These days, physical SIM cards come in various forms designed to fit phones of all sizes. When you want to change networks, it’s as simple as taking the old SIM out and putting in a new one – that is, if your phone is unlocked! However, this is not the only way users can change networks, as eSIMs are beginning to gain traction. If you have been wondering what an eSIM is, you have landed in the right place. Here we will try to answer all queries you might have about eSIMs.
What Is an eSIM?
An eSIM or embedded SIM is just as its name suggests – a SIM card embedded within the device itself. An eSIM is basically an electronic and programmable form of a traditional SIM card on which you need to download a SIM profile from your carrier. It can also be called a virtual SIM as you can connect to your carrier network without a physical SIM card.
At the same time, you won’t find a eSIM card port on the phone, and you can’t physically take it out of the device. It’s buried within the phone’s processor and not removable. However, just like a swappable SIM card, you can change the eSIM to a different network (if it’s not locked that is). eSIMs are rewritable. That means you can change networks without removing your SIM. However, you will have to erase the existing eSIM profile and activate the new one.
eSIMs provide alternatives for phones that do not support a second SIM card. Most big manufacturers like Apple, Google, Samsung, etc., have incorporated eSIMs in some way or the other.
eSIM vs Physical SIM: What’s the Difference
While both eSIM and physical SIM provide the same functionality, they differ in a number of ways:
- The physical SIM is removable. That’s not the case with eSIM as you cannot physically remove it.
- One can easily switch phones in case of physical SIM cards. In contrast, you will need to contact your mobile carrier in most cases to change eSIM from one device to another.
- SMS services might stop working for 24 hours as you transfer your eSIM to a new device. Nevertheless, this is a security measure that may not be applicable to all mobile carriers. Case in point, in our experience they did stop working while using the JIO network in India. You might be able to avoid this inconvenience by reading the instructions very carefully before switching your eSIM to a new device. Comparatively, this doesn’t happen when you switch a physical SIM card to a new device.
- Traditional SIM cards can store contacts. This is not possible with eSIMs. But it shouldn’t matter much as most users store contacts in the cloud now.
Who Can Use eSIM?
At this point in time, eSIM isn’t available just to everyone. You’ll need to have a certain phone model and use a certain network to be able to give it a try. Today, it’s mostly flagships that offer eSIM capability including:
- iPhone XS / XS Max or newer
- iPhone SE (3rd Gen)
- Google Pixel 3+
- Samsung Galaxy S20 series +
In addition to mobile phones, smartwatches like Apple Watch Series 3 and above, Samsung Galaxy watches, and many computers also include eSIM technology. Apart from that, other IoT products like cars, smart meters, security systems, etc., can also support eSIM.
In the US, AT&T, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless, Truphone, Ubigi, and Visible support eSIM.
A carrier’s both new and existing users can apply for eSIM. For existing users, their physical SIM card will become non-functional after activating eSIM.
On the other hand, more and more phones offer dual SIM functionality these days with one SIM as an eSIM. This means that one can use both a physical SIM card alongside a second eSIM and take advantage of two different phone numbers on the same device.
How to Activate eSIM
The great advantage with eSIM is that, unlike in the case of a physical SIM, you don’t need to visit a store or put in a mail order for a new SIM card. Using what’s called “remote SIM provisioning,” network providers can beam details to your eSIM, allowing it to connect to their network.
The steps to activate eSIM differ slightly for each mobile operator and device. However, in most cases, the mobile operator will share a QR code consisting of the eSIM profile that you need to scan from your mobile.
Or, you will have to manually activate the profile by sharing your phone’s IMEI and IMSI numbers. Don’t worry. Your mobile operator will share a complete set of instructions when you apply for eSIM. Below you can see an example of a SMS sent by our mobile operator which includes the complete instructions on how to activate our eSIM.
Advantages of eSIM Cards
The biggest advantage of the eSIM is that it takes away the need for individual SIM cards. If you want to use multiple plans on your phone, you can swap and change between them as needed. This makes it perfect for network hoppers who don’t want to fumble with physical SIM cards every time they want to change.
Moreover, eSIM cannot be damaged or lost unlike your physical SIM card unless you lose your phone. Also, eSIM is secure as it can’t be duplicated easily, provided you don’t share the QR code or other important information like IMSI or virtual SIM number with others.
Also, by removing the tray required for SIM cards, manufacturers can design their phones to be thinner. You don’t have to worry about the SIM change – just enjoy your sleeker device!
Disadvantages of eSIM cards
Switching the eSIM to a new phone is a process that the companies have full control over, rather than something the users can do themselves without involving the carrier. You will have to retrace all the steps you followed while activating the eSIM to move the eSIM to a new phone (again SMS might stop working for 24 hours!). This is one of the major disadvantages of eSIM as it is more difficult to transfer to a new phone, unlike physical SIM, which you can simply pop out and pop in between devices.
Further, in order to use eSIM, both the network provider and your smartphone should have support for the eSIM functionality otherwise it won’t work.
eSIM also makes it difficult to identify and fix network issues. Generally, one would remove the physical SIM card or put it in another phone to check if the problem is due to the network or on the phone. This isn’t easy to handle with eSIMs.
The move from a user-replaceable SIM to one fixed inside the device is causing some users to voice concerns about limitations, identifying this aspect as another part of the phone they can’t customize.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you convert from eSIM to physical SIM?
Yes, you can switch to a physical SIM card from an eSIM. However, you will need to contact and visit the mobile carrier store in order to do so.
How many eSIM profiles can you store on one device?
Some devices can only store one profile, so you’ll need to erase the old and download the new network profile to make the change. Other devices allow you to store multiple eSIM profiles. You can easily switch to one of them from the device’s settings on the fly.
Is it possible to receiving calls from both SIM cards on the same phone?
You can make and receive calls from both numbers on your phone. However, you can receive or make calls from only one number at a time. That is, if you are on a call from one number, you won’t receive calls to another number. Call waiting functionality only works for the calls for the same SIM card.
All screenshots by Mehvish Mushtaq
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