A guide to SIM cards, the small chips that connect your phone to a cellular network

Sim cardTongchai Cherdchew / EyeEm/Getty ImagesSIM cards are tiny chips stored inside many cell phones.
  • A SIM card, or subscriber identity module, is a small card in your cellphone that connects you to the network.
  • Your SIM card contains your phone number, and lets you make phone calls, send text messages, and more.
  • SIM cards have evolved over the years and come in several sizes, including mini-, micro-, and nano-SIMs.
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Most mobile phones rely on a small card called a SIM (subscriber identity module) to make phone calls and send text messages. Without it, your phone isn’t able to connect with the cellular network and can only function as an internet device (the lack of a SIM card doesn’t prevent your phone from using Wi-Fi).

What to know about SIM cards

A SIM card is important because it stores your phone number and other important information. Generally, you can transfer one SIM card between two phones and the new phone will inherit your phone number without issue.

SD card SIM card being inserted into Android phonePheelings Media/Getty ImagesA SIM card identifies you on the wireless network.

Most SIM cards are provided by phone companies, and contain some basic identifying information like serial numbers and identifying codes. These let the network know what your phone number is, and what phone carrier you use (T-Mobile, Verizon, etc.).

SIM cards can carry a great deal of data, like your contact list and text messages. If you change phones, as long as you keep the SIM card, these contacts and text messages will come with you to the new phone.

How to remove a SIM card

SIM cards vary in size, but they all work the same way – they’re designed to be easily transferred between phones. Your phone probably came with a small SIM card removal tool (it looks like a small pin), but if you’ve misplaced yours, you can use a small paperclip.

Find the SIM tray on the side of your phone and insert the SIM tool or paperclip in the hole; the tray should pop out easily.

What is a SIM card 2Dave Johnson/InsiderA SIM card in its tray with a SIM removal tool.

For more details on how to do this, see our articles on how to remove the SIM card from an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phone. If you have a different phone, no worries: The technique is almost exactly the same. If you have any trouble, check out our article on how to troubleshoot an invalid SIM.

How to find out your iPhone’s cellular carrier without a SIM card‘Why does my iPhone say invalid SIM?’: 6 ways to troubleshoot your iPhone and SIM card if they aren’t connectingHow to enable and use Wi-Fi calling on your Android or iPhone to make calls without cellular serviceWhat is Wi-Fi calling? Everything you need to know about making calls using Wi-Fi instead of a cellular connection

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