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Recommended
Published: Sun, July 01, 2007
Technology | By Lena Tucker

Bad SIM cards plaguing new iPhones?

I had an interesting experience with my brand new iPhone:  it didn't work.  I would have full signal from AT&T, even in my basement (which seems to be the only provider to do so) and then all of a sudden... Nothing.  No service.  I would not get service back until I power cycled the phone at which point I would get full service back.  If I simply cycled the radio from on to off by turning the Airplane mode on then off I would get the message 'invalid SIM'.  This happened to me about 5 times in 24 hours and in different locations, so it wasn't isolated.  This told me I may have a bad SIM card and decided to pop in to an AT&T store to have it checked out (I don't think Apple can deal with SIM cards, but I may be mistaken, I only tried AT&T).

When I got to my local AT&T store the manager was on the phone with what I can only assume is someone high up at Apple or AT&T talking about the surge of SIM card replacements they have been doing.  I went to AT&T so that I could get a new SIM card and have them activate it as to avoid any registration problems in iTunes.  Alas, that's about the only thing they can't do.  It appears that AT&T can't even see any SIM information on iPhone user accounts whatsoever so all they can do is hand me a new card and have me install it and reactivate via iTunes.  I had no choice.  I got a new SIM card and decided to test and post the process here for other users that may run in to the same issue, and it appears that there are many, many users with this issue.

For those who need to install a new SIM here's what you need to do:  power off your iPhone by holding the power button atop the device for 5 seconds.  Slide your finger over the power confirmation screen.  Get a small paperclip and insert it in the small hole on the top of the iPhone.  A SIM card tray will pop out.  Remove the old SIM card and place your new SIM card into the tray with the metal side facing out.  Insert the tray back in to the iPhone and power the device back on.

The iTunes reactivation process is quite simple.  When I powered on my iPhone after inserting the new SIM it locked out and asked me to re-activate the device.  I plugged it in to iTunes and selected 'replace a line on my existing account'.  There were a couple of areas that made it look like I was going to get double billed but I advanced anyway.  When I was done I went back to the AT&T store and asked what the billing for my account would look like.  All was well, no double billing, no re-activation fee, we were golden.  If you get screens that make it look like you'll get double billed make sure to call AT&T to ensure that you won't, I can only say that my account wasn't.  The only issue I found is that my 2-year service contract started from the moment I added the new SIM, not the original activation date.  Since that was only about a 12 hour difference I didn't really care; however, if you are reading this article in our archives and have had your iPhone for a while make sure to call AT&T to see if there is a better way to activate a new SIM otherwise you'll be locked into a new 2 year contract.

After reading a bit on Twitter about users having issues I think they may want to consider the idea that they too may have a bad SIM card.  I don't know if Apple can help them at all, but AT&T was actually quite friendly and helpful.  The total transaction time was not very long and they knew exactly how to process the order in their system.  Results may vary based on location.

After replacing my SIM card I have yet to have any issues.  My iPhone has not lost connection and is whizzing along beautifully.  Seems that AT&T may have given Apple a bad batch of SIM cards, a very large bad batch. 

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