A SIM card is a ‘subscriber identity module,’ which is required in all GSM, LTE, and 5G devices. It’s a chip that holds your customer ID and details of how your phone can connect to its mobile network. An eSIM takes the circuitry of a SIM, solders it directly to a device’s board, and makes it remotely reprogrammable through software. The original drive toward eSIM came in part from the ‘Internet of Things’ industry. Being tiny and not requiring extra room for a slot, eSIMs can be built into devices like drones, wearables, sensors, and location trackers, where the size is of the essence. They can also be soldered into industrial equipment where a SIM card may not be easily accessible. Being reprogrammable from a distance means eSIMs can be managed in bulk.
Advantages to using an eSIM over a regular SIM card
- eSIM can save a lot of space inside your smartphone by replacing the slide-in SIMtray with an onboard soldered eSIM. Unlike a physical SIM card, it doesn’t need any specific card slot.
- An eSIM allows you to change your network operator simply over a phone call or by raising a request online.
- eSIMs can store multiple network profiles and it works perfectly across the world. This is a great option for someone who travels a lot.
- Losing an eSIM is very unlikely compared to a physical SIM card. Once you enable and set up the eSIM, you just can never lose it, it’s a hardware chip on your device and the only way you lose your eSIM is if you lose or break your smartphone.
Phones supporting eSIM: All three major US carriers support eSIM on recent iPhone and Google Pixel models. The folding Moto Razr also supports eSIM. But while the Samsung Galaxy S20, Note 20 series, Z Fold 2, and S21 series have supported eSIM in theory, they haven’t supported them in practice in the US, probably because of carrier resistance. (Several sites on Internet show the list of eSIM-compatible phones and how to activate an eSIM on those phones).
Tablets and Laptops supporting eSIM: Apple’s iPads have a great eSIM interface, where you just pick your provider and plan from an on-device menu. US Mobile cites some laptops from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, and Microsoft that support eSIM. Apple laptops do not yet support eSIM or cellular data. Airtel, Jio and Vi, the three main operators of India allow you to change the physical SIM into an eSIM. The eSIM can only be used in a device that is compatible with an eSIM.
eSIMs are beneficial for everyone, including OEM manufacturers, users, and telecom operators.