eSIMs 101: How eSIMs work, and how do you use them?
Learn more about eSIMs and how they work
· 5 min read
In today's digital age, staying connected is more important than ever. With the advent of eSIM technology, managing multiple device connections has become simpler and more convenient. Here, we will explore the basics of eSIM technology, its technical aspects, the benefits it offers, and more.
What is eSIM?
An eSIM, short for embedded SIM (Subscriber Identity Module), is a digital SIM that is built directly into a device, eliminating the need for a physical SIM card. Unlike a physical SIM, an eSIM is carrier-independent. It is embedded within your device and cannot be physically removed, although it is possible to uninstall them.
The Evolution of SIM Cards
Traditional SIM cards have been a staple in the world of mobile devices for decades, but they come with limitations. They can be easily damaged or lost, and switching carriers or getting a new device often involves the hassle of acquiring and installing a physical SIM card. This is where eSIMs come in, revolutionizing the way we connect.
The first SIM card was introduced in the early 1990s and was a breakthrough in mobile technology. It allowed users to store their personal information, such as contacts and messages, on a small chip that could be easily inserted into a phone.
Over the years, SIM cards have become smaller and more advanced. From the standard SIM card to the micro-SIM and nano-SIM, manufacturers have continuously worked to reduce the size while maintaining functionality. Then, the breakthrough came in the form of eSIMs - which entirely removed the need for having a physical SIM.
eSIMs were developed back in 2012, with its initial use cases being for machine-to-machine communication. And in 2017, we saw the launches of our first smartphones with eSIM support. As technology continues to advance, eSIMs are becoming more prevalent in a wide range of devices. From smartphones and tablets to smartwatches and even some laptops, the adoption of eSIM technology is expanding rapidly.
How eSIMs work
Before we explore how eSIMs work, it is perhaps useful to understand how a physical SIM works.
Fundamentally, a SIM card contains information such as your IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) and ICCID (Integrated Circuit Card Identifier). These information are required and used by network operators to verify and authenticate your subscription, so that they know whether or not to grant your device access to their network (and to calculate your usage so they can bill you accurately).
With that in mind, we can now answer the question of how eSIM works.
An eSIM works just like a physical SIM. But instead of a physical SIM card, it is more like a reprogrammable chip that allows your device to be identified virtually and to establish a network connection with your operator. The eSIM can be reprogrammed remotely via software, allowing you to seamlessly switch between carriers without having to physically change SIM cards.
Unlike traditional SIM cards, which store information on physical chips, eSIMs store information digitally, making them incredibly versatile. This digital storage allows eSIMs to hold not only cellular network profiles but also other data such as Wi-Fi credentials and even loyalty program details.
Installing eSIMs is fairly straightforward, and is usually done through scanning of a QR code. Refer to our earlier blog post for more information on how to install an eSIM.
Why Should I use an eSIM?
Flexibility and Convenience
One of the most significant advantages of eSIMs is their flexibility. With an eSIM, you have the freedom to switch carriers or plans without the hassle of obtaining and installing a new physical SIM card. This is especially useful for frequent travelers who can easily switch to a local carrier to avoid high roaming charges.
Imagine you're traveling to a foreign country and want to use a local carrier for better coverage and affordable data plans. With a traditional SIM card, you would need to find a local store, purchase a new SIM card, and go through the process of physically swapping out your existing SIM card. This can be time-consuming and inconvenient, especially if you're in a hurry or don't speak the local language.
However, with an eSIM, the process is much simpler. You can easily switch to a local carrier by simply scanning a QR code or downloading a carrier's profile onto your device. This eliminates the need for physical SIM cards.
Manage Multiple Profiles
Most devices today come with the option of supporting multi-SIMs. Depending on your device type and model, the support for multi-SIM comes in the form of either multiple physical SIMs, multiple eSIMs, or a combination of both.
Regardless of how multi-SIM is supported for your device, most devices allow you to install multiple eSIM profiles. This means that even if you might not be able to have all the profiles active at the same time, you can easily switch between different plans based on your needs. You can have separate profiles for personal and business use, and you can easily switch between them with just a few taps on your device.
Improved Physical Security
eSIMs also offer enhanced security features compared to traditional SIM cards. The digital nature of eSIMs makes it more challenging for unauthorized parties to tamper with or clone the SIM. This provides users with peace of mind knowing that their data and identity are better protected.
Traditional SIM cards can be vulnerable to physical theft or unauthorized access. If someone gets hold of your physical SIM card, they can potentially use it to make calls, send messages, or access your personal data. However, with eSIMs, the risk of physical theft is eliminated since there is no physical card to steal.
Using eSIMs at Home and When You Travel
At home, eSIMs can be used just like physical SIMs, and many carriers now provide the option of issuing eSIMs instead of physical SIMs. This makes it much easier to switch between carriers if you need to manage multiple phone lines.
But the benefits of eSIMs become especially pronounced when you travel. Travel eSIMs provide the flexibility and convenience of staying connected globally without the hassle of obtaining a new SIM card while providing data at near-local rates.
With a traditional SIM card, you would need to find a local store, purchase a new SIM card, and go through the process of physically swapping out your existing SIM card. This can be time-consuming and inconvenient, especially if you're in a hurry or don't speak the local language.
However, with an eSIM, the process is much simpler. You can easily switch to a local carrier by simply scanning a QR code or downloading a carrier's profile onto your device. This eliminates the need for physical SIM cards and allows for seamless switching between carriers with just a few taps on your device.
Nomad's Travel eSIMs
Nomad offers data plans internationally across over 165 countries, and you can be sure to find one that is suitable for your travel needs. And if you will be traveling across multiple countries, there are also regional plans available so you can stay seamlessly connected as you hop between countries. Data plans are available from as low as $1.50/GB.
Getting a Nomad eSIM is very easy. Simply create an account on the Nomad website, select the plan that you want, and check out! Or, download the iOS or Android app and you can easily purchase and manage your data on the go!
After you purchase your eSIM, you will receive an email containing information on how to install and activate your eSIM. Remember that you will need a stable internet connection to install your eSIM, but activation starts only upon use. It is recommended to install your eSIM when you are at home so that you can start using your data once you arrive at your destination.
And in the event that you run out of data, don't worry! Some of Nomad's plans come with the option to purchase add-ons. The purchase of add-ons will add more data to your existing eSIM, so you won't need to install a brand-new eSIM.
💡 Want to find out more about eSIMs? Read our earlier blog post as we discuss some of the basics of eSIMs.