See How Easily You Can Get Your iPhone 4S To Work on Cell C

The title of this article is slightly sarcastic… But here is why:

I recently got my iPhone 4S. Very excited to set it up and get it working, I went to my service provider, got a mico-sim and went home to set it up. I put my micro-sim in and tried to set up the iPhone, only to hit a problem when iTunes tries to activate the phone, with the following error:

Could Not Activate iPhone

Could Not Activate iPhone

Frustrated, I started checking what the cause of the issue could be. I noticed that the sim-card didn’t seem to be active and the iPhone kept showing “Searching” where the signal should be displayed. Eventually I tried using a different micro-sim and used my father’s Vodacom micro-sim and the process went through and I was able to set up my new iPhone.

While I was syncing all my content to my iPhone, I put my Cell C micro-sim into my father’s iPhone 4 and it connected and everything worked. So, thinking the micro-sim was now active and ready to use, I put my Cell C sim back into my iPhone 4S, only to see “No Sim” displayed. Frustrated all over again, I called Cell C support and enquired about the issue, explaining that the micro-sim works in the iPhone 4, but not in my iPhone 4S. They weren’t very helpful and so after going to the nearest Apple Store and the excellent staff at the iStore trying their best to figure out what the issue was, they were also unsuccessful and suggested I go see the people at Cell C, which I did. They in turn told me to wait 24-48hrs for the sim to be activated, despite not being able to make sense of how the sim could work in one phone, but not another. As I bought my iPhone cash, due to my service provider(Cell C) not offering iPhone’s on their contracts, they also blamed the fact that they don’t offer the phone as a reason for the issues.

So I left the phone overnight in hope that it would be working and sorted the next day… It wasn’t.

It was while thinking about the issues, that I got the idea to take my old sim from my iPhone 3GS and cut it to micro-sim size, just to see if the iPhone pics up the sim-card. Using this template, I cut the sim-card to fit and put it into my new iPhone 4S. It worked 100%, with the only issue being that the sim-card was de-activated due to doing a “Sim-swap” in order to get the micro sim.

Excited that I now knew the solution, I went to the Cell C store again and explained what I had discovered. What is it I discovered? Cell C micro-sim’s are rubbish and besides that, if you compare the size of the copper contact section on the back of the micro sim, to that of the regular, non-micro-sim. their sizes differ drastically. Some regular sim-card’s copper contact sections also differ.

Anyways, enough of the rant and rave on this, here is how to fix the issue, if you are, like me, unable to cancel your contract and move to a better service provider at the current stage:

The fix:

*Please note that throughout the steps below, you can click on the image to enlarge the photo, if needed

Go buy a usual sim from Cell C(or do a sim-swap if needed), but VERY important is to make sure you check the copper contact section at the back of the sim you get/get given by the staff… If you compare it to the size of the copper contact section on the back of the micro sim, the sim card you want to get is the sim with the larger copper contact surface area(See pic). To make sure its the right one, check the back of the different sims. You will immediately see the difference.

Here is a picture of the different sim-card’s “Copper Contact” sections:

Sim Card Copper Contact Sections

Sim Card Copper Contact Sections

Take that sim and get yourself a micro-sim template, you can use the one I used, here. Cut the sim-card to micro-sim size. Put it in the sim tray, insert and BOOM… iPhone 4S = Now working on Cell C.

Why this is an issue remains a mystery to me, but my theory is that the sim-card loading tray or whatever you want to call the internal construction of where the micro-sim is inserted on the iPhone 4S is different to that of an iPhone 4 and therefore the micro-sim has an issue. My suggestion, if you’re not from South Africa and experiencing similar issues, is to try make a micro sim from that of a regular sim, as I mentioned above and see if it works. It’s worth a try!

I hope this helps as many people as possible and thereby skipping the stress, frustration and saving you some money at the same time, as I ended up having to pay R100 each time to get a new sim-card, and I ended up getting 3 until I got it working, but that’s another story.

If you need anything further, please leave a comment on this post or see my contact page and I will do my best to help you.

Always remember, give a jackass an education and you’ll have a smartass!

Signing out.


  1. Thanks for the article. I had the exact same problem. Unfortunately, I’ve been to 2 cellc stores, Pick n Pay and CNA, and all of them only have the newer, smaller copper contact sim card. I can’t find anyone with stock of the old, larger copper contact. Where did you get your’s from?

    • Hi Dylan,

      I got the sim-card from Cell C in the Centurion mall. I know they still had about 4 of the sim’s with the bigger copper section when I was there to get my own one.

      Have you tried showing the pic of the lager sized copper contact section of the sim to someone in the store nearest you? Ask them to check their stock at the back. They may have some there.

      Keep me posted, I hope you come right! Drop me an email or leave another comment if you need anything further!


