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What Is eSIM And How Do You Use It?

by George Mensah
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Apple has made headlines almost as often for declaring something obsolete and then removing it as it has for adding parts. The most well-known and contentious example is Apple’s decision to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7. While many people disagreed with that decision and preferred to use wired headphones with a standardized connector, the industry began to follow suit. Samsung, Apple’s main competitor, removed the jack from its flagship phones a few years later. Apple is also rumored to be getting rid of the charging port in the near future. Ming-Chi Kuo, a well-known analyst, believes the company will make the change, possibly for waterproofing reasons.

So, what will Apple be releasing this time? SIM cards may be on their way out, if rumors are to be believed. SIM cards are small chips distributed by phone companies that allow a phone or tablet to connect to their network. SIM cards have been in use for decades, though their size has shrunk over time. The majority of modern phones employ a nano-SIM, which is only slightly larger than the chip itself. They are typically shipped as full-sized cards that can be adjusted to the proper size. However, even the nano-SIM may be more trouble than it is worth, and there is an obvious alternative.

What is an eSIM?

An embedded SIM, also known as an eSIM, is an electronic SIM card that is built into the phone itself. A standard SIM card only contains a small amount of data, essentially a code that the network uses to identify you. An eSIM works by letting your phone write the code onto it. The chip can be rewritten as many times as necessary, eliminating the need to swap out pieces of plastic every time you switch carriers.

Although not as old as the physical SIM card, the eSIM has been around for a while; it was first introduced in 2012 and piqued the interest of the automotive industry (via Giesecke+Devrient). Communications and cars have been linked for a long time, from CB radios in the 1970s to clunky car phones in the 1980s — so an easier way to connect would naturally appeal to automakers. eSIMs can now be found in a wide variety of vehicles.

Apple’s devices have long had eSIMs installed, dating back to the iPhone XS and including newer iPad Pros. While it has previously been an option, making it the only option could be viewed as a risky move. The eSIM has both advantages and disadvantages.

What are the benefits of eSIM?

eSIM has some obvious advantages. To begin, nothing physical must be mailed out by your wireless service provider, and you do not need to visit a store to obtain your eSIM. Everything is done online, and you can begin using your new plan immediately after signing up. Because multiple carrier plans can be loaded onto the eSIM, you only need one device if you have more than one phone plan, such as a personal line and one for work.

Free trials will also be simpler to use; you can gain instant access to a plan, try it out, and switch just as easily if it isn’t for you. You could even test out a new network while keeping your current plan and device. The same plan can also be loaded onto multiple eSIMs, so if you have a plan that covers your phone, iPad, and car, you won’t have to install physical SIM cards in all of them.

Because an eSIM takes up less space than a physical SIM, phones can be made smaller or use that space for other components; there is also one less hole in the phone that needs to be waterproofed. Finally, as explained by US Mobile, you don’t need to look for that small spike that came with your phone or unfurl a paperclip every time you need to do something with the SIM card.

The downsides of an eSIM

eSIMs are a fantastic innovation and, more than likely, the way of the future. Even if Apple does not go eSIM-only, the feature is likely to be added to more devices in the near future. As with anything, there are some drawbacks. To begin, the eSIM chip must be built into the phone; it cannot be added later, so budget phones are unlikely to have eSIMs installed.

Because the eSIM is built into the phone, it cannot be removed and inserted into another phone as a regular SIM card can. However, this may not be a major issue. There are only a few situations in which you would swap SIM cards between phones. If you’re concerned about being tracked, you won’t be able to easily remove your phone’s SIM card.

Another disadvantage is that not all wireless service providers currently support eSIM technology, so you’ll need to double-check before committing to a plan. Service providers also enjoy slapping fees on things, and an activation fee every time you want to switch your eSIM to another phone seems like a possibility. eSIMs are currently free to set up with all major carriers that support the technology, though this may change in the coming years as the technology grows in popularity.

How to set up an eSIM

Setting up an eSIM is far easier than setting up a regular SIM, according to US Mobile. After you’ve found a carrier that supports eSIM technology, choose a plan that works for you. The carrier will then display a voucher with a QR code that you can scan with the camera on your phone. The QR code provides your phone with the necessary information and activates the plan. Your plan’s SIM profile is then recorded on the eSIM, and you can go about your business.

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Adding more carriers is the same procedure. By going to the network section of your phone’s settings menu, you can choose from the carriers you’ve installed on your eSIM. The only time you’ll have trouble adding extra plans is if your phone is locked to a single provider, which is usually the case if you’re paying for it in monthly installments. All of this is far more convenient than checking the mail every day or wasting time looking for paper clips and swapping SIM cards.

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