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What is the lifespan of a SIM card? Should I Replace Mine?

What is the lifespan of a SIM card? Should I Replace Mine?

The SIM card is the bridge between your smartphone and your network provider. A connection to a cellular network is only possible with this identification. The card has the additional function of storing some of your data.

The lifetime of the SIM card is based on the manufacturing quality, design and usage pattern. However, people generally use the same card for up to 8 years. Despite this, faults can occur and the SIM can become defective at any time during that timespan. 

How long does a SIM card last in a cell phone?

SIM cards do not have an unlimited lifespan because every time the SIM card registers in the cellular network, it “ages”. The more often a SIM card registers in a cellular network, the shorter its service life. 

Newer SIM cards easily manage 500,000 registrations over their lifetime. 

Some SIM cards have a kind of lifespan counter inside that logs every switch on and off. When the counter reaches zero, the card is automatically deactivated.

Also, the SIM cards used in cellular communications are not always durable and wear outs.  Most SIM cards can be used for many years, but there are exceptions. In individual cases there may be manufacturing errors that do not become apparent immediately.

Other factors that impact the lifespan of a SIM card include use of the SIM card in extreme environments such as excessive humidity, strong magnetic radiation and strong corrosion.

See also: How Do I Know If My SIM Card Is Bad?

Carriers can make a SIM card expire

Since every prepaid SIM card and associated telephone number carries operating costs for a mobile phone company, it may be deactivated if you have not used the SIM card for a long time or have not recharged it within a certain period of time.

Most providers in the telecommunications sector currently deactivate prepaid cards after 12 to 13 months of inactivity. After the period of time has elapsed since activation or the last top-up, the operator reserves the right to withdraw the phone number associated with the SIM, making it unusable. 

Depending on the provider, a top-up (doing a mobile recharge, i.e. buying airtime) or a chargeable connection (for example a conversation, an SMS or an Internet connection) is considered an activity. If the last activity was too long ago, you will be notified by SMS.

If the prepaid card has expired or has been deactivated, the card no longer logs into the network when it is placed in the mobile phone. 

Usually an error message like “invalid SIM card” or “only emergency calls possible” appears. This is generally an indication that the card has really expired.

When a SIM card is completely deactivated, the remaining credit on it is to be considered lost and no longer recoverable.

Users usually receive a written reminder at least one month in advance. Depending on the provider, you only need to top up the prepaid credit or just make a call for the SIM card to be marked as active again.

When to replaced a SIM card

How often should a SIM card be replaced?

SIM cards should only be replaced when they are faulty. There are generally no specific terms of service on how often a SIM card should be replaced.

Another reason for replacing the SIM card may be theft. In such a case, the network operators usually ask you to pay – a card exchange is rarely free.

Over time, operators also improve the functionality of SIM cards, so even if your card is not faulty, it might be replaced for improved functionality.  

Can an old SIM card affect phone performance?

Generally, the age of a SIM card doesn’t have any impact on cell phone signal, however, a faulty SIM card can cause issues in network connectivity. 

A bad SIM card may make your connection go on and off continuously so that you’re intermittently unable to send and receive calls or messages or access the internet.

A SIM card can’t limit connection speed, it’s merely used to authenticate onto the mobile network. However, an older SIM might prevent you from accessing faster speed networks such as 4G or 5G.

On an iPhone, a defect can cause the device to stop recognizing the card. However, the problem may not necessarily be the SIM card itself. 

Messages like “No service” and “Searching for a network” may be a sign that the iPhone does not recognize the SIM card.

Newer SIM chips generally have the appropriate format for the iPhone. However, if your previous device used a micro SIM, you’ll need to cut it down to nanochip size, which is what Apple devices use. If the chip is cut incorrectly, you will need to buy a new one.

Sometimes the iPhone will not recognize the chip due to failure to automatically find the network. Try to do a hard reset on the iPhone with the SIM card inserted in the device to restore factory settings. After this, the SIM may be recognized.

The slot is the space that stores the chip in the cell phone. If it is damaged, the card cannot be read. Try to clean the chip storage location. It may be that it has some dust residue or is oxidized.

The same happens if the pins on the chip are dented.

Do not allow any liquid to come in contact with the phone. Clean the card and the slot, insert the chip in the right place again, replace the battery and turn the device back on.

Causes of SIM card damage

Dust and dirt in the form of lint, grease (fingerprints) can lead to contact problems. 

Daily use of the smartphone can also cause small dust particles to get inside the device. Especially in places that can be opened, such as the SIM card tray.

If some dirt has accumulated on the contact surface, you can carefully remove it with a lint-free microfiber cloth. In the case of fine or deep scratches, you should contact your mobile phone provider for SIM replacement.

A SIM card will also get damaged if the phone is dropped into water or other liquids. Most often, SIM cards that were flooded quickly. They first lose the quality of communication, and then stop working altogether.

See also: What Happens When You Remove A SIM Card?

Using an old SIM card in a new phone

It’s OK to use an old SIM card in a new phone, as long as the old SIM card fits in your new phone. If your old SIM card doesn’t match the SIM format of the new cell phone, however, you’ll need to get a new SIM card. 

Most current smartphones work with a nano SIM card. This is the smallest of the four different SIM card formats. Mini-SIM or micro-SIM cards are still used, however, especially in older cell phones.

SIM card format

If you upgrade your device, you may not need to get a new SIM card, unless the new device doesn’t support the current size of the SIM card. Your old SIM card can be used in the new mobile. 

Incompatibilities can occur due to different SIM card formats that the smartphone market has produced in recent years. Most smartphones today work with a nano SIM card, the smallest of the four SIM card formats that exist.

In some cases the SIM card may already be a nano-SIM, but the new cell phone requires a micro-SIM (larger). The cleanest option is to have the mobile operator replace the SIM card. Whether this is free of charge or not depends on the provider’s policy.

Alternatively, a hack is to wrap the nano-SIM into a plastic SIM adapter that gives it the size of a micro-SIM so you can use it in the other phone. 

Just make sure the nano-SIM snuggly fits into the plastic wrapper and will not go loose inside the phone tray.