Have you recently purchased a new iPhone or a Google Pixel smartphone? Or, perhaps you’ve just ordered a new smartwatch and you want to connect to it data services? If you’ve been digging around in the ‘Cellular Data’ settings, you may have stumbled across an option to add an eSIM line to the device. If you’re unsure what an eSIM is, don’t worry – you’re not alone!
eSIMs, or embedded-SIMs, are small chips buried deep inside your device that acts just like a virtual SIM card. They come as standard and cannot be removed, and can be activated with cellular services, just like a regular SIM card. Unlike a normal SIM, however, mobile plans are downloaded over the internet and stored virtually within the eSIM. In fact, you can have as many different eSIM plans as you like on the one eSIM chip and can still use your regular SIM card at the same time.
So, why would someone want to use an eSIM?
What is eSIM?
eSIM, or embedded-SIM, is a small chip buried deep inside your device that acts just like a virtual SIM card. It comes as standard and cannot be removed, and can be activated with cellular services, just like a regular SIM card. Unlike a normal SIM, however, mobile plans are downloaded over the internet and stored virtually within the eSIM. In fact, you can have as many different eSIM plans as you like on the one eSIM chip and can still use your regular SIM card at the same time.
So, why would someone want to use an eSIM?
Uses for eSIMs
eSIM has always been hailed as a fantastic travel product as it allows users to bypass traditionally-expensive roaming charges applied by their normal operator. As an eSIM user can store a large number of differing eSIM plans on the one eSIM chip, they can freely switch among network providers and always benefit from the best deal.
For example, if someone frequently travels to Asia from the United States, their normal SIM card operator may charge expensive data roaming fees. That user, with an eSIM-enabled device, can download an eSIM plan from a local operator (giving them local rates), or by an eSIM designed for travel (giving them near-local rates).
But eSIM is proving to be so much more than that as many users are activating the eSIM plan in their smartphone in order to add a second line to their device.
>For some, they use their eSIM line as an additional top-up to their existing plan. For example, if you frequently find you are exceeding your data limits on your regular SIM card plan, you can download a data-only eSIM plan to access affordable data until your limit renews. For others using an eSIM plan with voice, data, and SMS services, it is giving them the opportunity to combine their personal and business line into one handset.
It isn’t just smartphones that are compatible with eSIM, either. Consumers across the world are purchasing eSIM plans for their tablets and wearables, helping their device connect to data services from wherever they are in the world.
What devices use eSIM?
If you are not 100% sure about whether your device is eSIM-enabled or not, here is a list of the most common devices which are compatible with eSIM:
- Apple iPhone X, 11 and SE series’
- Google Pixel 3, 4 and 5 series’
- Samsung Galaxy S20 and Z Flip series’, Note 20+, and Fold
- Huawei P40 series’
Tablets and Laptops:
- Apple iPad Air (3rd Gen.), Pro (3rd Gen.) and Mini (5th Gen.)
- Lenovo Yoga 630
- Windows 10 PCs
- HP Spectre Folio
- Apple Watch 3 and 4 – GPS and Cellular Version
- Samsung Gear S2 (3G), S3 (Frontier LTE) and Galaxy Watch LTE
- Huawei Watch 2 4G LTE
Where can you buy an eSIM?
Once you’ve purchased yourself an eSIM-enabled device, the next step is to choose an eSIM plan. Consumers can choose from a range of online eSIM stores or purchase an eSIM through a traditional network provider – the choice is yours. Unlike when you have to change providers with a normal SIM, an eSIM can be remotely provisioned so you don’t need to worry about getting a new SIM card. You simply scan the QR code provided to you when you purchase your plan and away you go.
But where should you purchase your SIM card from? What is the difference between the providers?
MVNOs and online eSIM stores
An MVNO, or Mobile Virtual Network Operator, is a wireless communications services provider that does not own its own network infrastructure and instead, leases telephone and data spectrum from the main network providers. Traditionally, MVNO plans are much cheaper than traditional network providers and offer the same level of coverage.
In the past year, many MVNOs have launched their own online eSIM stores, where customers can buy eSIM plans directly over the internet. With a choice of regional or global eSIM packages, the user purchases their plan online and receives a QR code via email, which can be activated instantly.
Why choose an online eSIM store?
- Greater flexibility and less commitment
- Instant download and activation
- Many providers and options to choose from
MNOs, or Mobile Network Operators, are the main operators who own the network infrastructure in your area. Some of the largest in the United States include Verizon, Sprint, and T&T. These types of traditional network providers serve the majority of consumers across the world and are normally household names.
However, not all traditional network operators support eSIM, meaning you can only purchase an eSIM plan from a participating network operator in your area. Currently, these eSIM plans are offered on a subscription basis and cannot be purchased online.
Why choose a traditional network provider?
- Usually a larger customer service team
- Can transfer your existing SIM card profile to eSIM
For an up-to-date list of mobile network operators who support eSIM, click here.
Fortunately, an eSIM store’s multiple eSIM plans so you have the freedom to pick and choose between providers and activate each plan only when you need it.
There is no doubt that eSIM will grow in popularity over the coming years, with one study estimating that over 220million eSIM-enabled devices will be shipped by the end of 2020. As more and more MVNOs and MNOs support eSIM, the only question is: when will you?