eSIM, also known as embedded SIM (eSIM) is the modern replacement to the physical, plastic SIM card all mobile devices have required up until now.
It’s an electronic version, or a small chip embedded in your device that confers the same function as the traditional SIM card – providing mobile identity, network authentication, and storing user data.
In this guide, you will learn what an eSIM is, how it compares to traditional SIM cards, which smartphones support eSIM, how to obtain and activate an eSIM on your Samsung Galaxy smartphone, and how to remove it.
We’ll also talk about the advantages and disadvantages of eSIM technology, and lastly, we’ll touch on iSIM technology and its reliability compared to eSIMs.
Table of Contents
What is an eSIM?
Traditional SIM Cards
Before going into what an eSIM is, let’s first understand what a SIM is.
SIM, an acronym for Subscriber Identity Module, is a tiny card that you insert into your phone. It carries an International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, unique to every user, and allows you to connect to your cellular network to make calls, send texts, and use mobile data.
Transitioning to eSIM, the ‘e’ stands for ’embedded’. An eSIM is a digital SIM that’s already built into your device, eliminating the need for a physical SIM card.
It’s a small chip inside your phone and works in a similar way to the NFC chip that’s used for payment techs like Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, and Google Pay.
The eSIM is soldered to the device’s motherboard when it’s being manufactured and is non-removable. It stores all the information that is necessary to authenticate your mobile account with your carrier. This technology allows you to change carriers or plans directly from your phone settings, providing a more flexible and seamless experience.
The eSIM technology is a standard promoted by the GSMA, the association of mobile networks. It’s also approved and supported by device manufacturers, including Samsung, and many mobile network operators worldwide.
eSIM vs Traditional SIM
If you want to purchase a new SIM, and if your smartphone supports eSIM, you might want to know the differences between them. If you do so, this section will be useful to you.
In summary, while traditional SIM cards have served us well for many years, eSIM technology offers a more flexible, convenient, and future-proof solution.
If we go deep, when comparing eSIM and traditional SIM, there are 6 key differences to consider.
Physical Presence: A traditional SIM card is a physical entity. You insert it into your phone, and if you want to switch carriers or phones, you physically move the SIM card. On the other hand, an eSIM is embedded into your phone. It’s a small chip that’s part of your phone’s hardware, meaning you can’t remove or lose it.
Activation: To activate a traditional SIM, you need to call your carrier or visit a store (most of the time the SIM card you obtain from the carrier gets activated instantly). But with an eSIM, you can activate your cellular plan with a few taps on your phone. You can even store multiple eSIMs on your phone and switch between them as needed.
Space Saving: Traditional SIM cards require a SIM slot in your phone. This takes up valuable space that could be used for other hardware components. An eSIM doesn’t require a slot, which allows for more compact phone designs.
Travel-Friendly: If you’re a frequent traveler, eSIM technology can be a game-changer. Instead of buying a local SIM card in every country you visit, you can simply download a local eSIM.
Multiple Numbers: With eSIM technology, you can have more than one phone number on the same device. This is perfect for those who want to separate work and personal calls, or for those who regularly travel abroad.
Carrier Switching: Switching carriers with a traditional SIM card can be a hassle. You have to get a new SIM card and physically install it on your phone. But with an eSIM, switching carriers can be as simple as scanning a new QR code.
What Smartphones Support eSIM?
The first smartphone to support eSIM technology was the Google Pixel 2, which was introduced in 2017. This marked a significant shift in the smartphone industry, opening the door for more manufacturers to incorporate this technology into their devices.
When it comes to Samsung, they started supporting eSIM technology from the Samsung Galaxy S20 series onwards. This includes the Galaxy S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra.
It’s important to note that not all versions of these models support eSIM. The availability of eSIM support can vary depending on the region and the carrier.
How to Obtain and Activate an eSIM on your Samsung Galaxy Smartphone?
Getting an eSIM for your Samsung Galaxy smartphone is a straightforward process. Here are the steps you need to follow:
- Check with your carrier: Not all carriers support eSIM technology. So, the first step is to check with your mobile network provider if they offer eSIM services. Major carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon in the U.S, and Vodafone, EE, and O2 in the U.K, support eSIM.
