What are the Differences Between an eSIM and SIM Card

2020 was a great year for mobile tech. Alongside the release of the highly anticipated Huawei P40, the launch of Samsung’s S20 series brought eSIM technology into the mainstream and hands of mobile users around the world.

Although few have heard about the new technology, the embedded SIM (eSIM) is going to change everything we know about mobile connectivity and finally give mobile users a cellular service that gives them full control of how they use their phones.

But what exactly is an eSIM? It is a tiny chip embedded onto the internal hardware of a device, like a smartphone, smartwatch, tablet, or laptop. It is designed in a way that gives it unrestricted access to cellular networks worldwide that support the technology.

Essentially, an eSIM offers the same functionalities as a regular SIM card but with fewer restrictions. Of course, a major difference is that it can’t be removed. An eSIM is programmable so there is no need to remove the card from the device.

This article explores the 3 key differences between an eSIM and a traditional SIM card.

Access to Multiple Network Operators

The biggest and most significant difference between a physical SIM card and an eSIM is the ability to instantly switch between multiple network operators.

Physical SIM cards are locked to operators (e.g. Vodafone) so you have no choice but to use whatever carrier you got the SIM card from. To switch operators, you have to remove the SIM card and buy a new SIM card from whichever operator you want to change to.

This is not the case with eSIM.

An eSIM is a programmable chip embedded onto a device. This means you can activate it with a different profile (i.e. eSIM plan) as many times and as often as you want. To change your plan, you simply go to the website of your chosen eSIM provider and buy a new one.

Although you can’t have two profiles active at the same time, you can store multiple profiles on one eSIM and easily switch between them.

The flexibility this offers is a major win for smartphone users because it means they aren’t locked to one network or contract. This can significantly reduce roaming charges while travelling and give you more coverage at home and abroad.

Got questions about eSIM technology? Planet eSIM is a forum dedicated entirely to answering questions and sharing information about the new tech.

Size and Space

The plastic SIM card has been evolving rapidly since the early 90s. The Mini-SIM arrived on the scene in 1996 measuring 25mm x 15mm but was eclipsed by the 15mm x 12mm Micro-SIM seven years later. The Nano-SIM came next with its 12.3mm x 8.8mm dimensions.

At just 2.5mm x 2.3mm, the eSIM is the smallest SIM card ever made.

Although the concept of having a SIM card embedded into devices has raised many eyebrows, the improvements and enhancements eSIM brings are undeniable. Its adoption has been slow, but there is no denying it will soon be the new normal for SIM cards.

As SIM cards have shrunk over the years, thus allowing for smaller devices, with the rise of eSIM, the SIM card slot may soon become defunct. This will allow device manufacturers to innovate by giving them more space for new technology and features.

Motorola has already introduced the first eSIM only phone, but a study by the GSMA suggests it may be a few years before the physical SIM card becomes obsolete.

eSIM Can’t Be Removed

The most notable difference between a physical SIM card and an eSIM is that the eSIM cannot be removed from the device. It is soldered to the internal hardware and uses remote SIM provisioning to connect to networks, which makes removing the SIM unnecessary.

While this could cause some challenges for consumers, there is no risk of losing the SIM card and no need to fiddle around with the card when you want to change plans. Phones with an eSIM may also deter thieves because they won’t be able to remove the SIM card. This means stolen devices with an eSIM will be harder to resell and easier to trace.