eSIM what it is and how it works

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Aina Prat Blasi
@ainapratblasi

eSIM is a new standard that should make it easier to switch operators or add a second number. You almost certainly have a SIM card - a chip in a small card that sits in your cell phone, showing which carrier and which phone number you use. Those SIMs are going digital (or "e") and moving your information onto a reprogrammable integrated chip. But not everyone is happy with it. Here because.


A SIM card is a "subscriber identity module". Required in all GSM, LTE and 5G devices, it is a chip that contains the customer ID and details on how your phone can connect to the mobile network. SIMs are roughly the size of a postage stamp, but over the years they have gotten smaller as device makers reclaim more space inside their gadgets for other electronic devices.



An eSIM takes the circuit of a SIM, welds it directly to the card of a device and makes it reprogrammable remotely via software. The original push towards eSIM came in part from the Internet of Things industry. Being tiny and requiring no additional space for a slot, eSIMs can be integrated into devices such as drones, wearables, sensors and trackers, where size is of the essence.

They can also be soldered into industrial equipment where a SIM card may not be easily accessible. Being remotely reprogrammable means that eSIMs can be managed in bulk. So, let's say, a company that operates 50.000 vending machines can change their plan or operator at the touch of a button from their location.


With smartphones, eSIMs offer much more flexibility in managing your services. A fully enabled eSIM device allows you to add a second floor, when roaming or if you want a separate line of work. It allows you to switch providers at the touch of a button. And it allows enterprise device managers to change service plans on thousands of lines, remotely, simultaneously. It's a powerfully pro-consumer feature when implemented correctly.



However, there are some minor drawbacks to consumers. With eSIMs, it's harder to switch a plan between devices (you can't just swap the physical card), and it can be hard for you to temporarily remove your SIM if you don't want to be tracked by someone.

Google Pixels have had eSIMs since 2017 and Apple's iPhones have had them since 2018. So why don't we see eSIMs everywhere?


“Adoption is slowed by a number of obstacles, including difficult setup, long time to market, cost and low availability. The latter is the most prevalent, with 53% of device manufacturers pointing to the lack of an adequate supply of eSIM technology as one of the main reasons eSIM adoption is not faster or more widespread, ”he says. the report. "This indicates a problem not with the operators but with their suppliers, probably their SIM manufacturers who now have to juggle the production of traditional plastic SIMs and the supply of eSIMs."

What does an eSIM allow you to do?

Simply put, an eSIM allows you to switch wireless operator, data or subscription via software. On eSIM devices, in general, you can access a menu or take a photo of a QR code to switch operators or services on the fly. There's no need to go to a store, wait for the mail, or fiddle with a tiny chip. You can also often use two different lines on the same device, such as a home line and a work line, or switch between floors depending on where you are.


Which phones support eSIM?

  • Apple iPhone XS/XS Mas
  • Apple iPhone XR
  • Apple iPhone SE
  • Apple iPhone 11
  • Apple iPhone 11Pro/11Pro Max
  • Apple iPhone 12/12Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • 12 iPhone Mini
  • Samsung Galaxy Fold/ Z Fold2 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Flip/Z Flip5G
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 / S20 +
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 5G/+5G/Ultra5G
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE/FE 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy NOTE20/NOTE20Ultra
  • Samsung Galaxy NOTE20 5G/ Ultra 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 + 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
  • Google Pixel 4/4XL/4a
  • Google Pixel 5
  • Huawei P40/P40Pro
  • Motorola RAZR/RAZR 5G
  • Microsoft Surface DUO
  • Oppo Find X3 Pro
  • Oppo find x3
  • Oppo Reno6 Pro 5G

Which tablets and laptops support eSIM?

  • iPad Pro 12.9 ″ - 4th Generation
  • iPad Pro 12.9 ″ - 3rd Generation
  • iPad Pro 11 ″ - 2th Generation
  • iPad Pro 11 ″ - 1rd Generation
  • iPad Air - 4th Generation
  • iPad Air - 3th Generation
  • iPad - 8th Generation
  • iPad - 7th Generation
  • iPad mini - 5th Generation

Which operators support eSIMs in Spain?

  • TIM
  • Vodafone
  • WindTre
  • Iliad / Ho. Mobile
  • Very Mobile

How is an eSIM obtained and activated?

There are two common ways to program your phone with an eSIM. The simplest is to choose your provider from a menu on your device or via a downloadable app and sign up for a plan this way. The most complex (and most common on phones) way involves using an operator's website to generate a QR code or shipping the courier with a piece of paper with a QR code on it. Then scan that QR code with a function in your phone's settings menu. This is less convenient, but some managers prefer it because it requires fewer changes to their systems. A QR code-based system also works on more phones than an app, which can only work on one operating system or phone model.



Is there a drawback to eSIM?

Yes, there is a big one. If you are used to swapping your single SIM card between a group of different devices, using multiple phones with one subscription, it becomes much more difficult with eSIM. Instead of simply inserting a card, you will need to go through the activation process every time you change. Philosophically, your carrier will have no problem with this, but logistically, it could really alter the carrier's activation systems and mess everything up.


Does eSIM have anything to do with 5G?

Not really; these are just two standards that emerged in the same period. But there is an important link. 5G supports far more devices per square mile, which has thrilled the industry to activate many tiny tiny objects with 5G - sensors, drones and smart meters, for example. These are exactly the types of Internet-of-Things devices that tend to use eSIM, for size and convenience. So eSIM will become more common in the 5G era.

Why do traders dislike eSIM?

Combined with the supply and implementation difficulties mentioned above, operators have shown resistance in the past for commercial reasons.

The obvious reason is that eSIM makes it easier to switch operators and they don't like that. Eliminate the hassle of having to order a new SIM in the mail or travel to a phone shop, turning a commission or multi-day wait into the click of a button.

There is also a much more subtle (and mostly pre-pandemic) problem. Operators rely on store traffic to boost sales of high-profit accessories like extra chargers and earphones. Getting SIM cards, setting up phones, and getting support takes people to stores, where they can then be pushed to buy other things. But eSIM takes people out of stores and thus potentially customer profit.


Carriers may change their minds, though. According to a 2020 study by research firm Omdia, traders have had a "complete mindset change and now they think eSIM is good for business because they want to be digital." 83% of operators surveyed said they believe eSIM is good for business, even though Omdia hasn't broken it down by country, so it's certainly possible that the resistances are American.

“The mentality of service operators has changed. They are now actively working on eSIM rather than hindering them or waiting to see what happens, "according to the study, which cited carrier executives who said the barriers still standing are time to market, consumer education and quality of the business. customer experience.

Further Reading:

  • How to factory reset your Samsung Galaxy device
  • How to restore your iPhone without losing data
  • The Galaxy A20 screen is not working properly
  • The best Dual SIM smartphones
  • IPhone camera not working, how to fix
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