eSIMs vs SIM cards

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If you’re like most people, you probably don’t think about your SIM card all that often. But did you know that there is a new type of SIM card called an eSIM, and it’s the only way you’ll be able to connect your new iPhone 14 to cellular service?

With enhanced security, more flexibility, and loads of time-saving benefits, eSIM is the future – and the future is now! Here’s everything you need to know about the difference between eSIM vs SIM cards.

What is a SIM Card?

A SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card is a small, removable card that stores information about your mobile phone number, carrier, and data plan. It’s what allows you to connect to your carrier’s network so that you can make and receive calls, texts, and use data. These lightweight memory chips are portable and can be transferred from one phone to another taking along with them the contact details and related settings to the new phone as well.

Diagram showing dimensions of eSIM, Mini SIM, Micro SIM, and Nano SIM

SIM cards have come a long way since their inception as large credit card-sized devices. Today, they are much smaller but just as powerful. It’s amazing to see how technology has progressed and enabled such miniaturization of these essential components while maintaining increasingly strong performance levels.

Today, we see the future of SIM cards moving towards digital versions that are smaller and more invisible. These digital SIMs offer all the same functionalities as physical SIMs, but with more capabilities.

Enter: the eSIM

An embedded SIM, often known as an eSIM, is another example of a Digital SIM card that is taking over the smartphone industry. Especially so, now that Apple announced its new iPhone 14 lineup will only offer eSIM as the way to get connected. eSIM is a virtual duplicate of a conventional SIM card that comes already pre-installed inside your smartphone. It cannot be changed or inserted but is planted inside the device’s motherboard, removing the need to fiddle with the tiny piece of plastic. This technology also gets rid of the problems associated with switching carriers or numbers, seeming to be the solution for all those difficulties.

One of the best things about eSIMs is that they’re virtual. That means there’s no risk of wear and tear or losing data, and you don’t have to go through the hassle of ordering a new SIM and transferring all your information to it.

Furthermore, hacking eSIMs can be an uphill battle where the hacker will go through a series of security protocols that are almost impossible to bypass.

Not only do eSIMs offer the practicality of multiple profiles and subscriber data storage with unlimited space, but they can also be used abroad. That’s right – eSIMs can be utilized internationally, which means that when you travel to another country, you will not have to look for a local carrier’s SIM card to access cellular service.

Once you land in your destination country, eSIMs automatically connect with the local carrier’s network, helping you avoid an extraordinarily expensive international roaming bill.

eSIM vs. SIM Card – side by side comparison

Stacking them up side by side, it’s clear to see the differences between using a physical SIM card and an eSIM:

FeaturePhysical SIM cardeSIM
Locked to a carrier?One carrier per SIM.Reprogrammable to multiple carriers.
Dual-SIM (use two lines simultaneously)Some phones have two SIM card slots.Use an eSIM and a physical SIM, or 2 eSIMs simultaneously.
Switch phone lines on the flyPop out the SIM tray, remove the card, and pop a new one in.Go to phone settings and turn your lines on/off.
Size dimensions12.3mm x 8.8mm6mm x 5mm

Which phones support eSIMs

eSIM’s widespread adoption as the new standard has pushed nearly every phone manufacturer on the market to integrate the tech into their devices.

The first phone to support eSIM was Google’s Pixel 2, released in October 2017.

The release of the Apple iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max in 2018 increased public awareness of eSIM, as iPhones are the most popular device in the US. These were the first iPhones to support eSIM in addition to the physical card slot.

I have anecdotal experience of Apple’s stance toward eSIM based on my time working in Apple Retail.

The first time Specialists on the sales floor were instructed to default to eSIM activation was with the release of the iPhone 13. Looking back, this was a clear indicator Apple was preparing to iron out the obstacles with getting customers acclimated to eSIM technology.

Samsung, Motorola, Huawei, and many more manufacturers let you activate cellular service with eSIM. We’ve compiled a complete list of eSIM-compatible devices to help us all keep track.

eSIMs are not limited to phones.

In fact, the first-ever device to support eSIM was the Samsung Gear S2 – a 3G smartwatch! Now, eSIM is standard in wearables like the Apple Watch.

Laptops support eSIM, too! Gone are the days of lugging around a dongle or keeping track of the tiny chip that is ever so crucial to keeping you connected on the go. Acer, Dell, HP, and many more notebooks feature an eSIM that makes being productive on the road a breeze.

eSIM for Business

Businesspeople will love how eSIM improves their margins with the simple conveniences that scale. Here are some of the best eSIM business applications:

  • Devices with eSIM can be easily distributed and installed to connect to the right Telco automatically, based on parameters set during production.
  • You may save money and improve your logistics operations by remotely managing tracker devices on worldwide shipments. This eliminates the need to replace SIM cards!
  • Use eSIM to remotely update wireless plans at the end of a Telco contract to extend the life of connected devices and lower maintenance costs.

Will all devices stop supporting physical SIM cards?

The future of 5G is closely linked with eSIMs, which will combine the features of both technologies to create an unrivaled technical brilliance. Manufacturers are adding eSIMs into a variety of cellular-enabled gadgets including wearables and other IoT devices in order to exploit the full potential of this fusion.

In the case of Apple devices, specifically, the iPhone 14’s eSIM-exclusive funcitonality may set a new industry standard. Customers and competitors have adapted to each big step Apple takes – the multitouch display, true wireless earbuds, and now eSIM.

The Nothing Phone (1), SIM tray taken out with a US Mobile SIM card resting beside it.
The ever-popular Nothing Phone (1) doesn’t support eSIM. It has a dual-SIM tray for using two lines at once.

At the same time, though, there are phones with surreal levels of hype (like the Nothing Phone (1)) that don’t support eSIM. And that’s not stopping customers from buying up all the remaining stock. So the quesion remains: will the Apple effect make waves, or will they roll it back like they did with USB-C on the MacBook?

Is installing eSIM on iPhone easy?

Your experience is going to vary vastly depending on your carrier because purchasing and activating the eSIM is completely up to how they design the experience. The uniform process of popping in a SIM card is gone now, so easy activation flow will give carriers a competitive edge. The race to make eSIM easy should benefit consumers, as the switch to eSIM is a better longterm solution than physical SIM cards.

Thankfully, US Mobile has been preparing for this massive shift in the industry, preparing the most convenient, quick, and easy-to-follow activation process. If you can navigate through a checkout screen and use the iPhone Settings app, you’ll be more than proficient!

As you contemplate your next big smartphone purchase, it’s worth giving some thought to the way you’ll connect to your carrier. If you want to give eSIM a shot for free, we’re offering a 10-day free trial including unlimited talk, text, and data! You’ll be glad you made the switch to eSIM once you see how convenient it is.

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  1. With the update to Android 12 Galaxy S21 varints also received esim capability. However no carriers in the US seem to support it yet

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