Although most iPhone users have cellular plans from carriers, some people choose to forgo the expensive plan and SIM card. Parents frequently give old iPhones without SIM cards or cellular service plans to their kids so that the child can communicate with their friends over iMessage and social media apps without needing to pay for a plan from a carrier. iPhones without SIM cards are effectively equivalent to iPod Touches or very small iPads.
Although using an iPhone without a SIM card is generally easy, there are some cases in which activation is seemingly impossible. If you are having trouble activating your iPhone without a SIM card or problems occur after setting it up, you’ve come to the right place
Activating an iPhone Without a SIM Card
In general, iPhones purchased “locked” to a carrier cannot be activated without a SIM card. Locked cell phones are tied to a particular carrier for a certain period of time, usually until a payment plan has been paid off or a contract expires. However, even if the iPhone you are trying to activate is locked to a carrier, it may still be possible to activate the phone.
Method 1: Use iTunes
If you have access to a Mac or Windows PC, you can use iTunes to set up and activate an iPhone, assuming that it is not locked to a carrier.
- Plug your iPhone into your computer and open iTunes (or Finder on macOS Catalina and above).
- If you see a pop-up message that says “There is no SIM card installed in the iPhone you are attempting to activate”, you’ll need to skip to the next section. This means that your phone is locked to a carrier.
- Otherwise, you’ll see instructions from iTunes for activating your iPhone. Follow the prompts in iTunes and on the screen of your iPhone.
Method 2: Borrow a SIM Card
If your phone turns out to be locked or you are having some other issue setting up your iPhone, you can instead borrow a SIM card from a friend. If your friend uses the same carrier as the phone is locked to, you should be able to activate the iPhone using the friend’s SIM card and then remove the SIM card once the device is activated. The SIM tray removal tool that comes with every iPhone will be necessary to add and remove SIM cards from each iPhone.
If All Else Fails
Although these solutions cover the vast majority of cases where an iPhone cannot be activated without a SIM card, they may fail in some extreme situations. Jailbreaking your iPhone may be the only way to bypass the setup process, although it will void your warranty and it may be risky.
As iOS updates patch security bugs used for jailbreaking purposes, techniques for jailbreaking iPhones are constantly changing. However, if the iPhone in question is an iPhone X or older, the checkrain jailbreak will work regardless of the iOS version, as it exploits a BootROM vulnerability that Apple cannot fix.