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What is an eSIM?

An eSIM is a small chip inside your phone that acts just like a SIM card. It’s not a physical SIM card, so you don’t have to worry about inserting it into your phone or swapping it with other SIMs. To get your eSIM up and running, you simply contact a network that supports eSIMs, and they’ll activate it for you. You can have plans from more than one network stored on your eSIM, but you’ll only be able to use one at a time.

How does an eSIM work?

Instead of having to get an actual SIM, your phone provides one for you instead. Your mobile phone network provides it virtually. It’s essentially an embedded SIM, which is updated as and when you need it to be. And because there’s no actual physical SIM, you can store more than one network.

What are the advantages of an eSIM?

There are many advantages of eSIM, not least with regards to switching phone networks. For example, if you are switching from one network to another, you don’t have to go out to a shop to get a new SIM card or wait for one to arrive in the post – you can switch there and then.There’s no actual SIM that you have to install

Perhaps you’re thinking of switching to more than one network – that’s easy too. Because an eSIM lets you store more than one network in it, you’ll be able to switch quickly between them. This could come in handy if you find yourself with no signal, in an area that your network doesn’t cover. If this happens to you now, you’re stuck. But in the near future you could simply switch to the network that offers the best coverage.

eSIMs take up less room on a phone than a SIM card and its tray. Phone makers could potentially use this extra space to add extra features to your phone, or a bigger battery perhaps - extra battery life is always welcome.

It could be good news for travellers, too, as you can switch to the local network/tariff wherever you are – therefore avoiding roaming charges.

What are the disadvantages of an eSIM?

We think the pros outweigh the cons, but there are a couple of potential flaws. With a physical SIM, if your phone breaks down you can transfer the SIM and have all your details on another phone – this may not be possible with an eSIM. You may not be able to transfer data from one phone to another, apart from information that’s stored in the cloud – things like contacts, messages and more.

Also, eSIMs devices can’t be taken out of the device – though they are secure and can be reprogrammed – so there some may be worried about their device being trackable.

Which mobile networks will support eSIM?

At the moment, EE and Vodafone support eSIM, though for Vodafone, it’s just the Apple Watch Series 3 or 4 Cellular that’s supported. However, in time, it’s expected that other carriers will start supporting eSIM, and on more handsets.

Which smartphones will have an eSIM?

eSIM technology is popping up in a few new phones. Apple had it onboard the new iPhone XS, XS Max and XR

Samsung hasn’t released any eSIM smartphones just yet, though the technology has been rolled out in its Gear S2 and Gear S3 smartwatches.

eSIM was available on the Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL, as part of its Project Fi subscriber service, and other manufacturers are expected to join in soon. Watch out for eSIM smartphones from the likes of Samsung and Huawei very soon