It’s easy to make phone calls with a data-only eSIM using internet phone numbers, known as VoIP (Voice over IP) technology. Apps like Hushed offer a free eSIM phone number to try for three days, with unlimited calling and texting.
Because if you’re the proud new owner of a data-only eSIM, you may be wondering “How the heck do I make a phone call with this thing? I don’t see a phone number anywhere?” While traditional plastic SIM cards sometimes come with phone numbers, most eSIMs are what’s called “data-only.”
A data-only eSIM provides your device with the data it needs to connect to the internet, but not a phone number you can pass out to friends and family.
Don’t fret, though. You can absolutely still make and receive calls with an eSIM. (And we’ll walk you through three different options.)
Three ways to make phone calls with a data-only eSIM
1. Make calls using the internet
Naturally, we’re going to give a shout-out to our sister app, Hushed. With Hushed, you can get a low-cost temporary phone number in one of 300+ area codes worldwide and use it just like a normal phone line. Calling, texting, voicemail, the whole meal deal.
Other internet calling options include WhatsApp, Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype. Since they run on internet connections, your data-only eSIM will do the job perfectly.
If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can also use apps like iMessage and FaceTime. (When iMessage is connected to your Apple ID email address, messages are sent over Wi-Fi or data and don’t count as texts.)
For all of the options above, just be sure to keep Data Roaming OFF for your primary SIM, so your carrier doesn’t try to connect you to an international network. You want your device to only be relying on your eSIM for data.
2. Call over a social media platform
If you already have a Facebook account, it’s easy to make video calls on Messenger. Instagram also has a calling feature within the DMs, so you can connect with your contacts there. Once again, keep Data Roaming OFF for your primary SIM, to avoid roaming charges, and make sure your device is only relying on your eSIM for data.
3. Call using your main phone number
Yes, it’s true! You can use a data-only eSIM to power your regular phone number. But this part can be confusing, so let’s explain the difference between freely using your phone on vacation (data, calling, texting) with your usual phone plan, versus carefully using your phone number on vacation while using a travel eSIM for all data.
Remember, data is different than calling/texting
Imagine you’ve never heard of aloSIM, okay? You’re living your life, you leave on vacation, you turn on roaming so you’re connected, you use a bunch of data, and you make/receive phone calls during your trip. The phone calls themselves might not be that expensive (your regular carrier will charge by the minute), but the roaming charges will be steep because your phone was struggling to find an international network connection that whole time. We do not recommend this!
Use an eSIM for all mobile data, and call/text sparingly
If you’re an awesome person who uses aloSIM to get local data for your vacation, you can still keep your regular phone number fully accessible. Turn off ‘Data Roaming’ on your primary SIM, make sure you don’t have a carrier travel plan, and you’re all set. Because eSIM data is prepaid, you will not pay any data roaming charges. But your carrier will bill pay-per-use fees for any active calls/texts that occur while you’re in another country.
How to use your phone number with a data-only eSIM
1. Leave your primary SIM on
You need your primary SIM to remain active so your regular phone number is accessible. If you toggle off your primary SIM (or remove the card), you can’t use your phone number.
2. Turn Data Roaming off for your primary SIM
You need to prevent your primary SIM from using data when you’re travelling internationally. So toggle off ‘Data Roaming’ for this SIM prior to your trip.
3. Confirm you don’t have a carrier travel plan
Carrier travel plans are when you pay a flat daily rate to use your regular SIM on vacation. Sometimes these plans are automatically triggered when your carrier detects you’ve left the country, so check with them first to make sure you won’t be placed on a carrier travel plan.
4. Choose your eSIM as your data source
Right before you travel (or as soon as you arrive), make sure phone is set up correctly to use your eSIM for all mobile data. You don’t want your phone mistakenly still using your primary SIM for data, which would result in roaming charges.
Your eSIM should be toggled on, with ‘Data Roaming’ on, and then you will choose it as your phone’s data source when you activate your data package.
5. Expect carrier fees for active calls & texts
When you’re using an eSIM for all mobile data, your home carrier can’t charge you data roaming fees. However, they’re still the ‘owner’ of your phone number, so they can (and likely will) charge you per call and per text while you’re abroad. The fees vary depending on your carrier, and your destination.
How much does it cost to call with a data-only eSIM?
While your home carrier can’t charge you for data — since you’ve wisely switched OFF Data Roaming on your primary SIM to avoid roaming charges and confirmed you don’t have a carrier travel data plan — they can still charge you for individual calls and texts, since they’re still letting you use their network’s phone number.
You aren’t charged if a call comes in and you don’t answer it. (“Him? Nah, not gonna pick up.) But if you decide to answer a call — or make a call — your regular phone provider may charge you by the minute and those extra costs will appear on your next bill. If you don’t plan on making/accepting many calls, the fees might be super low, but it’s best to check your carrier’s rates before your trip.
How expensive is texting with a data-only eSIM?
SMS text messages are typically charged individually, whether they’re outgoing or incoming. It’s usually between 50 cents and a dollar or two, per text. So this isn’t the time for heavy-hitting conversations via a million texts, okay?
However, some carriers actually don’t charge anything for incoming texts, even when you’re travelling internationally. And it’s even more rate, but select carriers (like Spectrum Mobile) offer free incoming and outgoing texting even if you’re abroad.
And remember that iMessages don’t count as text messages if you have your settings configured correctly. When you’re relying on your Apple ID, these messages are sent over the internet (Wi-Fi or data) between Apple devices only.
So there you have it! Three very different methods for making and receiving calls using a data-only eSIM.
Now all that’s left to do for your big trip is start packing!
Questions about eSIM? Our friendly team is available 24/7 via live chat and email (email@example.com).