What is an eSIM and how do you use it?

You might have heard about the new technology coming to all smartphones in the near future called eSIM. But what is eSIM and how will it work exactly?

First, a short history of SIM cards

A SIM card is a small flexible chip that is provided by your telecommunications provider that identifies your device on their network. SIM is short for Subscriber Identity Module and was created as a quick and easy way to transfer complicated subscriber data.

This data includes your user identity, registered phone number, network authorization data, personal security keys, your contact lists (Before access to the cloud, many people used SIM cards to transfer their phone contact lists) and text message database.

It also keeps a record of your cellular location and before smartphones, contained a hard drive to store user personal data.

The different models of SIM cards, shown by size. This is actually to scale on your monitor.

But as phones got more advanced and we entered the age of smartphones, the SIM card has become more and more obsolete. This is evidenced by the fact that it has slowly become smaller and smaller. In fact, one only has to look at the construction of a SIM itself. Most of it is hard plastic protecting the much smaller chip.

simcard sim
SIM cards

The latest phones on the market, such as the iPhone XS Max, has a slot for the tiniest SIM, the SIM Nano, as well as the ability to take an eSIM.

iPhone xs
Apple event announcing the new features of the iPhone XS.

Enter the eSIM.

What is an eSIM?

In a nutshell, eSIM is an electronic solid state SIM card that is built into your phone during the construction of the phone. Also, known as a ‘soft’ SIM card, it allows phones to change the contents of their ‘SIM’ card, without actually having to swap in a new SIM every time. The data contents of a SIM card is actually really small and there is no reason why it requires its own unique storage.

This technology is not yet very widely spread, and we saw that the latest iPhone still uses the normal plastic SIM card. But, like all new technologies, it takes one company to make a big leap and suddenly embrace the technology. Enter Apple. A few years ago they removed the headphone jack on their phones. They made it compulsory to use the more flexible USB port or the Bluetooth system.

If Apple did the same with the eSIM, we would see it rapidly expanded throughout the telecommunication industry within a year.

After all, all the big companies seem to copy one another and they would likely embrace this technology as well.

It has already been tested in various devices such as Apple Ipads and Samsung Gear watches and will soon be rolled out in more popular devices. Intel and Microsoft are also investing in the technology, preparing to take full advantage of the new possibilities.

How does the eSIM work?

Using the new eSIM will be far easier than the current SIM card.

Customers will be able to easily download new information about new phone plans and switch providers. Because the SIM data is just electronic, it can easily be installed on any device (Not just phones).

So imagine you had an eSIM device, how would it work?

You can purchase a code online, fill out the details on your phone and head off with a new plan.

Choosing which cellar account to use
When you have both a SIM and eSIM you can choose which number to use

This means that customers will be able to just buy a phone outright, sit at home and choose a plan that’s best for them.

However, not everyone is happy about eSIM.

Telecommunication companies fear that it will encourage ‘churn’. Allowing customers to simply disconnect and sign up with a new company.

Naturally, they are opposed to any tech that would make it a better deal for customers. They have been very reluctant to support the technology.

In the United States, only three companies currently support eSIM:

Read on in our next article to imagine what a future eSIM world would be like and why we can’t wait for the eSIM revolution.

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About the Author: Nick Cummins

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