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I have an AT&T (GSM) iPhone 4. If I were to upgrade to an iPhone 5, could I simply pop the SIM out of my iPhone 4 and continue using it on wifi only?

Would I also need to get the SIM deactivated since an iPhone 5 would come with its own SIM?

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Yes, you can use the device as if it were an iPod Touch without cellular service. No need to remove the SIM. It will automatically be deactivated when your new phone is activated.

You can also purchase a prepaid SIM from a service using provider network to which the phone is attached if you'd like to use it as an emergency or burner phone. For example, h2o pre-paid SIMS work in locked AT&T phones.

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    Not only is there no need to remove the SIM, there is a need to keep the SIM so the phone won't pester you for a SIM to activate e device after each restore. In the case of AT&T you can also unlock your device once it's off contract so you don't need an AT&T sim to activate it each time. – bmike Jan 26 '13 at 18:12
  • You don't need to deactivate cellular data by putting the phone in Airline mode - my son uses an old 3GS, unlocked by AT&T, with cell service and wifi enabled. It says "no service" but even deactivated, it would be usable for emergency calls. – dr.nixon Feb 26 '14 at 15:14
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Here are the steps to use either an iPhone or an iPad without cellular activity.

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  1. Open Settings.
  2. Turn Airplane Mode ON. This will also disable Wi-Fi but we will re-enable it in the following step.
  3. Tap Wi-Fi and you will be directed to another screen. From there, turn it back ON and select the network you wish to connect to (note: it will automatically connect to any default network).

You do not need to remove or even deactivate your SIM, although since the iPhone 5 uses nano-SIMs that are not compatible with older devices, your carrier will issue you a new one and likely disable the old one.

Generally, it's better to have even a deactivated SIM in your phone as to avoid problems with activation should you ever restore or upgrade the firmware.

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