While dual SIM technology has been around for several years now, the new iPhone X series (XS, XS Max, and XR) marks the first time it’s been available in an iPhone. But what does that mean?

What Does “Dual SIM” Mean?

If you’re a lifelong iPhone user, this might be the first time you’ve encountered the term “dual SIM,” so a bit of explanation is in order. For starters, it’s exactly what it sounds like: you have two SIM slots in your phone instead of just one. This way, you can have two phone numbers—even from two different carriers—all on one phone. The phone will seamlessly switch between the two SIM cards for calls, texts, and data.

Historically, this meant dual SIM phones have needed two physical SIM card slots. In the case of the new iPhone X series, however, it’s using a single nanoSIM—the same type of slot iPhones have used since the iPhone 4—along with a new eSIM slot.

eSIM, or “embedded SIM,” is a new type of non-removable SIM card that carriers can program. This means switching carriers doesn’t require a SIM swap; you won’t even have to walk into a brick and mortar store since carriers can program the eSIM remotely. You’ll even be able to program it yourself with an app.

RELATED: What Is an eSIM, and How Is It Different From a SIM Card?

Dual SIM is great for anyone with two phones numbers—like a personal number and business number, for example. It’s also great for international travel, as you can keep your home SIM in one slot, then add your international SIM to the second.

Note: The Chinese iPhone X series phones will have two SIM slots instead of using eSIM.

Cool, So Who Supports eSIM?

In its current state, eSIM is still relatively new tech—especially in phones. The Apple Watch has been using eSIM for a bit, and some smarthome tech also supports it. For phones, however, it’s not as common yet.

At the time of this writing, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile all support eSIM, so you’ll be able to switch between them quickly and easily. Then you can drop your work or international SIM card into the available slot on your iPhone.

If you’re on another carrier, well, you’re out of luck for the time being. That does not mean you won’t be able to use a new iPhone on your carrier, of course—it just means that the eSIM won’t be active and you’ll be limited to a single SIM slot.

In other words, nothing changes for you. Easy peasy.

Cameron Summerson Cameron Summerson
Cameron Summerson is How-To Geek's Senior Editor. He’s been covering technology for nearly a decade and has written over 4,000 posts and hundreds of product reviews in that time. He’s been published in print magazines and quoted as a smartphone expert in the New York Times.
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