eSIM vs External SIM – 5 Things to Know Before You Convert

eSIM vs external SIM embedded

Over the last few years, iPhones and smartphones have slowly introduced the eSIM. What is an eSIM you may ask? It’s a great question because a lot of people don’t even know anything was changing.

1. What is a SIM?

Nearly everyone in the world these days has some type of phone, so most people are at least aware of the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM). If anything, you’ve heard a salesperson ask about whether you need to swap out your SIM card when you bought or upgraded a new phone.

However, you still may not know what a SIM does. It’s very simple. The SIM card is a small microchip that stores all your device’s unique information, including the user password, ID number, messages, and most importantly, your phone number. You cannot sign on to your carrier’s cell network without a SIM card installed.

The eSIM works the same as a regular SIM, but it’s smaller and built directly into the device’s motherboard. What does that mean, exactly? It means, unlike a regular SIM, you are unable to physically remove an eSIM without damaging your phone.

2. Dual-SIM Support

As manufacturers rolled out eSIM technology, phones utilized both a traditional SIM and an eSIM. This allowed the user to choose whether they wanted to use the external SIM or the eSIM with their carrier. However, starting with the iPhone XS*, Google Pixel 2, Samsung Galaxy S20, and Android 10 devices, if your phone has Dual-SIM, Dual Standby (DSDS) support, both SIMs can connect to the carrier simultaneously. This is great if you want to activate a separate business number on the same device.

3. Benefits of an eSIM

  • It’s extremely small. If you thought the traditional SIM was small, the eSIM is .12 square inches smaller. This allows for more room for other components.
  • Information is rewritable. With one quick call to your carrier, you can have your phone info changed or transferred to a new eSIM. No need to purchase a new card or mess around with the SIM tray.
  • Has a better Ingress Protection certification score. We discussed how an IP score works in a previous blog. By removing the external SIM, there is one less area for water and dust to infiltrate.
  • Easily Roam Internationally. 190 countries currently support eSIM, according to Apple. So, international travelers will not have to worry about huge roaming charges.
  • Multiple numbers. Even though only 2 numbers can be active at any one time, eSim-only devices can store up to 8 eSIMs. This allows flexibility to change carriers in areas or countries that may have better reception than others.
  • Becomes a Criminal Deterrent. If you have an eSIM-only phone, thieves will no longer be able to ditch your SIM card right away. This allows you to track the phone for longer periods after it’s stolen.

4. Disadvantages of an eSIM

  • Less convenient when switching phones. No longer will you be able to pop your SIM card out and put it into another phone.
  • Harder to test connectivity issues. With an external SIM, if you are having connection problems with your device, you could remove the SIM and put it into another device to check if there’s an issue with the carrier.
  • Less Support. As of this writing, eSIM support is still very limited.

5. Will physical SIM cards go extinct?

Beginning with the iPhone 14, Apple will be using the eSIM exclusively in the United States, removing the external SIM card completely. But because the eSIM is still very young, especially throughout the rest of the world, they will continue to use Dual-SIMs outside the U.S.

So, even though Apple is betting on a long-term adoption of the technology, and more manufacturers are sure to follow Apple’s lead, as of right now, there is no need to worry. The technology behind the external SIM and the eSIM are the same, so connectivity and performance are not hindered one way or another.

You may not have an eSIM compatible phone just yet, but if the trend continues to flow toward eSIM-only devices, the next time you purchase a new phone, it is very likely it will have eSIM compatibility.

*Current Apple iPhones that utilize eSIM – XS, XS Max, XR, 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, 12, 12 Pro, 12 Mini, 13, 13 Pro, 13 Mini, 14, 14 Pro, 14 Pro Max, 14 Plus.

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1 thought on “eSIM vs External SIM – 5 Things to Know Before You Convert”

  1. Thanks for the article. I have been using Better Roaming esims here in US. I have an iPhone 14 pro and connect it with the Apple watches of my 2 kids. Better connectivity and prices.

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