What is an eSIM and how does it work on my phone?

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The eSIM revolution is coming to your phone

You know that plastic SIM card that sits inside your mobile phone? The one you popped out of a credit card-sized piece of plastic and stuck into your smartphone never to be looked at again (well, until it was time to upgrade)? A new electronic version is now available worldwide, and your favourite brands including Apple, Samsung, Motorola, Google are more have all been busy making their phones eSIM compatible.

Here we explain exactly what an eSIM is and how it may soon replace your current SIM card.

What is an eSIM?

In short, it’s a SIM card, but an electronic, embedded version. Rather than insert a physical SIM card into your phone, an eSIM is a small chip already sitting inside your compatible phone. You download your mobile network service of choice to it, select your price plan for your minutes, texts and/or data, activate it and that’s it, you’re connected.

You can have plans from more than one network on your eSIM (although you can only have one active at a time) and you can also use it alongside your existing physical SIM card which is handy if you’re stuck on an existing mobile network contract but want the benefits an eSIM plan offers.

How does an eSIM work?

The easiest way to describe this is, think of it as software.  Instead of an actual plastic SIM card, you download the service, usually within the phone’s setting menu, via an app or by scanning a QR code.

Fascinating, but what are the benefits of an eSIM?

The most important benefit of eSIM is less plastic use.  Reducing single use plastics is one of the biggest benefits to our planet.  There are approximately 5.2 billion mobile phone users around the world – just imagine how much single use plastic would be saved if they were all able to switch to eSIM so those old SIM cards no longer had to be produced.

An eSIM also means you don’t need to order a new SIM card to switch networks, so no waiting around for it to arrive in the post or having to visit a shop.  And if you’re travelling abroad and want to pay local rates rather than roaming fees, simply download an eSIM service for the country you’re in.  Plus, it means you can have more than one service available on your phone – handy if there’s no coverage for the network you’re currently one – just activate a new one.

It also means you can have more than one number on your phone.  Want a number for personal use and one for business on the same phone? eSIM makes it possible.

And finally, eSIMs take up less space inside your phone, meaning there’s more room for manufacturers to add other awesome new features to our phones and other connected tech.

I’ve heard of dual SIM phones, is that the same thing?

Not quite, but they are closely related. More and more phones sold today, especially some of the latest Android smartphones, are Dual SIM.  This means one of two things – 1) they can hold two physical plastic SIM cards or 2) they can hold one physical SIM card and also support an eSIM.

Which phones are eSIM compatible?

As new phones are released, an increasing number are eSIM compatible.  In fact, the Apple iPhone has been eSIM compatible since 2018 with the release of the iPhone XR and iPhone XS.  All the latest flagship iPhone models are eSIM compatible, including the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. Phones from Samsung, Google and Motorola are also eSIM compatible, including the Samsung Galaxy S21, S20, S20 Plus and Google Pixel 5 and 4a.  You can view a full list of all eSIM compatible phones here.

So there you have it. eSIM explained.

Extreme Connect’s global mobile network is arriving in 2021 and it supports eSIM, you can pre-register here.

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