eSIM: Everything You Need To Know About The Next Global Standard For SIM Cards

Recently, a number of flagship phones have been released with a new feature: the eSIM. Phone manufacturers, as well as Telecom providers, are also spending money on advertising their eSIM capabilities. Apple just took it a step further by introducing the iPhone 14 Pro, which completely ditches the SIM tray and opts all the way in for eSIM in the US version of the phone.

But what is an eSIM, and why is this something we need to know about?

Here’s everything you need to know about eSIM:

What is a SIM?

The word SIM is an acronym for Subscriber Identification Module.

A SIM card is an integrated circuit imprinted on a removal plastic card which can be manually inserted into phones, used to identify individual users, as well as save information like contacts and messages.

How many types of SIM are there?

Since the invention of SIM technology in 1991, there have been major updates to SIM cards.

As phones became more compact, the size of SIM cards became drastically smaller with each generation.

  • In 1991, the full-sized standard SIM card (85mm x 53mm) was introduced
  • In 1996, the mini SIM (25mm x 15mm) was introduced and became the standard.
  • The micro-SIM (15mm x 12mm) debuted in 2003
  • The nano-SIM (12.3mm x 8.8mm) made its debut in 2012
  • The eSIM chip (6mm x 5mm) was introduced in 2016

What is eSIM?

eSIM (embedded-SIM/ electronic SIM) is the latest form of the decades-old SIM technology, designed to overcome a number of previous problems.
eSIM is a programmable SIM card that is embedded directly into the device. Instead of the SIM circuit being attached to a removable plastic card (also known as the UICC card), eSIM has software installed onto an eUICC chip that is attached to the device.

eSIM (embedded-SIM) is the latest form of the decades-old SIM technology, designed to overcome a number of previous problems.
eSIM is a programmable SIM card that is embedded directly into the device. Instead of the SIM circuit being attached to a removable plastic card (also known as the UICC card), eSIM has software installed onto an eUICC chip that is attached to the device.

The end user can add or remove the operators from the chip, but since the chip is permanently mounted to the circuitry, it’s not possible to remove the eSIM itself.

Pros and Cons of eSIM

Pros of eSIM

Easier Switchability

Switching mobile networks is much simpler with an eSIM. You can change your network with a phone call, by scanning a QR code, or even by using an app.

It completely circumvents the hassle of having to go out and buy a SIM card or wait for delivery. It also bypasses the need for a SIM ejector tool every time you need to switch SIMs.

Moreover, the trouble of having to deal with those small chips is also eliminated.

Owning multiple numbers

eSIMs can support up to 5 virtual numbers, which means you can quickly change between networks for a better signal or better data plans.

It also makes it much easier to switch to travel SIMs when in a foreign country instead of buying roaming packages.

esim

Less Physical phone space

While current SIM cards are already very small (8.8mm), the card slots/trays are still big enough to take up valuable space that can instead be used for a bigger battery or an extra camera module.

This also allows manufacturers to enable SIM capabilities in other smaller gadgets like smartwatches. The Latest Samsung Gear smartwatches, as well as the latest Apple Watches, already support eSIM, with more companies opening up their IOT devices to this opportunity.

Better phone security.

Since eSIMs can’t just be taken off from the phone, eSIMs will improve phone security by making it more difficult to steal a phone and sell it.

Cons:

Availability:

Currently, eSIMs are mostly available in flagship phones. Given the slow adoption rate, it’s possible that while changing from a flagship to a temporary phone, eSIM capabilities might not be available.

Privacy concerns.

Unlike regular SIM cards, it’s not possible to just turn off your phone and take out the SIM card when it comes to eSIM.

Flexibility

With regular SIM cards, if your phone battery dies, you can just take out the SIM and use it on a different phone. It’s just simply not that simple in case of eSIM.

Is eSIM the peak of SIM technology?

No, while eSIM is the latest commercially available version of the SIM card, Qualcomm, along with a number of companies, has already started working on iSIM.

What’s the difference? Well, while eSIM is embedded into the circuitry of the phone, iSIM is integrated into the main processor.

Some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How many eSIM can be used on a phone?

You can store more than one eSIM in your phone, but you can use only one at a time.

How do I add eSIM to my iPhone?

How do I remove eSIM from my iPhone?

Go to Settings > Tap either Cellular or Mobile Data > Tap the plan you want to erase > Tap Remove Cellular Plan.

Can I install eSIM on two phones?

No, it’s not possible to install the same eSIM on multiple devices. An eSIM can only be installed on one device.

What happens if you delete eSIM?

If you delete your eSIM, you can contact your carrier, and they’ll help you retrieve it.

Some phones with eSIM capabilities
Since eSIM is a relatively new technology, it’s not that common in current phones. While some flagship phones have been released with eSIM capabilities, widespread adoption is a few years away.

Some phones with eSIM are:

Apple:

  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone SE 2 (2020)
  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 12 Mini
  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • iPhone 13
  • iPhone 13 Mini
  • iPhone 13 Pro
  • iPhone 13 Pro Max
  • iPhone SE 3 (2022)
  • iPhone 14
  • iPhone 14 Plus
  • iPhone 14 Pro
  • iPhone 14 Pro Max

Google:

  • Google Pixel 3a XL
  • Google Pixel 4
  • Google Pixel 4a
  • Google Pixel 4a 5G
  • Google Pixel 4 XL
  • Google Pixel 5
  • Google Pixel 5a
  • Google Pixel 6
  • Google pixel 6a
  • Google Pixel 6 Pro

Samsung:

  • Samsung Galaxy S20
  • Samsung Galaxy S20+
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
  • Samsung Galaxy S21
  • Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy S21+ Ultra 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy S22
  • Samsung Galaxy S22+
  • Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 20
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy Fold
  • Samsung Galaxy Fold 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 5G Fold
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

And a few phones from Sony, Huawei, Oppo, and Motorola.

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Contributor

  • Asgar, co-founder and editor at The Interlude, is currently a med school student and constantly testing the limits of the human spirit.

Asgar Azwad

Asgar, co-founder and editor at The Interlude, is currently a med school student and constantly testing the limits of the human spirit.

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