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eSIM is Transforming the Telecom Industry, but what is it?


What is an eSIM?

What is a SIM card?

A SIM is short for "subscriber identity module", it is required in all GSM, LTE, and 5G devices. The SIM contains the details of the customer and how the device can connect to a carrier’s mobile network. Historically, it was a physical plastic card which had a chip soldered on to it. As the years progressed and technology evolved the size of the plastic card  became smaller. The SIM card went from 25mm height and 15mm in width (Mini Size) to 12.3mm height and 8.8mm width (Nano Sim). With the advent of the eSIM, the plastic card which the chip previously sat on is no longer required. An eSIM (embedded SIM) takes the metal circuit component and solders it directly to the devices’ motherboard. The eSIM now allows information of the SIM to be remotely reprogrammable through software – where previously this was pre-provisioned on the physical SIM itself.

History of Sim Card sizes

What is an eSIM?

eSIM (digital SIM or embedded SIM) is a rewritable SIM card that is mainly embedded into specific model smartphones, smartwatches, tablets/iPads and laptops. eSIM’s are slowly being in-built into other consumer products such cars and security cameras. Companies are also starting to utilise eSIMs for heavy machinery and shipping containers.

An eSIM is embedded and manufactured to your device and is not able to be removed, allowing you to connect to a mobile network through software. If you want to change a network, you no longer need to swap the tiny plastic card, instead you simply scan a QR code. 

How does the eSIM work?

With a standard physical SIM card , the network data is stored on the actual plastic SIM card itself. However, with the eSIM the “SIM” slot which is embedded in your device is blank. You must scan a QR code so that the blank eSIM can program the carriers’ data into your device. The informationa in the QR code is generally referred to as n “eSIM profile”. Once the eSIM profile is installed on your phone it will allow you to purchase eSIM voice and mobile data plans. You can add two eSIM plans to your device. The plans can be from 2 different mobile network, as along as their mobile network has eSIM support capabilities. This allows you to switch between the different cellular plans depending on the plan you want to use. If you no longer wish to use a particular network or plan, you simply just delete the eSIM mobile plan from your device.

What smart phones are compatible with eSIMs?

Prior to 2018 there were very few phones that had eSIM compatibility. However, over the last couple years all major phone suppliers have started allowing eSIM functionality with their high-end phones.

For phones to be compatible with an eSIM it needs to be specified as “Dual eSIM” or “Dual SIM with eSIM” are compatible. Currently all phones with eSIM compatibility allow you the option to use a physical sim along with the eSIM. However, it is estimated that by 2030 plastic sim cards will be totally phased out, leaving devices with only eSIMs.

Compatible phone and devices from 2019 supporting eSIM:

  • Apple iPhone:  iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone SE, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone Pro Max, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR
  • Google Pixel: Pixel 5A 5G, Pixel 5, Google Pixel 4A, Pixel 4, Pixel 3 & 3XL, Pixel 2 
  • Samsung: Galaxy S21+ 5G, Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, Note 20 FE 5G, Note 20 Ultra, Note 20 Ultra 5G, Note 20+, Fold LTE, Galaxy Z, Galaxy Fold,
  • Apple Watch: Apple Watch Series 7, Apple Watch SE, Apple Watch Series 6
  • Samsung Watch: Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

 See our full list for more compatible devices

What is an eSIM profile?

An eSIM profile is the downloadable software which is installed on the eSIM. Since the eSIM itself is empty, it requires a profile to be installed on it so it can connect with the carriers’ settings and transmit the necessary data for you to start using your service. An eSIM mobile plan can be installed by scanning the QR code provided by the service provider.

What is an eSIM plan?

An eSIM plan are either prepaid or postpaid plans that is downloaded onto your device. These plans detail how much data and voice you are able to use and in how many days. Most carriers offer 30-day plans with set data and voice limits. eSIM plans are great if you are traveling as it allows you to download the data plan on your phone as you land at your destination. If you are traveling soon, check out SimCorner and their range of eSIM and physical SIM cards.

The advantages of using an eSIM over physical SIM?

  • It’s less complicated to change network providers:An eSIM makes it less cumbersome to change carriers. Instead of receiving a brand-new SIM, you can transfer to another network by scanning a QR code on your phone.
  • Store multiple SIMs on your device: If your device is compatible with eSIM technology you can save the eSIM profile on your device. This allows you to have access to multiple phone plans.
  • Easy activation and sign-up: With the embedded sim card you simply need to scan the QR code of the eSIM profile in the device settings and follow the activation steps on your phone to get the plan started. The activation process from scanning the QR code to commencing your service takes a matter of minutes.
  • No tiny hardware to change: Since the eSIM is software programmable, you only need to scan the new eSIM profile should you wish to change network carriers. You no longer need to worry about losing a sim card or damaging the SIM circuit as you remove and insert the SIM in your phone as sim cards can be quite temperamental if not handled correctly.
  • Allow you to use multiple carriers at the same time: With the eSIM you can use two carrier service simultaneously, removing the need to carry two devices. Further, you are able to use cellular data from one network whilst still being able to receive personal calls through another network.

