October 11, 2017

What Is an eSIM and How Will It Make Our Lives Easier?

Lately, the term eSIM (embedded SIM) has been heard more often, since Google talked about eSIM support for their recently released smartphones, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. So, what exactly is an eSIM? How is it different from the normal SIM cards we all use in our phones? What exactly will it offer? And is it entirely new? Let’s find out!


What is eSIM?

The term “eSIM” relates to a new standard being promoted by the GSMA – the association that represents network operators worldwide. An eSIM (embedded Subscriber Identity Module) is an electronic SIM card, which will replace the physical, plastic SIM card that all current smartphones use with a virtual embedded equivalent that cannot be removed.

An eSIM is non-removable and sits by other internal components. You don’t have to remove it. It provides the same electrical interface as you would find on regular, micro, and nano cards.

How does an eSIM make our lives easier?

Bringing eSIM to mainstream could be beneficial for the manufacturers, carriers, and customers.

For customers, it would reduce the hassle of maintaining different SIM cards. How? Devices with support for eSIM feature an internal SIM card that’s attached to their motherboard. Hence, our smartphones will not need a physical SIM card to connect to cellular networks of different carriers. This would, in fact, save us from getting a new SIM card every time we port our number to a different carrier.

The information (network data that a standard SIM card carries) on an eSIM will be compliant or rewritable by all operators, meaning a user can switch between carriers with a simple phone call. Also, there will be no physical swapping of SIM card by the user.

Devices having an eSIM built-in can also save some space on the inside. Doing away with SIM cards will free up a fair amount of extra space inside a phone, allowing manufacturers to reduce device girth by replacing it with a diminutive embedded equivalent. This is also what makes it so well-suited to ultra-compact gadgets like watches, which simply don’t have the room for a normal SIM.

With space at an absolute premium in modern smartphones and every millimeter counting, the eSIM will help bring about even slimmer phones, as there won’t be any sim card slot.

eSIM (1)

Is the concept of eSIM very new?

No. Apple actually offered us a glimpse at what eSIM integration might entail a while back. Apple enabled similar functionality on selected iPad models through their homegrown tech called Apple SIM.

The whole problem with the eSIM concept is the cooperation of all the various parties, including network operators and manufacturers. That’s where the GSMA’s new eSIM standard comes in.

GSMA started exploring the possibilities for software-based SIM cards as early as 2010. Samsung used the GSMA enabled eSIM on its Gear S2 Classic 3G that was launched in February 2016, while Apple used eSIM to add connectivity to the Apple Watch Series 3, which was announced in September 2017.

The initial version of the eSIM specification was limited to eSIM support on smartwatches, tablets, and fitness trackers. The second version brought support for almost any consumer device, including smartphones.

Google’s Pixel 2 smartphones are the first to use built-in eSIM technology. However, the eSIM support on Google Pixel 2 phones is currently limited to the subscribers of Google’s Project Fi. But you can still put your regular SIM card as there is a slot available.

It’s time to embrace the eSIM!

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