An overview of eSIM technology – what it is, why it is important and its potential implications
Everyone is familiar with the indispensable SIM card for making and receiving calls. However, the emerging eSIM technology, although not widely supported, is making waves in the smartphone market. Notably, the iPhone 14 released in September exclusively uses eSIM, omitting the traditional SIM card port.
A SIM, or ‘Subscriber Identity Module,’ is a small plastic card with a chip that you insert into your phone or mobile device. It holds essential data, linking your device to a mobile network, including your mobile subscriber ID, carrier-issued mobile number, and SIM card ID. If your mobile service provider hasn’t issued the correct SIM card, connecting to a mobile network won’t be possible.
Switching phones is effortless with a SIM card, as it can store your contact information. Simply remove your old SIM card and insert it into your new phone.
The device’s motherboard reads the actual chip on the SIM card through the card reader. If you switch cell service providers, you replace the SIM card from your old carrier with the one from your new provider in your phone.
How Does eSIM Technology Function?
With eSIM, accessing your cellular network doesn’t require a physical SIM card. Upon purchasing a cellular plan, your provider provides an eSIM QR code or activation code. After activating the code on your device, the eSIM is downloaded to the chip and ready for use. It remains inactive until configured to connect to a mobile network.
An eSIM is essentially a virtual SIM card embedded in mobile phones (the ‘e’ stands for ’embedded’). Unlike a traditional SIM card, an eSIM cannot be physically removed but can be remotely overwritten. Notably, eSIMs offer 512KB of memory, surpassing the 128–256 KB of a regular SIM card. This larger memory capacity allows storing multiple cell providers, simplifying connectivity
Once enabled, you can use your device with the wireless service you purchased anywhere in the world. Similar to SIM cards, your smartphone can always connect to your cell provider’s service.
What Are an eSIM’s Big Advantages?
For frequent travelers, eSIMs are the ideal solution. Whether you’re on the move frequently or spontaneously, staying connected is effortless. eSIMs simplify travel, especially for those regularly transitioning between two countries. Expats and business travelers can seamlessly switch from their local operator to an eSIM provider while maintaining two operational lines. Enjoy mobile connectivity anytime, anywhere with eSIM services! They provide numerous advantages over traditional physical SIM cards.
Accounts Won’t Have to Be Permanently Disabled
As eSIMs can store multiple profiles, seamlessly switching between networks becomes possible without disabling accounts permanently. This feature ensures continuous connectivity wherever you go, especially beneficial for travelers. Moreover, it often proves to be a cost-effective alternative to activating global roaming.
They Require Less Room on Mobile Phones
Modern smartphones predominantly feature nano-SIM cards, measuring 8.8mm, while eSIMs are only 4mm. The compact size allows phone makers to add more features, like a larger battery or a faster CPU, optimizing processing capabilities. With fewer entry points (no SIM card slot), phones achieve improved IP ratings against dust and water. In the race for innovation, the absence of a physical SIM card and tray with eSIMs provides extra space for features or facilitates the creation of more compact devices. Furthermore, the removal of a detachable SIM card tray can enhance a device’s overall durability by eliminating a potential point of failure.
An eSIM Cannot Be Damaged or Lost
Remember, your phone comes with an eSIM, and the risk of damage is minimal. A faulty SIM card can diminish signal quality, leading to widespread phone-related issues. Trying an eSIM not only reduces the risk but provides various other benefits worth exploring.
More Than One Phone Number Is Possible
Having an eSIM allows for multiple phone numbers, similar to using a phone with dual SIM card slots. This offers the advantage of managing incoming and outgoing communications more efficiently, as you can make and receive calls and messages with either number. eSIMs prove beneficial in separating personal and professional communications. In summary, using an eSIM alongside a traditional SIM card allows for customizable connectivity across your devices.
Compared to SIM cards, eSIMs are easier to activate.
Activating an eSIM is as simple as scanning a QR code to register your profile with the mobile network. Unlike physical SIM cards requiring intricate placement, often demanding surgical precision, eSIM activation eliminates this process. Some networks may require a PIN entry. Typically, the connection process takes no more than 15 minutes.
What Are an eSIM’s Big Disadvantages?
In terms of security, eSIMs are generally secure as they cannot be physically taken and inserted into other devices. They can be configured to request operator confirmation when a user tries to update their profile. Despite this, they are not completely immune to fraud, as hackers often make significant efforts to exploit vulnerabilities in mobile carriers’ networks to obtain user profiles and other data.
Network Providers Can More Easily Trace Users
Users concerned about privacy can prevent their cell network from monitoring their location by removing a physical SIM card from their phone. However, with eSIMs built into the device and non-removable, phones stay connected to the carrier’s network, making tracking easier. While this might not be a concern for most people, individuals in regions with government persecution may find this a significant problem.
In case of phone malfunctions, power loss, accidental tips, or screen damage, communication may cease with eSIMs. In contrast, standard SIM cards can be easily removed from the affected phone and placed in a backup device or another phone during such occurrences.
On a New Phone, the Restoration Process Is Slower
The small plastic SIM card hidden in your phone is likely to survive damage, as you can easily transfer it to a new device. However, with an eSIM, the process is different. Retrieving and downloading your eSIM profile from the cloud takes more time. When upgrading, the transition also requires more time compared to moving to a new device.
Hard to Transfer SIM
At present, data can be stored on a SIM card and easily transferred to a new phone when switching devices. In contrast, with an eSIM, the process involves retrieving and downloading your profile from the cloud, rather than simply moving a removable SIM card.
Your Device Might Not Be Supported by Network Providers
Not all major global network providers support eSIM technology. Unlike a removable SIM card, adding a local eSIM profile to your smartphone while abroad may not be possible. Additionally, even if a network provider offers eSIM, it doesn’t guarantee support for all compatible devices. It’s essential to verify with your local network provider regarding compatibility with your specific device.
Support Limited to High-end Phones
Currently, only high-end smartphones like Apple iPhones, Google Pixel, and Samsung Galaxy S and Z series support eSIM, which can be costly for the average user. Choosing eSIM also limits users to a narrower range of compatible devices.