Since the rollout of the original iPhone in 2007, Apple has been one of the top five smartphone providers in the world. At the end of 2020, Apple held 13.9 percent of the global smartphone market share. That’s one in six people worldwide.

While it’s totally safe to bring your iPhone with you (provided you do a few things ahead of time) on your travels, it’s not always obvious that you’ve got options when it comes to getting service abroad.

One of those options is an international SIM card. No – that’s not a local SIM card.

Here’s a close look at international SIM cards for iPhones, including what they are and how they can help you stay connected anywhere you go.

What is an International SIM Card?

Despite what many carriers would prefer people to believe, mobile data doesn’t stop at international borders. A carrier’s infrastructure might, but that’s becoming less and less true as cellular technology advances. (According to Ericsson, global 4G penetration reached 80 percent in 2019).

So, what if you could access mobile data internationally with a single SIM card – minus all the exorbitant roaming charges that carriers love to ladle onto your bill?

As it turns out, you can.

An international SIM card is a special class of SIM cards that work anywhere mobile data exists on earth. It’s one card, one bill, one data package – and often also one phone number. Some examples include:

International SIM cards are one of the preferred routes for many people who travel abroad frequently, especially when their travels aren’t limited to a specific region or continent. Here’s why:

The Advantages of an International SIM Card

International SIM cards have a lot of advantages over other solutions for mobile data while traveling. In addition to condensing multi-country cell service into one card, it also:

  • Provides better coverage. International SIM cards are designed for traveling. They’ll typically provide better coverage than international roaming or local SIM cards.
  • Has much better rates than international roaming. The bill associated with an international SIM card is often comparable with your bill at home.
  • Keeps everything in one language. There’s no fiddling with interfaces in foreign languages working out exactly what a package entails.
  • Can be managed online. Most services provide one portal for everything.

What’s the Difference Between an eSIM, a Local SIM, and an International SIM Card for iPhones?

International SIM cards are a lesser-known but convenient option for travelers, and their somewhat generic term still causes confusion from time to time. (Search “international SIM cards for iPhones” in Google and you might still get tips on using your iPhone abroad, for instance.)

Here’s a quick look at the differences between international eSIMs, local SIM cards, and international SIM cards for iPhones.

1. It’s Still a Physical Card You’ll Need to Purchase Before You Travel

Unlike the Discover global eSIM, an international SIM card is a physical card. That means you’ll need to purchase and activate it before you head off on your trip.

We recommend that you plan for shipping to take at least a week so that you have ample time to handle any situations that might arise with activating it.

Likewise, make sure that your iPhone is unlocked. Like other third-party SIM cards, international SIM cards won’t work on a locked phone.

2. It’s One Size Fits All – There aren’t Options for certain Countries

International SIM cards are specifically geared toward travelers who are frequently travelling around the world. They’re designed to take the stress out of having to track down a local SIM card at every new stop, or the hassle of dealing with a domestic carrier that wants to charge you for using data abroad. For example, Discover Global eSIM from Airalo covers 94 countries, so you can experience connectivity with no borders.

For people on ship crews or business travelers moving between international offices, that’s super convenient.

However, if you’re just headed to one country or even a region, a global SIM card might seem like overkill. Consider whether or not an international SIM card will cause you to pay for service you simply don’t need. In that case, a country-specific eSIM or even a regional eSIM might be a better choice.

3. You Can Use Dual SIM with eSIM

If you’ve got an iPhone XR or newer, your phone supports eSIM. That means there’s one other thing you can do with your international SIM card – use it in tandem with an eSIM.

An eSIM data pack can supplement your mobile data if you’re going to spend some time in a specific area. It can help you avoid eating up the roaming data on your SIM card while letting you access mobile data at local rates.

Likewise, since most international SIM cards will give you a phone number, you’ll still be able to call or text on that number while you travel. And if you don’t need your international SIM card for a little while? It’s easy to turn lines on or off on your iPhone.

Here are a few more tricks for using eSIM on an iPhone.

Considering International SIM Cards for iPhones? Get a Global eSIM

It’s completely possible to use international SIM cards with iPhones. Depending on your travel plans, an international SIM card can be a convenient, cost-effective option. However, there are still challenges associated with physical SIM cards and traveling abroad. From having to remove your current SIM card to getting your international SIM card shipped to you in time, there’s a lot to manage.

A global eSIM is so much easier. Or you can just browse other country packages available in Airalo eSIM store, get everything you need in one stop, and activate your data plans whenever and wherever you want. Really, what’s not to love?

To get a local SIM card or not to get a local SIM card – it’s not a worry when you choose an eSIM. Explore eSIMs for 190+ countries and regions.