SIM cards are a familiar sight to most people, who will have a good idea how they work. However, there’s a new addition to the market that’s likely to become more commonplace in the next few years, and that’s eSIM. It will probably replace the traditional SIM card in a few years too. This new technology brings various new benefits over the traditional SIM card, but the question is, how does an eSIM work? In this article, we’re going to take a look at this question, as well as giving you some background information on where you might find this tech, and why you need to know how it works.
A growing number of phones now offer eSIM support, usually alongside a traditional SIM card slot. Setting up an eSIM involves scanning a QR code, which then leads you through the process of registering your cell number and your profile on the device. Here’s how to get started.
An eSIM also offers plenty of benefits when traveling. With no physical SIM card to worry about, you can quickly and easily sign up for a local eSIM package in whatever country you happen to be in. This doesn’t just work for phones either—several portable wifi hotspot devices come with eSIM capabilities, so switching between countries is just a question of installing a new profile. There’s no need to go into a store or to wait for a package to arrive.
Although you can only use one eSIM at a time on your phone (for now at least), switching between profiles once you’ve set them up is very straightforward—again, useful for hopping between countries, or voice and data plans, and so on. You can use whichever eSIM suits your current situation best.
When it comes to switching plans or switching carriers, everything is straightforward with an eSIM. Moving just takes a few seconds while the embedded hardware is reprogrammed, and then you’re ready to go again—no need to prod your phone with an ejector tool, no need to open up slots on your handset, and no need to get confused about which is your old SIM card and which is your new one.
There are benefits for manufacturers as well, because eSIMs take up a fraction of the room of even the smallest physical SIMs. That extra space where a SIM card slot would have been can be used for something else, or cut out to make the overall device smaller.
Embedded SIM technology
That development is the eSIM. Sometimes known as electronic SIM cards, eSIM actually stands for embedded SIM. As the name suggests, this means that SIM functionality can now be integrated directly into the device, rather than a separate card needing to be inserted. What’s interesting is that eSIMs are not wholly different from the traditional SIM card – they use a similar electrical interface, but are instead soldered directly onto a circuit board during production of the product, making them a fully integrated component. End users, however, will likely never directly interact with them.
However, there are additional benefits that go beyond the simple physical pros.
So why would you need an eSIM, and how would you use one?
The big attraction of eSIMs is that they can be configured using the device, or provisioned remotely. This means that they will have huge benefits when it comes to roaming. Currently, roaming can be very expensive when people are using their mobile phones in multiple countries. Roaming is expensive because your SIM is tied to one provider, and the agreements that they have made with other network providers in other countries.
eSIM roaming benefits
Roaming can be a real headache for individuals who travel a lot, as well as businesses that manage a large number of SIM devices. In short, when you travel to a new destination, the likelihood is that you’ll have to pay high fees to your network provider, based on whatever agreements they have in place with network providers in the travel destination. In some places such as within the EU, such excessive charges are currently banned, but all over the world they’re still common.
eSIMs will give users the power to switch network providers whenever they need to. Currently, the traditional SIM card is tied to a particular provider, so you can in theory get a new SIM for the destination you’re travelling to, but this can be not so convenient as you’ll need to source a new physical SIM, and swap it round as and when needed. eSIMs revolutionise this by allowing you to store multiple SIM profiles on the device, and you can switch between them – or even have several active at once for different purposes. So you can have a local profile for what would normally be a roaming destination, and take advantage of cheaper rates.
How to cut down on roaming charges
The idea of eSIMs is that they can in many ways cut out the middleman. Imagine that you want to travel abroad, and you’d like to get the low-cost rates of a domestic user. You could purchase a SIM card from a foreign network provider, wait for it to arrive, swap it round, safely store your current SIM, and then go travelling. But only, of course, if your device wasn’t network locked. An eSIM makes things far more straightforward, because all you’ll need to do is download and configure new information onto the eSIM, rather than having to go through the effort of changing the physical card.
You can also use this functionality to have more than one number on the device, which is why many modern high-end smartphones and devices come with dual-SIM technology. With the power of having multiple plans, you can for example have one number for work-related calls, and another for personal ones. You can use your current phone number for WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Viber and enjoy cheap data roaming with another eSIM number. This removes the need to carry around two devices. If you’ve got one of the latest iPhones, Samsung, Google Pixel phones, then there’s a good chance that you already have this functionality. You can see the full list of currently supported devices here.
We just recommend you to always switch off “Mobile Data Switching” in your phone. You would risk roaming on your local carrier with high data prices.
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