Can You Use a Wi-Fi Only Phone Without a SIM Card?

man holding his smartphone with wifi signal above the phone

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What To Know

  • Smartphones without SIMs can access Wi-Fi and use most apps but can’t make cellular calls or use cellular data.
  • Old smartphones can be repurposed as Wi-Fi extenders, part of a mesh system imitation, or offline GPS navigators.

Just got your hands on a new smartphone but still decided to keep the old one?

However, with its SIM now removed, can it run just on Wi-Fi without a data plan?

In this guide, I’ll delve into the world of SIM-free smartphones, reveal their true potential, and offer tips on how to get the most out of them without a monthly data bill.

Can a Smartphone Be Used For Wi-Fi Only (Without a SIM)?

Yes, a smartphone can be used for Wi-Fi only.

Smartphones’ Wi-Fi capabilities are unrelated to their SIMs, so they will still be able to connect to the Wi-Fi even if there is no SIM installed. 

This means that you will still be able to access your smartphone’s screen mirroring function, Wi-Fi connections, browser, online messaging apps, and so on. However, you will not be able to access any apps that require a cellular network. 

Pro Tip

If you want to find out which apps will work without a cellular network, connect your phone to Wi-Fi after putting it on Airplane mode. Since Airplane mode restricts your phone’s cellular network, it will allow you to accurately assess which apps can work without a SIM.

a phone screen with icon of flight mode, wifi and battery on the top right corner

Can I Stay Connected to The Internet Without a Cellular Plan?

Yes, your smartphone can stay connected to the internet without a cellular plan as long as there is an accessible Wi-Fi point nearby.

These Wi-Fi points could include your home or work’s Wi-Fi, public networks, and so on. 

However, you will not be able to use your phone’s mobile data or hotspot without a cellular plan, as these services use cellular data. 

Things You Can’t Do With a Smartphone Without a SIM Card?

While your smartphone will work and connect to Wi-Fi without a SIM card, it will not function exactly the same as it does with a SIM. 

SIMs give your phone access to the cellular network, allowing you to use cellular data and make phone calls. 

Here are a few things you can not do with a smartphone without a SIM card: 

  • Make a phone call via the cellular network 
  • Send or receive SMS/MMS messages
  • Use cellular data to access the internet  
  • Set up a cellular data hotspot from your phone 

However, your smartphone’s capabilities are almost endless once you connect it to Wi-Fi. Many apps support calling and messaging, allowing you to communicate with others without a SIM card. 

For example, with a Wi-Fi connection, you can use the following apps on your smartphone without a SIM: 

Facebook Messenger app on the phone screen

  • Facebook Messenger
  • Whatsapp 
  • Instagram
  • Telegram
  • Snapchat
  • Skype (including Skype Credit) 
  • WeChat
  • And many more! 

Make The Most Out of Your SIM-Free/Old Smartphones 

Here are a few things you can do to give your SIM-free or old smartphone a new life! 

Turn It Into a Hotspot/Router 

Since smartphones without a SIM card can still access Wi-Fi, they can be used as makeshift hotspots or routers. 

This is useful if you live in an apartment with thick concrete walls or objects made of blocking materials, which restrict Wi-Fi’s range and strength by absorbing the signal. You can connect your old smartphone to your Wi-Fi router and use it as an additional router, allowing you to receive a strong Wi-Fi signal anywhere in your home. 

Let’s learn how to use an Android phone as a hotspot/router. 

Step 1: Estimate the middle of your Wi-Fi router’s range and place your phone face up on a flat surface. 

Step 2: Ensure that your phone is connected to the same Wi-Fi router you want it to act as a hotspot for your primary device. 

Step 3: Open the Settings app or control center (found by swiping down) and enable Hotspot & tethering. This setting will allow you to use your phone as a router. 

Step 4: Connect your devices (e.g. laptop, tablet, etc.) to your new “router” (a.k.a. your smartphone).  

Use It as a Part of a Mesh System’s Imitation

If you live in a particularly spacious home, you may need to use a mesh system to ensure that you have access to a strong Wi-Fi signal in every room. You can use your old phone as an integrated part of this mesh system by following the steps listed in the section above. 

Simply set it up in one of your home’s rooms instead of a mesh router and connect your phone to it when needed. However, we suggest regularly checking on your phone’s condition to ensure it’s not at risk of overheating or losing charge. 

Turn It into a GPS Navigator 

hand holding a phone in a car with GPS map on the phone screen

Let’s face it. You don’t have a very strong sense of direction. 

However, your car doesn’t have an integrated GPS system. 

Luckily, you can use your old, SIM-free smartphone as a GPS, downloading offline maps onto it or connecting it to your new phone’s hotspot. Google Maps, for example, has an offline navigation feature and is available both for Android and iOS

This will allow you to save your primary phone’s battery, increasing its lifespan in the process. 

Use It as a Safe Place to Store Any Secrets

While SIM-free smartphones can connect to Wi-Fi, you can use them without it, making them inaccessible to hackers and other cyber attacks. 

This allows you to upload images, files, account details, and other sensitive information to your smartphone without the risk of this information being exposed or taken advantage of. 

So, if you have any confidential material that you’d rather keep private, upload it onto your old smartphone and disable its Wi-Fi function. 

wifi is turning off on an iPhone

Wrapping Things Up

Smartphones without SIM cards can still connect to Wi-Fi, allowing you to freely access the internet, apps, and more! However, you will not be able to perform certain tasks, such as making calls or sending texts over a cellular network. 

You can also use your old smartphone as a hotspot/router or GPS navigator, or to store secretive information. 

Did you know that you can still use a smartphone without a SIM? 

Let us know in the comments below! 

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  1. This doesn’t work without a SIM card. You cannot enable hotspot or tethering without one. (Just tried on Galaxy S20 Ultra)

  2. Thank re using android mobile abroad on holiday, and understanding what happens if I try to avoid charges by my provide. as I intend to use only WhatsApp. I am not texting/calling using providers SIM whilst abroad on holiday. It’s day 3/7 of my holiday, and they are going to charge me £2.29 a day, I’m thinking to put my phone in airplane mode.
    I am OAP Southampton, UK

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