can easily swap and insert it in any unlocked GSM iPhone, whilst ensuring that all data contained in the SIM card is accessible through whatever phone you use.

In contrast, CDMA carriers (i.e. Sprint and Verizon) use network-based white lists to verify their subscribers instead of housing the customer data on a SIM card. Therefore, most CDMA phones do not have SIM card readers. However, due to the global popularity of the GSM network and the new 4G LTE network, Apple added international GSM SIM card readers to CDMA compliant iPhone 5 and newer models. This allows the phone owners to use the CDMA iPhone on their carrier's LTE network or use an international SIM cards while abroad.

Note: In order to use an international SIM card, both GSM and CDMA (with SIM card slot) phones must be unlocked.


How to Check If your iPhone Network Is GSM or CDMA?

You can check what network your iPhone is by simply turning over and looking at what model it is alongside the string number. The model number will usually start with ‘A1’ and either be GSM, CDMA, or dual GSM and CDMA iPhones. Check Apple's Support page here to learn how to identify your iPhone model.

In case, the number of the model is not clearly visible due to it being worn off, you can still find out what network carrier it is on by identifying the device on iTunes. You should be able to find what network the phone is on it.

Alternatively, you can open Settings on your iPhone and then click on About and check the details under the Carrier or Network option. The information provided can then be used to determine if your iPhone is GSM or CDMA.

Below is a list of iPhone models from iPhone 4 onwards and its compatibility with International SIM cards.


Compatible with International SIM Card

iPhone XS Max
iPhone XS
iPhone XR
iPhone X
iPhone 8
iPhone 8 Plus

iPhone 7

iPhone 7 Plus

iPhone 6s

iPhone 6s Plus

iPhone 6

iPhone 6 Plus

iPhone SE

iPhone 5s

iPhone 5c

iPhone 5

iPhone 4s

iPhone 4 GSM model

iPhone 4 CDMA model



What to Do If Your iPhone Does Not Have A SIM Card Slot

The number one criteria for using an international SIM card is the presence of a GSM SIM card reader on your phone. So what are your choices if your iPhone does not come with one and you want to use an international SIM card when traveling abroad? Here are a few options:

  1. Ask your carrier if they have a World Phone (a GSM phone that works in most countries) rental program for CDMA phone subscribers.
  2. Rent a World Phone from the airport or other independent companies before you leave home
  3. Purchase a budget smart phone that has a GSM SIM card reader and can work globally

Wraptel provides international SIM cards that offer low cost Talk, Text and Data in more than 200 countries around the world. For more information on our excellent offers, please click here. To learn more on how to unlock mobile devices, click here.