What is an eSIM and how do they work?

May 24, 2024

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It's happening. The eSIM is finally going mainstream.

But what exactly is an eSIM?

To understand eSIMs, let's start with a quick refresh of the traditional SIM card. A SIM card is a small, removable chip inside your smartphone that stores your identifying information and provides access to a mobile network. This enables you to make calls, send texts, and access mobile data.

SIM cards were originally the size of credit cards.

It's hard to believe that SIM cards initially started out the size of credit cards. Over the years, they've become progressively smaller—from full size to mini to micro to nano. Now, it appears that manufacturers like Apple, Samsung, and Google are gradually phasing out physical SIM card slots altogether to free up valuable real estate in their devices. 

The future is clearly moving towards devices without physical SIM cards in favour of embedded SIM technology, also known as eSIM. 

What is an eSIM?

An eSIM is a tiny chip embedded directly into your smartphone or other device's motherboard. Like SIM cards, these embedded chips identify you to help your mobile network manage your active subscription. But unlike traditional SIM cards, which you physically insert and swap out, managing your eSIM is entirely virtual allowing you to create separate profiles and switch networks with ease.

How do eSIMs work?

As the transition to eSIM-only devices occurs gradually, most modern devices (including smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches) feature a physical SIM card tray and embedded SIM capabilities. The device you're using to read this article is probably eSIM capable. You can confirm this in your device settings under the network or cellular options. However, your smartphone or other device must be unlocked to enjoy the benefits that eSIM technology offers. 

1. The ease to switch networks

When you travel or decide to switch networks, there's no need to fiddle with tiny SIM cards. You can easily switch to a different network profile by scanning a new QR code from a carrier like Sim Local. This flexibility is a game-changer, especially for frequent travellers because it helps them stay connected while avoiding roaming charges. 

2. Multiple profiles

One of the standout features of eSIM technology is its ability to store multiple profiles. It means you can have several numbers and plans on your smartphone. Whether you need a local plan while travelling, a separate number for work, or just want to switch carriers, an eSIM makes it seamless. Some devices let you install and switch between six or more eSIM profiles; all while keeping your physical SIM card inserted to receive calls as normal. 

3. No swapping required

If you've ever swapped out a SIM card, you’re familiar with the hassle of fiddling with the tray, plucking your card out, and replacing it with another. People do this all the time when they travel overseas in order to avoid roaming charges and connect to local networks. 

With eSIM there's no more fiddling with SIM card trays. Your mobile network provider will give you a QR code or an activation code. Simply scan the QR code and the necessary network profile will be downloaded and installed.

4. Get connected instantly

Since eSIMs can be purchased online—with a QR code and instructions sent to your inbox—it offers immediate network connectivity versus having to wait for a physical SIM card. This makes eSIMs perfect for travellers who need fast access to local networks.

5. Greater security 

Since an eSIM can’t be removed like a traditional SIM card can, it can’t be lost or stolen. They can be activated and managed remotely too, reducing the impact of device theft.

The future is eSIM

The world of connectivity is rapidly evolving and eSIM technology is at the forefront of this evolution. Embracing eSIM means embracing the future of mobile connectivity, where switching mobile networks is as simple as scanning a QR code.

In essence, the eSIM is revolutionising the way we connect. It's all about convenience and flexibility, allowing you to manage multiple plans and switch networks with ease—all without the need for a physical SIM card.

Find out more by reading our eSIM Explained guide or get started with an eSIM from Sim Local.

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