What is an eSIM? Is this the future of SIM cards?


Note: This article was originally written back in 2017 and has been updated to include the latest information.

When Apple announced Watch 3, it introduced eSIM. With eSIM, Apple Watch can be used without pairing with a phone. It allows it to operate as independently as a phone. Not just Apple, Google also talked about eSIM. After this, Apple also introduced dual SIM functionality with one physical SIM and one eSIM. Now with iPhone 14 series, Apple has ditched physical SIM slots to favor eSIM. The latest iPhone 14 has eSIM in the US. Here it is worth noting that the first completely eSIM-only phone was first-gen Moto Razr flip. Several Android devices already support eSIM. Now that Apple has adopted it by dropping the physical SIM slot completely, other device manufacturers will surely start following the trend. So, it is important for people to know how does this eSIM work? In this article, I will explain what is an eSIM and how it is different from normal SIM cards.

What is an eSIM?

As the name suggests, eSIM is the electronic SIM card that will replace the physical SIM card we insert into our phone. The eSIM card will be equivalent to the physical SIM cards but embedded in the device and it cannot be removed.

The eSIM is also known as eUICC (embedded Universal Circuit Card). It will be rewritable by all operators. If you ever want to switch the mobile operator, it will be updated over the air to change the operator. So, you do not need to get another SIM card, replace it with the current one and wait for activation.

Another benefit of the eSIM is its small size and it also helps device manufacturers in reducing the size of the device as well. The eSIM will also help people who travel a lot. If you are traveling to a new country, you can add a roaming eSIM to your phone while keeping access to your existing primary SIM.

GSMA started exploring possibilities of software-based SIM cards starting in 2010 and work began to bring eSIM. The initial version of eSIM was limited to support specific devices, but recent advancements have made it possible to use it in a wide range of consumer devices.

In past, Apple tried a similar thing with Apple SIM. Samsung also used a similar kind of tech in Samsung Gear S2 Classic 3G back in February 2016.

Network operators should also support the eSIM facility. Pixel’s eSIM is limited to subscribers of Google’s Project Fi. For others, there is an option to put regular SIM cards.

The Challenges of eSIMs

As I already said, it will not be easy to roll out globally, Device manufacturers will have to follow suit and carriers will have to support it. Devices cannot drop the current physical SIM card slots for eSIM until all carriers start supporting it. This is the reason Apple is only offering eSIM-only iPhones in the US where the majority of carriers now support eSIM.

For, now switching phones is easy and you can easily pop out the sim from one and put it on others. With eSIM, it can be a time-consuming process. It may take time for the deregistration of SIM from an older phone to register on a new phone. Now think if you just want to change your SIM card for a few minutes to test something.

Apple Watch 3 uses the same number that you use on your iPhone. It shows the possibility of the same number on multiple devices at the same time. What if a hacker manages to clone your SIM into another device and starts using your number and you are paying bills? So, security is another major challenge.

Final Words

Now the eSIM is a standard and most of the carriers will start supporting it soon. When the support is widely available, we can expect future devices to come with just eSIM.

It will be interesting to see how people will be able to switch eSIM from one phone to another. Security will be another important thing. As of now, it is not available in India. So, I didn’t get a chance to try it by myself.

What do you guys think about eSIM? Let us know your views in the comments below.

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