The SIM card has been a mainstay in telecommunication since early mobile phones. It has remained largely the same for the most part, despite changes in size and configuration. However, it may surprise you to know that the conventional SIM card is no longer needed in high-end new smartphones. The SIM card’s primary purpose is to anchor your device to a mobile provider’s service. Just like you need a Spectrum modem to use Spectrum WiFi plans, you needed a SIM card to access your mobile provider’s telecommunication network and cellular data.
However, upscale manufacturers like Samsung and Apple have been phasing out physical SIM cards in favor of an embedded SIM or an eSIM. But what is an eSIM? How does it improve your mobile experience over a conventional SIM card? Read on to find out.
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Understanding The Conventional SIM Card
Conventional SIM cards are very common, and you’ve likely seen or owned one if you have ever used a mobile phone. The acronym stands for Subscriber Identity Module, and it helps identify your device and service to your mobile provider. The conventional SIM is a tiny piece of plastic with an integrated circuit, sitting in a purpose-built tray on most phones. Your carrier usually supplies the SIM along with your plan. This SIM then becomes associated with your device ID, IMEI, mobile services, and so forth. Unless you have a SIM card, you won’t be able to make mobile calls unless you’re dialing emergency services. However, SIM cards are removable, so the end-user can swap them into a new device without having to go to their carrier for a new phone plan.
Examining Modern eSIMs in Use
An eSIM is an embedded SIM. That means there is no physically removable SIM. The embedded SIM is soldered onto the device’s motherboard. In function, it is the same as a regular SIM card. But unlike the SIM card, the eSIM cannot be removed from the device. Unless you can expertly break open your phone and remove the soldered eSIM chip, you won’t be able to take it out of the phone.
Of course, you may think this is a huge issue for many reasons. For example, while traveling, people frequently switch out their carrier’s SIM in favor of a local carrier, since their main carrier may not cover their destination. Similarly, people who upgrade to a new phone may not want to agree to another phone plan with the same carrier. All they have to do is swap out the SIM and insert it into their new device. You might think an embedded, irremovable SIM may make this impossible. But you’re wrong. Instead of making switching difficult, eSIMs make it much easier for you to switch carriers or phones. Returning to the travel example, an eSIM slashes the wait time to get local services enabled on your phone instead of waiting for a physical SIM to be delivered or visiting a local store location. eSIMs also make it much easier to maintain multiple accounts than a dual-SIM rig. In both cases, switching carriers is far easier and much more convenient.
Popular Manufacturers Phasing In Embedded SIMs
Several big-name manufacturers have already gotten aboard the eSIM train. Google is a great example. The company’s popular Pixel 2 had an eSIM, but it only supported Google Fi services. Later versions included eSIMs that worked with third-party providers as well. Similarly, the iPhone XS and later versions also include an embedded SIM. However, the Chinese version of the iPhone XS and later versions excluded eSIMS and retained a dual-SIM drawer. Microsoft was one of the first tech companies to introduce eSIM compatible devices. The Surface Pro LTE was one of the first eSIM devices running a Windows 10 OS.
Other eSIM Advantages
The advantages of using eSIMs go beyond being able to easily switch carriers. The biggest one is the space saved that would otherwise be occupied by a physical SIM tray. Since this frees up crucial space, the phones of tomorrow will be likely to have a much slimmer design. This can also make room for a larger battery, or larger sound hardware, and much more. The reason Apple can make the Apple Watch so powerful and yet so compact is largely that it uses eSIMs in the series 5 and 6.