Mobile phones can work without a sim card and make emergency phone calls, no matter where you are in the world. However, there is more you can do than just make these calls. Over the last few years, the “sim” aspect of your mobile phone has become increasingly less important, at least at first glance.
Mobile phones can work without a SIM card. Most phones come with functions that preclude the use of SIM cards. SIM cards are just enablers of key mobile network operations such as SMS, calling functions, and mobile data storage. Access to the internet, games, and some apps will work without a physical sim card.
Below we look at the functions still open to you if you use a mobile phone without a sim card.
Can Smart Phones Access the Internet Without a Sim card?
Almost all Android and IOS-enabled phones have a Wi-Fi function that allows you to use the internet. SIM cards, with regards to internet usage, are mostly just arbiters of data.
SIM cards, at least data-enabled ones, will allow you to access the internet without Wi-Fi if part of your phone plan.
Some apps and functions will require a Sim card. There are not huge numbers of these, however, and most are liked to 2 tier security or authentication requirements. For example:
- WhatsApp requires a phone number to be registered to use. Changing phones often uses this number to confirm you are who you say you are.
- Some shopping apps and sites require phone verification and a working mobile number to send authentication codes to. This often happens when changing account details or making large purchases.
- Banking apps will often be tied to an authenticator app, and additionally, may ask for SMS codes if you are undertaking transactions. SMS is attached to a SIM card phone number.
- Registration, usually for PWA Applications (Progressive Web Applications), may ask for a working phone number for similar reasons as the banks or shopping apps. The more financial or formal the activity, the more layers of security you will come across, and one of those is likely to be a working number.
What can I do without a SIM card on my Phone?
The question is better phrased as what I cannot do without a Sim card as that is much less in number if not importance. However, we address that in the sections below.
All the following features common to most Smartphones will function without a SIM card.
- Listening to music
- Watch Movies and videos (streaming if on Wi-Fi)
- Message apps on Wi-Fi (that do not require Phone Number verification)
- Play games if downloaded (or play online or connected to Wi-Fi)
- Use VoIP services (if on Wi-Fi)
- Use all generic services on the phone like camera, voice recorder, etc
- Access all apps if on Wi-Fi, and those that are standalone if not
The above list is far from definitive. There are hundreds and hundreds of features that work on smartphones without a SIM card or access to a mobile network. Basically, any app that you have installed on your phone might still work as long as it doesn’t directly require a phone number to do so.
This means most apps and games, as well as many features your phone offers. Most of these still require a WiFi internet connection to work though – but it is not related to the physical presence of a Sim card.
Can I send messages and make calls on my phone even without a SIM card?
Suppose you have messaging apps like messenger, Signal, Telegram, Google Chat, WeChat and the hundreds of different nation-specific versions there are in both the Apple Store and the Play Store, then all you need is a Wi-Fi Connection, and you will be able to continue to use these even without a Sim Card.
The person you are calling will also need to have that specific messaging application for most of these apps. If you are looking to make calls to landlines or people without that application, you will need to use services like Skype or one of many other VoIP services.
These services allow you to call landlines and mobile numbers without a SIM card. You also have the advantage of being able to call from a PC as well. In both cases, you will require an internet connection, of course.
There are some apps that will not work – such as Whatsapp, for example – but you still have plenty of other options.
When does it become necessary to have a SIM card in my phone?
We don’t call the phone in our pocket our mobile phone anymore, though perhaps we should. Mobile suggests it is to be taken with you and used when needed, not when you have a half-decent Wi-Fi signal.
Smartphone (as we now call them) features mostly work well without a SIM card. As we mentioned above, you can listen to music, watch movies, play games, and even message friends.
All those smart features are fine when used with a Wi-Fi signal or after they have been stored on the phone. However, it is more important what you can’t do on a SIM Card free phone.
A sim free phone is not going to:
- work when you are lost in a city (unless you have free WiFi available)
- allow you to call anyone if your car breaks down,
- call you a taxi when you have lost your friends on a night out
- Talk to your family in an emergency
- or any other 100 reasons you might have to talk or message someone in an emergency that perhaps doesn’t warrant calling (911, 999, or 112) *
*Putting a SIM card into your phone may well prevent you from ever having to call those numbers that ironically do work without the SIM.
On the bright side, you will be able to play cwazy cupcakes or candy crush instead, though.
One more thing…
I have also caught myself wondering why I need a SIM card. I WhatsApp all the time. I use Facebook or WhatsApp to talk to my brother and friends.
I stream Netflix from my phone and listen to Spotify songs I have downloaded (check here the best headphones for Spotify music). Why am I spending money on a mobile plan that gives me minutes or SMS (and picture messages) that I hardly, if ever use.
- Then out of the blue, my mum calls me: she is not particularly tech-savvy,
- the bank texts me to let me know they have sent a credit card to my home,
- the delivery I was expecting calls me as they arrive, letting me know I can go and meet them.
- I remember I needed to get an Uber from work that evening, and my data package allows me to monitor what time it’s going to arrive
- Sitting in the back of a cab, I can let my friends know when I will arrive
- I can send the photo of my wife and me from the beach as we are there.
And that’s when I remembered that the SIM card made my smartphone a MOBILE phone again and I am pleased about it.
We may live in an increasingly connected world, but that connection only goes as far as the Wi-Fi signal if you don’t have a Sim card in that little tray in your phone.
The way I feel about SIM cards, at least now, is like a first aid kit: unneeded 99% of the time, usually a little overpriced, but if the situation arises when I do need it, I am very happy I thought ahead and bought it.