How to Activate a Replacement Phone

By Lisa Duncan

If your cell phone breaks, gets lost, or you just want to upgrade, you will need a replacement phone. What people don't often think about when replacing a phone is how to activate the new cell phone. No matter where you purchased your new phone, even if you got a hand-me-down from a friend, you will be using it in no time if you follow the instructions below.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Replacement phone
  • Old phone
  • Paper
  • Pen

Step 1

Charge your replacement cell phone. You will be able to activate your new phone while calling customer service on the new phone. Make sure your new phone is fully charged so you don't drop the call in the middle of activation.

Step 2

Call your cell phone company. You will need to contact your cell phone service provider to make sure that your replacement phone is compatible with their service. For example, AT&T is the only provider of service for an iPhone. So make sure you can use your replacement phone with your current service provider.

Step 3

Write down the cell phone ESN (electronic serial number). The serial number will be written on a label under or near the battery of the cell phone. Open the back of your phone and look at the battery. If you do not see the label with the ESN, take the battery out. You should then see the label. The ESN will be an 11-digit number or an eight-digit number-and-letter combination. It may have a D: or H: in front of it. If in doubt write down what you see on the label. There will only be three or four numbers. You will need this ESN when you call customer service to activate your replacement cell phone.

Step 4

Remove the SIM (Subscriber Indentity Module) card from the old phone if you have that phone. If you do not have the old phone, you do not need the SIM card. The new phone will have one. The SIM card is a small data card that holds your personal information and your cell phone address book. The card looks like the data card of a digital camera.

Step 5

Place the SIM card from old phone into the new phone. You will have to take out the SIM card that came with the new phone. Sometimes, the new card has not been placed into the new phone. If so, just leave the new SIM card out and place your old card into the new phone instead.

Step 6

Call your service provider. You will have to call your cell phone service provider to finish activating your replacement phone. You will need the ESN number discussed above when making the call to activate your replacement phone. Below are a few of the providers' phone numbers. Sprint: 888-211-4727Nextel: 800-639-6111Wireline: 800-877-4646T-Mobile: 877-453-1304AT&T: 800-331-0500

Tips & Warnings

  • Some providers allow customers to activate their new cell phones online.