A SIM card – a small plastic card inserted into your mobile phone – is an acronym for Subscriber Identity Module.
It keeps information, such as your mobile phone number, and allows you to make and receive calls, text messages, and use data on your phone.
SIMs can also store contacts and phone numbers which makes switching between phones easy – you can simply take the SIM out of your old phone and slot it into a new one.
What is an eSIM?
But so-called eSIMs are designed to replace older physical SIM cards (and in case you were wondering, the “e” stands for “embedded”).
Instead of being a removable plastic card inside your phone, an eSIM is a small chip embedded in your phone. You cannot remove it and put it in another phone.
However, the information on the eSIM is rewritable. This means that you can change your network without removing the SIM card and inserting a new one.
Perhaps the time when eSIMS will completely replace plastic SIMs is still a long way off. Currently, eSIMs are more commonly used as the second SIM in a dual-SIM phone.
What are the advantages of an eSIM?
- Easier to switch networks. An eSIM makes it easy to switch between mobile networks. Instead of having to order a new SIM card, wait for it to arrive, and then insert it into your phone, you can switch to a different network with a phone call or over the Internet. You also don’t need to look for a SIM card “eject tool” to remove the old SIM card from your phone.
- You can change the timer to another network. Up to five virtual SIM cards can be stored on one eSIM at a time. This means that you can quickly switch between different networks if you find yourself in an area with no signal on your usual network.
It also makes it easy to switch to a local network while traveling, without having to physically insert a local SIM card. It can be much cheaper to use your local mobile network while abroad than to pay roaming costs for your Australian network. In addition, not removing the Australian SIM card from your phone will also reduce the risk of losing it.
- It allows you to have more than one SIM card. An eSIM also offers the same advantages as dual SIM phones with two traditional plastic SIM card slots, the most obvious being that you can have two phone numbers on one device.
This can be useful if you want one for personal use and one for work – but you don’t want to carry two phones with you. You’ll be able to receive phone calls and text messages on both numbers all the time and choose which SIM you want to use to make calls, send texts, or use data.
4. Uses less physical phone space. Another advantage of eSIMs is that they will eventually eliminate the need and degree of a physical SIM card. Smartphone manufacturers will likely use this space to increase the phone’s battery size or add more features to the phone. Fewer holes in the phone also mean more protection from moisture and dust, thus reducing crashes.
There is also the potential to make phones smaller in some cases. But the real space advantage lies in wearables like smartwatches, as people don’t want to wear a bulky device on their wrist. The Apple Watch Series 5 and Series 4 already have an eSIM, as do the Samsung Gear S2 and Gear S3 smartwatches.
What are the disadvantages of an eSIM?
There are some potential downsides to eSIMs.
- It is not easy to switch devices quickly. Currently, if your phone stops working, you can easily remove the SIM card and put it in another phone, keeping your number and contact information (if your contacts are stored on the SIM card).
This would be more complicated with an eSIM – although storing information and contacts in the cloud is designed to make it easier to transfer data like contacts from one phone to another.
- There is no place to hide. You also cannot remove the eSIM from the device, which may be seen as a downside if you have concerns about tracking your movements. But this may also be an advantage as it means that phone thieves cannot easily hide the location of a stolen phone.
Do all smartphones have an eSIM?
At the moment, there are only a handful of the latest smartphones and wearables that have an eSIM. These include:
- All of Apple’s latest iPhones – iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, plus the new iPhone 12 and iPad Pro lineup
- Samsung Galaxy S20, S20 + and S20 Ultra phones
- Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL
- Motorola’s Razr (only eSIM, no physical SIM included)
- Samsung Gear S2 and Gear S3 smart watches
- Apple Watch Series 3, 4, and 5
Do all networks support eSIM?
Globally, not all networks support eSIMs – but they will by the time this technology becomes standard.
In Australia, the three major networks – Telstra, Optus and Vodafone – support eSIM in some capacities.
questions and answers
Are eSIMs more expensive than SIM cards?
Although most networks do not charge more for the initial eSIM setup, there are occasional addition fees when using an eSIM.
For example, since you can use a single number across multiple devices with an eSIM, some providers charge around $5 extra per month for convenience.
Can the eSIM be used internationally?