Understanding eSIM: Theory and Reality

A simple explanation of a SIM card would describe it as a piece of plastic inserted into a phone to enable mobile communication and internet access. So, what exactly is a “digital SIM card” or eSIM that requires no physical insertion? Let’s delve into it.

The “e” in eSIM stands for “embedded,” meaning it’s a SIM that is soldered onto your phone’s hardware at the factory and cannot be removed. In theory, eSIM performs the same functions as a traditional SIM card: making calls, sending texts, and accessing mobile internet. In practice, the services available, such as phone numbers and text messages, depend on the operator and the tariff plan. Some eSIM plans are data-only, focusing solely on internet access and internet-based calls.

Physically, the eSIM is already integrated into your phone when you purchase it. Connectivity is established after activating a profile received from your operator via a QR code. A single eSIM can store up to 20 profiles, allowing your phone to switch between different operators without physically changing a SIM card.

eSIM is particularly convenient for international travel. Instead of swapping out your home SIM card for a local one, you simply switch profiles in your phone settings. With advanced operators, there’s no need to even access settings manually. Having covered the theory, let’s explore practical nuances that arise in real life.

How does an eSIM with a plan get onto a smartphone? Simply put, through the internet. The primary method involves scanning the operator’s QR code, waiting a minute for the magic to happen, and you’re all set. Alternatively, you can manually enter settings instead of using a QR code. We’ll demonstrate the setup process in one of our upcoming articles.

What personal data do eSIM operators collect? Typically, operators collect only your email address. No passport scans, KYC procedures, or phone numbers are required.

Can you transfer an eSIM from one smartphone to another? Yes, but only through your operator’s customer support. The process usually involves deleting the eSIM profile from the old phone and scanning a QR code provided by the operator on the new smartphone.

Can you share internet via eSIM? Generally, yes. However, with unlimited plans, there may be nuances, so it’s important to carefully review tariff conditions or inquire with support.

How does eSIM work alongside a physical SIM card? Perfectly fine: eSIM functions like a second SIM card, or even a third if you have Dual SIM capability.

Attention: overseas calls and texts are subject to your home operator’s roaming rates. If your eSIM operator offers better rates abroad than your home operator’s roaming charges, simply disable internet on your physical SIM card settings and enable it on your eSIM.

Traveling abroad: why not just buy a local SIM card? Local operator tariff plans may offer better deals than any eSIM operators, but convenience and security are key considerations. Even disregarding the hassle of finding a telecom shop at the airport and dealing with staff in a foreign language, you risk falling victim to complex pricing schemes hidden in asterisks and fine print on tariffs.

With eSIM, everything happens calmly and simply: you prepare and configure everything at home, not on the go in a foreign country.

Stay tuned to our blog for an entire series on eSIM technology. Among them is a mathematically precise answer to the sacramental question: “Why special eSIMs for travel when there’s home operator roaming?”

Also, exclusively for iXBT readers, we’ve created promo code IXBT. It offers an eSIM with a free 250 MB mobile internet package in any country. Here’s how it works:

  1. Install the Just eSIM app.
  2. Enter promo code IXBT on the main screen.
  3. Receive the eSIM with the package, configure it following the instructions.
  4. Enjoy hassle-free connectivity.

Just eSIM requires setup only once, and afterward, you can simply purchase internet packages within the app. The SIM card connects automatically to local operators, without additional steps or unexpected expenses. And all of this is set up in just a couple of minutes.

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