- Purchase an eSIM plan: Once you confirm that your carrier supports eSIM, you can purchase an eSIM plan. This could be a prepaid or postpaid plan based on your preference.
- Obtain the eSIM QR Code: After purchasing the plan, your carrier will provide you with a QR code. This code is used to download your eSIM profile onto your Samsung Galaxy smartphone.
Now that you have your eSIM QR code, let’s move on to how to activate it on your Samsung Galaxy smartphone:
Your Samsung Galaxy smartphone should be connected to a Wi-Fi network during this process. Also, make sure you have updated the device software.
- Go to Settings.
- Navigate to “Connections”.
- Select “SIM card manager”.
- Choose “Add mobile plan”.
- Scan the QR code: The camera will open for you to scan the QR code provided by your carrier. Position the QR code within the frame on your screen to scan it.
- After scanning the QR code, follow the on-screen instructions to complete the setup.
- Finally, restart your Samsung Galaxy smartphone to activate your new eSIM.
How to Remove eSIM from Your Samsung Galaxy Smartphone?
There might be situations when you’d want to remove an eSIM from your Samsung Galaxy smartphone. Perhaps you’re switching to a different network provider, or maybe you’re planning to sell your phone. Whatever the reason, the process is straightforward and easy to follow.
Before you start, it’s important to note that removing an eSIM will erase all the data associated with that particular cellular plan. So keep the QR code you obtained from the provider and also make sure to inform them about the removal.
Here are the steps to remove an eSIM from your Samsung Galaxy smartphone:
- Open the Settings app.
- Navigate to “Connections”.
- Select “SIM card manager”.
- Choose the eSIM profile.
- Tap on “Delete”.
- Confirm the deletion.
Advantages and Disadvantages of eSIM
Like everything in the tech industry, the eSIM technology has a few advantages and disadvantages:
Advantages of eSIM:
- Space-Saving: eSIMs are embedded directly into your device, eliminating the need for a physical SIM card. This saves space within your phone, allowing for more compact designs or room for other hardware components.
- Convenience: With an eSIM, you can switch between carriers or plans without needing to swap out physical SIM cards. This is particularly useful for frequent travelers.
- Durability: Since there’s no need for a SIM card slot with an eSIM, your device may be more resistant to dust and water damage.
- Multiple Numbers: eSIM technology allows you to have multiple phone numbers on a single device. This can be beneficial for those who need separate lines for personal and business use.
Disadvantages of eSIM:
- Limited Support: While the adoption of eSIM technology is growing, not all carriers or devices support it yet. This can limit your options, particularly if you’re traveling internationally.
- Transferring Devices: Transferring an eSIM from one device to another can be more complex than simply moving a physical SIM card.
- Dependent on Device: If your phone is lost, stolen, or damaged, you can’t simply take out the SIM and put it in a new phone. You’ll need to go through the process of transferring the eSIM to your new device.
- Troubleshooting: If you encounter issues with your eSIM, it can be harder to troubleshoot than a physical SIM. For example, you can’t test if the problem is with the SIM card by swapping it out.
iSIM – More Reliable Than eSIMs?
iSIM, or Integrated SIM, is a newer technology. Unlike eSIMs, which are embedded into the device, iSIMs are integrated directly into the system-on-chip (SoC). In simpler terms, the iSIM is a part of the smartphone’s main processor.
Here are some differences between eSIM and iSIM:
- Space-Saving: iSIMs take up less space compared to eSIMs. This is because they are integrated into the SoC, freeing up more room for other components.
- Security: iSIMs offer enhanced security. Since they are part of the SoC, they have direct access to hardware security features, making them more secure than eSIMs.
- Power Efficiency: iSIMs are more power-efficient. They are part of the SoC, which reduces the power consumption compared to eSIMs.
Despite these advantages, it’s important to note that iSIM technology is still not yet widely adopted. As of now, no Samsung Galaxy smartphone comes with iSIM technology.
Recently, companies announced the certification of the world’s first commercially deployable iSIM on the Snapdragon® 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform, indicating that the technology is indeed advancing and may soon be a standard feature in future smartphones.