Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) is one of the many curious terms associated with cell phones that people don’t always understand. And to make matters even more confusing, in 2017 the mobile device world introduced an eSIM. What are SIMs and eSIM cards? And which is better? Below are some answers to questions regarding these terms.
A SIM is a memory card that contains unique information that identifies it to a specific mobile network. A physical SIM card is small and fits into a slot on the side of a cell phone. Since it’s removable, it can be moved from phone to phone so if you purchase a different mobile device, you can stay on the same network. It also stores data specific to you, including your contacts, phone number, an ID number, or international mobile subscriber identity (IMSI), and a personal identification number (PIN) to protect against theft. Your carrier usually provides a SIM card to you free of charge.
An embedded SIM (eSIM) is a digital version of a SIM card. It works similarly to a physical SIM, but is preinstalled in your phone, and you have to activate it by installing the eSIM profile of a new carrier. Just like a physical SIM card, it provides your phone with a valid phone number so you can make or receive calls on a wireless network (although in the U.S. and other countries, there is a requirement that phones can place calls to emergency services, even without a SIM card).
How Are eSIMs Different from Physical SIM Cards?
One of the biggest differences between the two is that an eSIM can’t be removed. It is soldered to the smartphone’s motherboard.
eSIMS offer a lot of flexibility for a mobile phone owner. You can easily and quickly transfer your account from one phone to another, and you don’t have to go to a store to pick one up or wait for it to ship.
eSIMs also allow you to have multiple accounts. For example, you may want to have a business line and a personal line, but you don’t want to carry two phones. If your phone has both a slot for a physical SIM card and allows eSIMs, you can have multiple lines. Your phone should have choices in the settings that let you configure your eSIM, switch between lines and carriers, and manage your accounts.
Another benefit of an eSIM is that it is greener. There is no plastic card or shipping materials, so there’s less waste.
And finally, a significant benefit of an eSIM is the amount of space saved by removing a physical SIM tray. Cell phones can have a thinner design and larger batteries if space doesn’t need to be taken up by a tray.
One of the biggest drawbacks to eSIMs is that not all mobile devices support them. Here’s a list of eSIM supported phones. If your cell phone isn’t on this list, you’ll need to use a physical SIM card.
Another disadvantage of an eSIM is the complications of a lost or damaged phone. If you want to move your account from one phone to another, both phones need to be operational. That’s difficult if a phone is lost or damaged. You would need to contact your wireless carrier in that situation.
Now that you know the answer to, “What is an eSIM,” you might be wondering how it affects the security of your phone. An eSIM actually affects security in a positive way. Since an eSIM card can’t be removed from a mobile device, it can’t be stolen without stealing the entire phone. A physical SIM card on the other hand, can be removed from a cell phone and used in scams.