How to activate and use an iPhone without a SIM

How to activate and use an iPhone without a SIM

If you have a spare iPhone that you want to pass on to a child to use without a SIM card, or someone has given you an old iPhone that you want to use like an iPod touch or an iPad, because you don’t have a SIM card available, you may be wondering how to activate the iPhone without putting a SIM card in the SIM tray.

You’ll be glad to know there is a way to activate the iPhone without it needing a SIM card.

You may also be looking for a way to activate the iPhone without needing to be connected to a WiFi network. We have a method that will allow you to do this too.

There are various ways of activating an iPhone without using a SIM or a Wi-Fi connection, and we cover them all in this article. Not all methods are guaranteed to work for you, so be ready to try a couple of them.

Expect this process to be more challenging if your iPhone is locked to a certain carrier. For the purposes of this tutorial we will assume you’ve got an unlocked iPhone or have access to a carrier-specific SIM that you can use temporarily. If not, find out how to unlock an iPhone so you can use any SIM and How to fix the “could not activate iPhone” error.

This guide covers all handset generations from the iPhone 3GS to the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus and the iPhone X.

Activate your iPhone using someone else’s SIM

There are some methods described below that may make it possible for you to activate your iPhone without using a SIM, but by far the easiest way to activate an iPhone so you can use it without a SIM – just accessing data via WiFi so you can use it like you would an iPad or an iPod touch – is to borrow someone elses SIM and activate it, and then remove the SIM and hand it back. Here’s how:

What you’ll need:

  • A SIM removing tool
  • A nice friend who’ll let you borrow a SIM
  • If your iPhone is locked to a particular carrier you may need to make sure the SIM you borrow is from the same network
  • Access to a WiFi network

How to activate your iPhone:

  1. Remove the SIM from the other iPhone
  2. Place it in your iPhone
  3. Go through the usual set up options, including logging on to your WiFi network
  4. Wait while the iPhone activates
  5. Remove the SIM and hand it back to your friend
  6. You can now use your iPhone, you just won’t be able to make phone calls (unless you do so using Skype, FaceBook Messenger, Whatsapp, or FaceTime)

Activate your iPhone using iTunes

This method might work for you, but appears to depend on whether the phone is locked to a particular network. If your phone is locked to a network, read this article: How to unlock an iPhone.

If your phone is locked to a particular network and you have a SIM from that network handy you are best off activating the phone using the method described above. The only reason you might want to use the iTunes method here is if you have no WiFi access.

What you’ll need:

  • An unlocked iPhone
  • A computer running iTunes

How to activate your iPhone

  1. Check your iTunes is up-to-date, or if you haven’t already got iTunes, download it for free through Apple’s website.
  2. Once you’ve installed iTunes, connect your iPhone to your computer.
  3. You may see an onscreen prompt saying that “There is no SIM card installed in the iPhone you are attempting to activate”, which indicates that the phone is locked to a particular carrier. In which case, you need to find a suitable SIM to borrow so you can activate the iPhone. You will only need to use the SIM during activation. (And if you are using a SIM you won’t need to activate via iTunes). See the above method to activate your iPhone.
  4. Assuming the phone isn’t locked to a carrier you will see an onscreen prompt in iTunes explaining what you need to do and the details you need to fill in to activate your iPhone.
  5. Once activated, you’ll be able to use your iPhone on a WiFi network, just as if it was an iPad or an iPod touch.

Activate your iPhone using the emergency call feature

You may have seen reports suggesting that you can activate an iPhone without a SIM card by calling the emergency services.

Not only do we want to disuade you from calling the emergency services unnecessarily, we also warn you that when we tried this method out it didn’t work at all. We believe that it has been patched.

Jailbreak your iPhone

If all else fails you can always attempt to jailbreak your iPhone. This does void your warranty, but if you’ve got an old iPhone that’s carrier-locked, it might be the best way to get it working again.

We’ve got a full guide on how to jailbreak an iPhone or iPad, which will go through the ways to jailbreak your iPhone and hopefully allow you to activate and unlock it.

Let us know in the comments below what worked for you or if you’ve got any new methods you’ve discovered.


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