The disadvantages of using an eSIM over physical SIM?

One of the big disadvantages of the eSIM is that if you are traveling to multiple countries and are using local eSIM data plans then you must go through the activation process multiple times. This generally isn’t an issue, however if you are swapping networks multiple times – it is only a matter of time till the carrier’s activation process runs into trouble. The practice of changing networks via the physical SIM is straight forward as you simply remove and swap. Should you run into any issues, you just remove the physical SIM and restart your phone.

Further, if you have multiple eSIM profiles on your phone, it is relatively easy to swap between the carriers – even if sometimes you may not intend to. If you are traveling and have your home SIM card or eSIM plan active – there is a risk that you might use data on that profile leading to data roaming charges which will most likely be quite exorbitant

What is the ‘dual sim’ function on my phone?

If your device is eSIM compatible, then you should be able to use the dual sim functionality. Dual sim functionality is where you can concurrently have 2 activate services connected to your device. Depending on the device model, you can connect to either one physical sim and one eSIM or two active eSIMs.

How can I use the dual sim function on my phone?

With dual sim functionality you can;

  • Use one profile for business and another for personal activities
  • Have separate plans for voice and mobile data.
  • Add international eSIM mobile data and voice plans for when traveling overseas.

The advantages of a international eSIM data plan over a physical SIM?

For those who love to travel, there has always been one nagging issue – how do we stay connected when traveling. Do we buy a local sim at our international destination or keep  using our local sim from home. Using your home SIM generally means incurring those dreaded roaming charges. However, if you removed your home sim and used a local overseas travel sim, then you have lost access to your phone number and any incoming calls until your re-insert your sim. With the eSIM and the dual eSIM function, this is no longer an issue. You can keep your home phone active and use a local travel SIM. Just remember to change the settings of your home SIM to only receive calls – otherwise you might accidently use data and incur those expensive data roaming fees.

Should my home network be used as a physical SIM or eSIM if I am traveling?

If you are planning on traveling soon and your carrier provides eSIM functionality, it is recommended that you change your everyday plan from the physical SIM to an eSIM before you depart on your trip. This will allow you to use the physical SIM slot for your prepaid travel sim. This is beneficial because many countries and carriers still do not have eSIM functionality, hence to avoid any issues it is best to keep your physical SIM slot available.

Where can I purchase eSIM plans and physical SIM cards for my international travels?

Prepaid eSIM plans and prepaid SIM cards for international travel can be purchased directly from SimCorner. SimCorner is a one-stop shop for all your international travel communication needs. SimCorner sells prepaid travel sim cards with voice and cellular data options at unbeatable prices.

 

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FAQ

What does eSIM stand for?

Embedded Subscriber Identity Module

Is my phone compatible with the eSIM?

For phones to be compatible with an eSIM it needs to be specified as “Dual eSIM” or “Dual SIM with eSIM”. See our full list of compatible devices

Is eSIM card better than a physical SIM card?

eSIM and physical SIM ultimately serve the same purpose - to connect the users device to the mobile carriers network. Both have their pros and cons - however, eSIM enable devices do offer greater convenience when swapping carriers.

How do I get eSIM on my iPhone?

Your iPhone needs to be an eSIM enabled device. Currently the following iPhones devices support eSIM;

  • iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone SE, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone Pro Max, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR

 If you do not have an eSIM compatible device then you are not able to use an eSIM cellular plan and will need to get a physical SIM card instead.

What is an eSIM travel plan?

It is a prepaid plan with voice and/or data features to specifically use abroad. You can activate the plan on eSIM compatible devices as soon as you land at your international destination.

How do I subscribe to an eSIM plan on my iPhone?

If you have a QR code for cellular plan then follow the following steps on your iPhone;

  1. Go to Settings > Cellular.
  2. Tap Add Cellular Plan.
  3. Use your iPhone camera to scan the QR code.
  4. If you're asked to enter a confirmation code to activate the eSIM, enter the activation code provided with the QR code

Where can I purchase eSIM card and physical SIM card for my travels?

SimCorner is a one-stop shop for all your international travel communication needs. SimCorner has a range of prepaid travel sim cards with voice and data plans at unbeatable prices.

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