      • Thanks for the response. A quick update from my side:

        1. Centurion has no stock of the old sims, neither does the OR Thambo airport, Eastgate, Rosebank, Dion Wired Hyde Park, CNA Rosebank and Woolworths HydePark. They all have the new type sims.

        2. I have an old microsim (8months old) in my ipad with reduced size copper contacts (it looks exactly the same as the new microsims from cellc) that works perfectly with my iPhone 4s, so at some stage cellc was producing sims that would work with these devices.

        3. The Eastgate branch claimed that the network cannot support the new technology of the iPhone 4s. This is bollocks, see point 2 above.

        4. I’ve logged a technical complaint with CellC. They’ve put down a date of tomorrow 3pm (17 Jan) to get more feedback from the Networking department. I’ve spoken to them 4 times, half of them are aware of the problem, the other half claim they don’t know about the problem and try debug the APN settings.

        5. The communication between head office and franchise store is disgusting. Clearly there is a problem, clearly cellc need to take ownership of it and at the very least, refund people for the money they spend on attempting sim swaps. (I’ve spent over R600 compliments of the lack of standardized pricing in the franchise store)

        If I can come up with any option to give cellc the finger and move to another network without huge contract penalties I will. They’ve totally let us down on this one!

      • Hey Dylan

        I will see what I can find out for you on the older sim problem ASAP! Did you physically go into these stores or did you phone them to find out?

        As regards point 2:
        Obviously that is nonsense, as I have my phone working! CellC clearly don’t know what they are speaking of because my iPhone 4S is working on their network with my self-engineered sim. lol… So clearly the person/people from Eastgate branch are talking rubbish! I would love to come into contact with someone from CellC that I can show exactly what I did to get the iPhone working!

        Cell C technical never get back to you, but for your sake I hope they do!

        I would love to get a refund for the money I wasted due to their incompetence, lack of customer service and complete “Stuff you” attitude!

        I agree with your decision to move to another network and am looking into solutions for this to not have to pay in the massive penalties! I strongly recommend that you give Hello Peter a visit and let them know of the situation and open a complaint to CellC there as I will be doing too!

        Keep me posted on the developments and if there is anything I can help with further!


  2. Thanks, I’ll put a complaint up on HelloPeter too. I did go into the Airport, Eastgate, Rosebank and Norwood branches, but did not go into Centurion. The lady I spoke to at Centurion said she understood the problem but did not have any stock left.

    I have 2 iphone’s (1 for myself, 1 for my wife) and I’m stuck with this problem on both!

    • Hey Dylan

      I was just at CellC in the Centurion mall and found a sim there on their shelves. Another classic example that CellC staff gave zero interest in their clientele. I asked them to hold it one side for you if you need it.


    • Nico
    • February 10th, 2012

    Hope someone can help me !!!

    I have the iPhone 4 and everyting is working fine, but I can’t configure my ohone to connect to the internet and my service provider to retrieve my emails.

    Can any one help

    • Hi Nico

      Which network are you with?

      Try making your cellular data APN ” internet ” without the ” “. If that makes sense?

      I hope this helps?


    • Bevyn
    • August 22nd, 2012

    Where can I get an old sim here in the western cape

    • Hey Bevyn…

      With Cell C now supporting and offering the iPhone om contracts I believe they should have sorted out the sim issue… First try getting a micro-sim from them and seeing what happens.

      Let me know if you come right.


        • Dylan
        • August 27th, 2012

        I’m sure CellC has sorted out there issues by now, but if by any chance you still get a dodgey sim from them, try the following (it worked on my sim and my wifes sim back in Jan)

        Activate the sim in another phone first (I used an iPhone 4). For me, the sim worked fine once activated, but I could not activate it in my 4s at all, it never registered signal. Once active, I had no issues using it in my 4s.

      • Hi Dylan,

        Thanks for the feedback!

        I’m pretty sure Cell C has sorted out their issues considering they now offer the iPhone 4S on their packages… I will be sure to keep this in mind or point people to your comment when people have issues.


    • prince
    • November 22nd, 2012

    Hi, thanks for shedding light onto this issues, I finally cut to fit a cell c sim & it brought out a 3G in the service, meaning active but please what else do I do to get connected to the internet? Will call Cell C customer care & what’s the number to call. Thanks so much in anticipation of a positive response…iPhone 4S user

    • Hi Prince,

      Are you having network issues? If you are, try contact the Cell C customer service number from your phone on 140.


  3. Hey I use a nano SIM card any help with that….. My ipad mini says 3G even lte signal but still does not connect 90percent of the time PLZ HELP

    • Hi,

      it could be possible that LTE is not fully supported in your area. Got to Settings>General>Cellular and turn off LTE. This will mean you will connect using 3G and would have a better connection, as LTE is not available everywhere yet.


    • Culcas
    • August 19th, 2013

    Help me please i just want to know how much it can cost me to do micro sim card for cell c

    • Hi,

      You will have to do a sim-swap with Cell C. This will cost about R150


  1. January 9th, 2012

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