If you’ve just bought a new phone, you don’t need to copy every single phone number over from your old phone manually. Ken’s Tech Tips explores some of the easier ways to do it.

Eternal clock
Creative Commons License photo: Robbert van der Steeg

When you change mobile network, you’ll get a new SIM card. Using a PAC code it is very easy to move (or “port” in mobile lingo) your number from your old network onto your new network and new SIM card. However using a PAC code will not help you to transfer things such as any phone numbers or text messages that you want to keep. Those things you’ll have to transfer separately (ideally before you use your PAC code as your old SIM card will get disabled).

When I recently went through the whole process of upgrading my phone and switching network (I moved from my LG Viewty KU990 on O2 to a shiny new HTC Desire on T-Mobile) my network gave me what seemed to be the standard piece of advice: to copy contacts over one by one onto my new phone. Not only would this have been tedious and time-consuming, it also gives a lot of potential for errors to be introduced when inputting the numbers into the new phone – only to be discovered later when you end up calling a complete stranger and you’ve lost your original phone book!

There are two ways to transfer numbers from your old phone to your new phone which will save you a lot of time:

  • Transfer via a SIM card
  • Transfer via a computer

How do I transfer my phone book and SMS text messages via a SIM card?

math
Creative Commons License photo: Akash k

Phone numbers and SMS text messages can be saved in one of two places: on the phone itself or on a SIM card. The default behaviour is usually to save the phone numbers and text messages on the phone itself, however it may depend on how your phone was set up and configured.

You can use a SIM card to transfer contacts and SMS messages between phones. The exact procedure depends on whether you are using a locked phone or not. The key is to use a SIM card which is acceptable to both phones.

1. If you are moving from an unlocked phone:

  1. Take your new SIM card and place it into your old phone.
  2. Turn your old phone on.
  3. Copy your contacts from the phone memory onto the SIM card memory. Most phones should have this functionality so explore the menus (or documentation) to find it. On the Viewty, this menu item was under “Contact Settings > Copy > Handset to USIM”.
  4. Copy any SMS text messages you would like to keep from your phone memory to SIM card memory.
  5. Turn both of your phones off.
  6. Put your new SIM card back into your new phone. Your contacts and SMS messages should now appear on your new phone.
  7. Optionally you can now move these phone numbers and text messages onto your phone memory. This may have several benefits such as performance and enable extra features.

2. If you are moving from a locked phone to an unlocked phone:

  1. Take your old SIM card and place it into your old phone.
  2. Turn your old phone on.
  3. Copy your contacts from the phone memory onto the SIM card memory. Most phones should have this functionality so explore the menus (or documentation) to find it. On the Viewty, this menu item was under “Contact Settings > Copy > Handset to USIM”.
  4. Copy any SMS text messages you would like to keep from your phone memory to SIM card memory.
  5. Turn both of your phones off.
  6. Put your old SIM card back into your new phone. Your contacts and SMS messages should now appear on your new phone.
  7. Move these contacts and messages from the SIM card memory onto the phone memory.
  8. Turn off both your phones.
  9. Remove your old SIM card from your new phone. Put your new SIM card back into your new phone.

3. If you are moving from a locked phone to a locked phone (of different networks):

phone_book
Creative Commons License photo: How can I recycle this

This is where things get a little tricky. As both of your phones are locked to different networks, you won’t be able to find a SIM card which is acceptable to both. You could borrow a friends phone to act as an intermediary phone or grab a really cheap unlocked one from Amazon (i.e. follow set of instructions 2 to¬† copy contacts from your old phone onto the unlocked phone, then set of instructions 1 to copy contacts from the unlocked phone onto your new phone). Or try the method below.

How do I transfer my phone book via a computer?

Most phones come with software which allow you to synchronise your phone book with your computer. For example, the Sony Ericsson PC Suite, the LG PC Suite, HTC Sync, etc. You should have received a copy of this software with your phone.

Use the sync software for your old phone to copy the contacts from your old phone into Microsoft Outlook. Then use the sync software for your new phone to copy your contacts from Outlook into your new phone.

You won’t be able to transfer any SMS messages using this method.

Your experiences…

We’d love to hear your experiences migrating to your new phone. Let us know if this worked for you, or if you’ve found a better way.

Your Comments 83 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 83 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • Hi Ken,
    I am a complete technophobe and have always left anything remotely technical o my husband. However, he has decided to move our provider from EE to Virgin. This in itself isn’t a problem and he has the relevant codes etc so our numbers remain the same.
    My problem is retaining and moving my photos and text messages. I gave tried to move my photos to The Cloud, but have no idea whether or not I’ve been successful and if indeed, all on The Cloud will move to the new provider.
    Unfortunately, I have nowhere to take my phone and get this done and am really worried that the things saved on my old SIM card will be lost forever.
    You are my only hope.
    Kind regards
    Helen

    • Hi Helen,
      Many thanks for your comment. The good news is your photos and text messages are not actually stored on the SIM card! They’re actually stored on your phone’s internal storage, so you’re free to change your SIM card without losing your photos and texts (though of course, I do recommend backing up to the cloud should you ever lose access to the handset).
      Are you planning to use the same handset as before, just on Virgin rather than EE? If so, you can simply swap the SIM cards and no further action should be required to keep your messages & photos. If you’re moving to a brand new handset, you should consult the documentation for your new handset to see what features they have available for you to transfer your data over.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi.
    I have an old Nokia (approx. 16 yrs old) still going strong. It’s a basic phone (calls and texts only, no camera, no internet access etc – suits me just fine). I’m with Virgin and currently on a top-up PAYG scheme. Virgin provides pretty poor coverage where I live and I’ve currently been without signal for 3 weeks. I want to change to Vodafone, which is more consistent. How /can do I do this on such an old phone? Companies seem to want me to sign up to various packages and bundles for features I can’t access. I just want my old phone working the same way but with a new service provider.
    Thanks.

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for your comment. Just wondering if you’ve considered joining Talkmobile Happy Hour? You can read a full review here if you’d like more information but in short, they’re a low-cost sub-brand of Vodafone offering classic Pay As You Go. They charge a flat rate of 10p for calls of up to one hour and just 4p/text on Pay As You Go. This sounds like it probably be perfect for your usage!
      If you do really want to go directly with Vodafone, you can do this by choosing one of their PAYG Freebie tariffs.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • hiya,

    so I need to swap SIM cards with my sister (some misunderstanding with the contracts were on) and we havent swapped yet but her texts etc are coming through on my phone (vice verse). so we need to swap SIMs because obviously the company were on contract with has swapped the contracts if you get me? but how do I keep my contacts on my iPhone5S once my SIM card has been swapped

    rsvp

    • Hi Emily,
      Thanks for your comment. Your phone book will be stored on your iPhone, so there shouldn’t be any problem with regards to your contacts. You should contact your mobile phone network to let them know they’ve got the phone numbers mixed up – this is something they should be able to resolve for you.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

Load more comments (76)

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will never be published. By default, I'll use it to send you an update when there are replies to your comment. However, if you don't want to receive this, you can disable it using the dropdown menu below: