What is an eSIM and how does an eSIM works?

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This year, three devices were launched with an eSim. Apple Watch 3, the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL comes with eSIM. Add them to last year’s Samsung Galaxy Gear S2 3G and the iPad 9.7. For this new technology, this is just the beginning.

How eSIMs Work

With the use of an eSIM which is a fraction of the size of a nano SIM and the complete elimination of the SIM tray, there is more space for other components as well as an overall thinner device.

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Apart from space, eSIMs will also allow users switch between networks with ease. This is different from roaming and is done over the air. eSIMs will be able to store different network profiles. Consumers will be able to switch easily between networks. How this is supposed to work is that you should have multiple profiles on your eSIM and switch between any of them easily. So you can have a data plan on one SIM profile and a voice plan on another SIM profile, and because it is the same number, calls and SMS are not missed.

For easy switching, there has to be a unifying standard that makes it easy for SIM profiles to be loaded on the eSIM. The GSMA has a standard called Profile Interoperability which simplifies the process and makes the relationship between operators and OEMs more flexible. There are hundreds of operators all over the world with different SIM profiles, so it is only logical that there is a standard that everyone can adopt. The two videos below explain how this is supposed to work.

While the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL’s eSIM works on only Google’s Project Fi network for now. Apple Watch 3 can be used on Verizon, T-Mobile, or Sprint. Users should be able to keep their mobile numbers when they switch but they may be charged a fee when moving to a new operator for the first time. This fee will be similar to what you pay when you purchase a SIM but may include free data and voice calls too in the package.

The Future of eSIMs

It may take a while for eSIMs to be adopted widely for smartphones, but it will be easier to adopt into devices like wearables, cars, and computers which require mobile connectivity. Microsoft and Qualcomm’s upcoming ARM-powered computers are expected to have eSIMs for on-the-go connectivity. Microsoft also announced that its new Surface Pro will come with LTE via an eSIM but that version won’t arrive till Spring next year.

For Windows PCs with eSIMs, users will be able to purchase data plans from the Windows Store. T-Mobile, AT&T and some other foreign operators have already signed on to work with Microsoft on this.

There are still some concerns associated with the use of eSIMs. Let’s say your phone is low on battery and you have another SIM card, you could simply remove the SIM and put it into the other phone. For devices with eSIMs, you can’t do that.

What are your thoughts about eSIMs? Are there any problems you think they might pose that we have failed to mention? Please drop a comment in the box.

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