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eSIM vs Physical SIM: The Ultimate Comparison

Tech face-off: eSIM vs physical SIM. Which one has the upper hand? Which one is better during your international travels? Stick around as we delve into the perks and pitfalls of both tech in this article to help you find answers to these questions.

There are numerous perks and pitfalls of eSIM vs Physical SIM.

Related: eSIM vs Nano SIM: A Modern Traveler’s Dilemma

 

How eSIMs Differ from Regular SIM Cards?

In terms of an eSIM vs a physical SIM, the key distinction lies in how they are integrated. eSIMs, or embedded SIMs, are a modern twist on traditional SIM cards. Instead of a physical card you insert and remove, the eSIM is built directly into the phone’s motherboard. But you can still switch numbers or change carriers since the information on it is rewritable.

 

eSIM vs Physical SIM cards: the benefits

If you’ve kept up with Apple’s recent updates, you may be aware that the newest iPhone in the US no longer includes a physical SIM card slot. They’ve fully embraced eSIMs as well as many other brands too. Why is that so? eSIMs are considered a step toward the future because they make mobile connections more efficient, flexible, and sustainable. However, it’s wise to note they have their downsides too, we’ll delve into those shortly.

Easy switching

eSIM makes switching carriers easy. As a rule of thumb, manufacturers embed the eSIM in smartphones, but its info can be easily rewritten in a few simple steps, which means you can switch to a new carrier easily. It’s evident that you don’t have to wait for a physical SIM card to be sent to you or mess with your SIM tray to switch carriers. It could all happen instantly with a quick phone call.

Multiple profiles

With eSIM-compatible devices like the iPhone 14, you can have up to eight eSIMs, though only two can be active at a time. In general, you can have and store multiple mobile numbers, saving them as profiles to switch when necessary. This flexibility is handy in areas with poor coverage from one carrier but better reception from another.

Space saver

One great thing about eSIMs is that they’re tiny – even smaller than Nano SIMs. This small size not only leaves room for bigger batteries but also lets phone makers have extra space to play with and innovate. What they do with this space is up to them, but it opens the door for adding another chip, sensor, or a more powerful battery.

In terms of an eSIM vs a physical SIM, the key distinction lies in how they are integrated.

Unlike regular SIM cards, eSIMs don’t have to be close to the phone’s edge, which might make it easier to waterproof devices, and the clear benefit of not dealing with tricky SIM cards or searching for a paperclip to remove a SIM tray.

Enhanced security

eSIMs make it harder for thieves to evade tracking, as they can’t be physically removed like regular SIMs. This extra security layer helps locate a lost device. Don’t get me wrong, this could be a major drawback if misused, but it does add protection by preventing SIM removal for tracking evasion. Although criminals may still try to reset the phone, the embedded eSIM provides more time to potentially find it. Likewise, it’s way tougher to clone a phone’s eSIM card.

Durability

Having a chip fixed onto the motherboard means fewer chances of having issues, making the device last longer.

Environmental impact

eSIMs are eco-friendly as they don’t use plastic cards or shipping materials, cutting down on waste. This is a positive change compared to traditional SIM cards that often end up being thrown away.

IoT-friendly

When you think of SIM cards, you probably think of phones. But eSIMs go beyond that. They’re great for laptops and tablets, especially for travelers. And they’re not just for those devices – eSIMs work well in small gadgets like smartwatches, fitness trackers, portable modems, IoT gadgets, and home security devices. Their tiny size makes them a good fit for designs where regular SIM cards wouldn’t work.

 

New to eSIMs? Set up Your eSIM in 5 Simple Steps

 

What are the downsides of using an eSIM?

While eSIMs offer convenience and are the clear bet on the future for leading companies, widespread adoption is still a work in progress. Not all carriers and devices are on board, and some users still prefer the familiar physical SIM card. As we embrace technology, eSIMs hold the key to a more integrated and streamlined future for mobile connectivity, but we’re not quite there yet.

Network-dependent

Not all networks, especially smaller ones, use eSIM. In the US, the major carriers support it, but it varies by country. Similarly, many carriers only support eSIM on popular phones like the iPhone, and Samsung Galaxy. Even if a phone has eSIM, it might not work with every network.

Switching challenges

The main downside of eSIMs is that changing phones is not as straightforward. It used to take seconds with a physical SIM—pop it out of one device and into another. With eSIMs, while still fast, it requires installing an app or entering instructions and deactivating the eSIM in the current device. While it is generally easy, it may still pose challenges if the new carrier doesn’t support eSIM or if the device is locked to a specific carrier.

Troubleshooting issues

It’s tougher to troubleshoot device issues with eSIMs. For example, when you have connection problems, a simple test of putting your SIM into a different phone isn’t an option like it used to be.

 

Traditional physical SIM cards

Traditional SIM card, which stands for ‘subscriber identity module’, has been the trusty companion for decades. These small, removable chips hold vital info, like your number and carrier details, enabling calls, texts, and data use. Easy to swap between phones, they’re widely accepted, but their physical nature can be a bit old-school. While alternatives like eSIMs emerge, traditional SIM cards stay dependable in our mobile world.

Traditional SIM card, which stands for 'subscriber identity module', has been the trusty companion for decades.

 

The major advantages of physical SIM cards

Quick phone switching

Your network information is on a physical chip, making it easy to switch phones. Swapping the SIM card takes just seconds, which is convenient for frequent device upgrades.

Broad phone and network compatibility

Physical SIMs offer the widest compatibility with phones and networks. If you want to ensure your SIM will work with a broad range of devices and carriers, a physical SIM is the best choice.

 

 

How to Use eSIM to Travel Internationally?

 

 

Downsides of physical SIMs

Risk of damage or loss

While they are generally durable, physical SIM cards can get damaged or lost, and replacing them may not be as straightforward as we wish.

Inconvenience in network switching

Switching networks with a physical SIM involves more steps. You typically need to visit a physical store or wait for a new SIM card to be sent to you, making the process less suitable compared to digital alternatives.

 

Are eSIMs better than physical SIM cards?

When exploring the new eSIM technology for travel, keep in mind that widespread support is still growing, and its full potential isn’t fully realized yet. For now, the smart choice is a device that supports both eSIM and a physical SIM card. This way, you enjoy convenience and security with eSIM when available and have a reliable backup with the physical SIM where eSIM might not work. In simple terms, if you like being ready for anything, the answer to “Which is better for travel – SIM card or eSIM?” is “Get the best from both.”

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