iPhone upgrade: basic how to question

I am doing my first iPhone update: from v11 to the new one. I currently use AT&T for my wireless connection. Will purchase upgrade from Apple directly.

My question of ignorance: how does the “hand off” happen? That is, how is the new iPhone activated? Free or will it cost? Is the relevant AT&T chip in the old iPhone need to be physically moved to the new one?

Sorry if these are silly questions, but I have a very short turnaround between getting the phone and then leaving for a month long trip. So I want to make sure I’m able to do the transfer as smoothly and as quickly as possible. I know how all this works with new computers … but not how it works with iPhones.

In store or online?

I could do either . I live in San Francisco so either approach is easy for me to do

If you’re having questions about how to do it, and you have time, I’d just go in to the store. Better shot at having everything go smoothly because you can get them to walk you through it.

Make sure you have a current iCloud backup of your phone. :slight_smile:


I can’t speak to AT&T specifically, but in general:

  1. Back up your phone to iCloud (check iCloud options and decide what data you want to backup)
  2. Remove your SIM card from your old phone and pop it in your new phone. If you need a new SIM, you get a new one in the Apple store (if you buy your phone from the Apple store) or your carrier mails one to you (online purchase of phone from Apple)
  3. Install SIM and set up phone from iCloud backup
  4. Reset old phone to wipe personal information
  5. Give old phone to Apple employee for credit or recycling (for Apple store ohone purchase) or mail old phone to Apple using prepaid mailer for credit or recycling.

Edit: I am not in US - just read on another thread something about no SIM in US anymore.

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I’ve done this in store in the US a couple of times, and there was no charge. The process is very simple and relatively quick and you’ll leave the store with the new phone setup and running.

As others have noted make sure you have a recent backup. I suggest you do one prior to leaving for the store.

The transfer is handled by the Apple Store personnel. You’ll need to know your Apple ID and iPhone pass code. It may take some time for the backup to load onto the new phone. If instead of iCloud you backup to a Mac you can restore the backup when you get home and connect your new phone to the Mac.

As to the question of the chip, the SIM card, US phones no longer use a physical card. So the transfer will be via software.

Good luck with the new phone and I hope you find the one you want in stock prior to your trip!

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In-store experience was a cinch. Just took a little while. It was completely guided by Apple staff. Everyone getting a new phone took over one of the big tables in the Apple store and staff guided us to plug into power and then in-store wi-fi, and we used our old phones to start the setup and finished using iCloud. If you’re in a hurry they can make the transfer and you can take your new phone home to finish there. But the last time I changed phones was before Covid. :man_shrugging:

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Thanks everyone … this is all very helpful information and I truly appreciate it. I’ll definitely do things in an Apple store. Now maybe I’m misunderstanding one detail … but is there any disadvantage to purchasing the phone online with the pickup to be done in-store? That would seem to save me some time (purchasing phone at store) so that my only time there is for the changeover to the new phone.

My current phone does have a SIM card (iPhone 11) but not sure that makes a lot of difference if I go the store route.


PS: You might need a new SIM card if your current one doesn’t support 5G.

Can’t think of any disadvantage. How else would you be sure they’ll have one for you?

I agree. Especially with some thing that’s new like the current iPhone. I’ve gone into the store for scheduled service, and discovered that they didn’t have the parts in stock. If I could have ordered it online ahead of time I definitely would have.

If your phone and carrier support eSim then you just scan a QR code and the upgrade occurs without the new to transfer a physical sim card.

Don’t know if it’s still a thing, but I would recommend getting an unlocked phone if you’re just buying it (as opposed to buying through your carrier). This keeps you from being locked into that carrier for the life of the phone.

Again, many thanks to everyone for their feedback. I think I got the basics all sorted out now except for one thing:

The iPhone 11 I have is 6.1" whereas the iPhone Pro comes in 6.1 and 6.7 sizes. Does anyone already have a larger sized iPhone? It’s quite important that any iPhone I get fit into the back pocket of a pair of jeans/trousers. Is 6.7 simply too large for that? Other pros/minuses on 6.7 relative to 6.1 sizes.

My tendency is to get a 6.1 again due to it’s size. But maybe I’m being overly cautious and the 6.7 has some advantages I’m not quite anticipating. Cost differences between the two aren’t important, but functionality differences could be huge for me.

One way to find out is to take a piece of cardboard and cut it to the size of the iPhone. Depending on the thickness of the cardboard you may need to glue or tape a couple of pieces together.

It is often the case that the larger phones have longer battery life. And the larger screen size allows for larger font sizes for us folks who need reading glasses. Apple’s website has a comparison tool showing the differences in the phones.

Have fun deciding!

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This is the way.

Pocket size varies depending on how big your butt is.


And worth noting that an iPhone in a case is bigger than a piece of cardboard, which stretches pockets….so plan accordingly.

Hopefully you have a good experience at the Apple store. I always had and never went back to my carrier to get a phone. I feel it’s so much easier at the Apple Store.

Don’t forget if you want Apple care they have two different types.

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Quick update. I visited the Apple Store last night. Much to my surprise the iPhone 11I currently have is actually a bit larger than the “regular” iPhone Pro 14. So the size decision became awfully simple for me: iPhone Pro Max 14.

Thanks again for all the suggestions.