Although the huge majority of phones don’t support eSIM, it’s only a matter of time before many smartphones adopt electronic SIM cards – essentially removing the need to have a physical SIM card (and so a SIM slot).
What is an eSIM?
An eSIM — that stands for “Embedded Subscriber Identity Module” — is a small electronic chip inside a phone that serves the same function as the small plastic SIM cards we’ve used for years. Without a SIM card, your phone doesn’t know which carrier to connect to or your phone number, and your carrier doesn’t know which phone to provide service to.
Are there any disadvantages to eSIM?
There could be a disadvantage for consumers in terms of choice. If a phone is sold exclusively, it’s possible that all handsets could come pre-loaded with a particular network rather than being open to all.
The days of storing numbers on SIM cards are numbered anyway for most people using Android or iOS thanks to cloud backup, but it does involve a change of mindset for those using older or cheaper phones; you’ll no longer be able to swap a SIM card to a new phone physically.
What are the Advantages of using an eSIM?
Unlike carrier-locked SIM cards that restrict you from switching between carriers, an eSIM can be programmed and reprogrammed as needed, allowing you to hop between carriers or cancel and start service without having to get a new SIM card each time.
Without a removable SIM card tray and the precious space that it requires, phone-makers will be able to squeeze larger batteries inside a phone’s housing or use the extra space for additional cameras or new features. Of course, no SIM card slot likely means no microSD card slot for adding additional storage, a change that phone-makers are also migrating toward.
The eSIM is still young, and as such the process for things like activation and support from carriers and phone-makers will need to be streamlined (more on both of those aspects below), but one thing is clear: One day soon, we’ll be able to instantly switch between carriers with just a few taps on our phone’s display.
What networks support eSIM?
eSIM is available from selected carriers. You’ll either need to have a carrier’s app or a QR Code you can scan. Again, the carrier will need to support eSIM.
In the UK, EE, O2 and Vodafone support eSIM, although Vodafone is currently only supporting it for Apple Watch Series 3, 4 or 5 Cellular.
O2 recently launched eSIM on compatible Apple and Pixel phones. O2 says that customers need only pop into your local store or call customer services to get an eSIM pack or download an eSIM.
Let’s look at EE’s SIM pack. With EE you can get a traditional-looking SIM pack from a store like the one pictured here. But there’s no SIM in it; instead, you get instructions and a QR code enabling your device to pick up the details. Each eSIM pack comes with its own number just like a traditional SIM pack.
Away from the traditional carriers, “global mobile network” Truphone has started selling eSIM data plans. These are able to be bought via the MyTruphone app. Truphone’s international plans work across 80 countries including in Europe, the Americas and Australasia.
The app was originally available only on iOS but it is now available on Android for use with the Pixel Pixel 3, 3a and 4 (plus their XL versions). Truphone is currently offering 100MB of data completely free to new customers to try out the app.
What happens if I accidentally delete my eSIM from my phone? How do I get it back?
Since an eSIM contains data, it is possible to delete it, either via your phone’s Cellular Settings or by factory resetting your device. If this happens by accident, no worries! They(Network Companies) can get you set up with your eSIM again.
Will all phones start using eSIM cards in feature?
Odds are, yes. It makes sense for phone makers and carriers to ditch the plastic SIM cards, both from an added expense standpoint, as well as an environmental one when you consider the large plastic card that a standard SIM card comes attached to.
How do I set up an eSIM?
The process varies based on your carrier. AT&T users will need to get an eSIM activation card from the carrier. It will have a QR code on it that you can use to program the eSIM with your information. Some carriers, like Verizon Wireless, use their mobile app to program the eSIM.
Again, it’s a good idea to check with your carrier about its eSIM activation process.