SIM card guide

Since early 2007, the forum on this site has seen many of the same questions about SIM cards. Forum contributors such as bylo, Big Ang, iamdrumming, and many more have donated their time to answering these questions. Their answers are summarized on this page, which is a guide to SIM cards, with some specific details regarding 7-Eleven Speak Out Wireless. This complements the FAQ on Speak Out issues.

If you have an explanation to add or a comment on this guide, please make a post here.


What is a SIM card?

A SIM card is a card that fits under the battery in virtually all GSM phones. Basically, it is tied to a provider, and is needed to get on to that provider’s network. It can also hold the contacts in your address book, depending on the settings on your phone. The SIM card is what provides you with a phone number. The phone itself can be seen in a way as an interface to use the SIM card. The reason why the phone number is not built into a GSM phone is so that you can take the SIM card out and place it in another phone whenever you please.

See the Wikipedia entry on SIM cards.

How do I swap a SIM card?

On most phones, just pull out the battery to reveal the SIM card underneath. Then slide out the SIM card or open a clip to release the SIM card and replace it with the new SIM card. The instruction manual for your phone will have a detailed description of how to do this.

See an illustrated guide on how to use a Speak Out Wireless SIM card in an iPhone.

What do I get when I buy a Speak Out Wireless phone from 7-Eleven?

When you go into a 7-Eleven and buy a Speak Out Wireless package, you get a SIM card and a phone.

Will a Speak Out Wireless SIM card work in a phone that supports the 1900 MHz band but not the 850 MHz GSM band (or vice versa)?

Yes, because 1900MHz is still a North American band. Generally, you will find the 1900MHz band in urban areas. So if you bring your phone into the rural areas where there might be only the 850MHz band, your phone won’t work.

Can Speak Out Wireless phones be used with Rogers SIM cards?


Can I use my Rogers or other phone with a Speak Out Wireless SIM card?

Any GSM phone can use a SIM card. Rogers and Fido (and the companies that use their service such as Speak Out and Petro Canada) use GSM. Bell and Telus (and the companies that use their service such as Koodo, Solo, President’s Choice, Virgin) use a different technology but starting in 2010 many of their phones now support GSM, so be sure to check! However, GSM phones are sometimes locked to the company that you bought it from, i.e. if you bought a phone from T-Mobile in the US, then the phone can only be used with T-Mobile SIM cards. Usually you can unlock the phone so it can be used with any SIM card.

To use a GSM phone in North America, you will need one with one or both of the North American GSM frequencies – 850 and 1900 MHz. Speak Out can use either (1) an unlocked GSM phone or (2) a GSM phone locked to Rogers. So, if your friend has a phone that he/she used to use with Rogers in the past 5 years or so, then it should work with Speakout.

Whether you’re going to be using a phone you got from Speakout, or another phone, you will still have to buy a Speak Out SIM card – either from someone who is selling one, or from Speak Out which you will have to buy together with the phone.

First, go to a 7-Eleven store, and look at the display in case they have a plastic “dummy” phone which you can pick up and try. You can also do some research online. If you like one of the available phones, then you can either buy the SIM and phone together at 7-Eleven, or see if someone is selling one on this forum for a bit less.

If you don’t like any of the phones that Speak Out sells, then you’ll have to do 2 things:

1. Buy only a SIM card: directly from 7-Eleven for $10; or from someone on this forum; or buy a SIM card and phone from 7-Eleven and just use the SIM card (you can then sell the phone that came with the purchase).
2. Buy a GSM phone that will work with a Speak Out SIM (either an unlocked GSM phone that uses the 850MHz and/or 1900MHz bands or one that is locked to Rogers). Then place the SIM card into that phone.

If, when in the States, I swap out the Speak Out SIM card for a local card, will my Speak Out number still be active — that is, can it take voice messages that I could then check from the States?

Yes, people can still call your Speak Out number and leave voice mail messages when your phone is off or when your SIM card isn’t even in a phone. You can then call your own number to “sign in” to voice mail.

A Hallowe’en themed SIM card swapping explanation
by Big Ang

The “brains” of your phone is the SIM card. And just like some old Frankenstein horror movie, you can perform a brain transplant into whatever body (errr, “phone”) that you want, provided that the body (phone) has an empty head to place the brain.

What kind of body (phone) is required for a brain transplant? Well, it has to be a GSM phone, since you can separate the brain and body with GSM phones, and you can’t do that with CDMA phones. (plus the technology is different, etc etc). (Typically, Bell and Telus used CDMA-only phones, but their newer phones starting in 2010 also support GSM.)

Then the new host body (phone) must be able to accept the new brain. Some bodies (phones) are locked to a certain type of brain (SIM cards from a specific company like Rogers or Fido), while other bodies — which are unlocked — can accept any type brain.

The brain’s memories (phone number, balance on your plan, etc) are stored in the brain, not the body. So you can transplant the brain in a Motorola body, load it up with money, use it for a while, then transplant the brain into a Nokia body, and everything stays pretty much the same.

Your phone number, balance on your account, and maybe your contact list (see below) are all associated with the brain, not the body. You can have a different body for every day of the week, and as long as you’re using the same brain, Speak Out doesn’t care.

Notes about brain transplants:
– You’ll have to remember to configure the new body so that it knows what the Speak Out voicemail phone number is. So when you get a voicemail and the phone asks you if you want to listen to it, it knows where to call. You’ll just have to do that once.
– When you are typing in all your friends’ phone numbers, try and make sure that they are stored on the SIM card (brain). Sometimes you will store them on the phone (body) so when you do a brain transplant the numbers will still be on the original body. If they are on the SIM card, you’ll have them with you regardless of what phone you’re using.