Why do we still use SIM cards in our mobiles?
Mobile tech innovates at a lightning pace. You’ve only got to look at the newest iPhone handsets to see that. But, the easy-to-lose and all-so-annoying-to remove SIM card remains.
Things are about to change, though. eSIMs – or embedded SIMs – are poised to become the new standard for connecting your mobile to a network.
80% of industry stakeholders agree they will overtake traditional SIMs and they’re featured in the best current iPhones on the market.
eSIMs are disrupting how the mobile industry operates. And, they could give you more power over your mobile network.
In this post, we’re getting to grips with eSIMs; what they are, how you get one, and how they’ll transform the mobile tech landscape.
Before explaining what eSIMs are, we need to understand what a SIM card does. Your SIM, which stands for “subscriber identity module” contains the info that verifies your identity to your mobile network. Or, as Digital Trends puts it:
“A SIM card is what tells a carrier that you’re you – and without it, carriers wouldn’t know that you’re subscribed to their network and thus wouldn’t let you use their cell towers.”
eSIMs perform the same function. But rather than requiring a physical card, the technology is embedded into your phone. It’s a small chip inside your device and it functions in a similar way to the NFC chip used for Apple Pay.
At Raylo, we believe that eSIMs are a big step forward. In no small part, that’s because eSIMs offer much better value to phone customers than their physical counterparts. Here’s how.
Perhaps the biggest advantage to eSIMs – and the thing that could revolutionise the phone industry – is that they’re fully reprogrammable.
Unlike a traditional SIM card, eSIMs aren’t locked to a single mobile network. They can be reprogrammed as required to change carriers. As Bob Myers at Android Authority notes, the potential benefits for phone buyers are huge:
“Under this model, almost all phones could wind up being sold effectively “unlocked,” with the user buying service from any desired carrier (and just as easily changing carriers) as they see fit. Further, it would be possible for a single device to be registered with multiple operators or carriers (although only one operator may be active at any given time on any single device), permitting users to readily choose the best option for a given location while on-the-go.”
All phones being sold “unlocked” reduces the mobile networks’ stranglehold grip on the market, giving a lot more power to the manufacturers and, by extension, the consumer.
And, switching between networks will be much easier, which is why some networks have been intentionally holding back the technology. With eSIMs, you can add or change operators with a simple phone call. That means you avoid the slog of high-street phone shopping. Connecting eSIM devices to a mobile account can be done in minutes and you don’t need to wait for a new SIM to turn up in the post.
eSIMS are great news for frequent travellers.
Say you’re visiting another country. Rather than physically changing your SIM card, you’d simply add a roaming eSIM to your handset. Doing this means you retain access to your main “home” number, which is something that you can’t do with a physical SIM card. The implication here, of course, is that eSIMs could entirely eliminate international roaming charges abroad.
And, there are advantages at home as well. eSIMs allow you to switch operators domestically if you’re travelling through an area with limited signal.
Traditional SIMs are a burden for mobile phone designers. The SIM card requires dedicated components to read it, and the SIM card slot is essentially a big hole in your device.
Removing that hole means that designers can:
1. Make smaller devices (especially good for smart watches)
2. Implement new technologies in that free space
That means better-made phones, and a win for the consumer.
eSIM tech has been on the horizon for around a decade. Until recently, though, uptake of that technology was frustratingly slow.
As a recent ARM survey revealed, the main obstacle to eSIM deployments is resistance from traditional stakeholders. Given eSIM’s potential to upend the networks’ current, outdated model, that’s hardly surprising.
But, change is coming, whether the networks like it or not. Flagship devices like the newest iPhone handsets support eSIMs. The iPhone 11 is actually a dual SIM device, with both eSIM and traditional plastic SIM support, meaning you can connect to two carriers simultaneously. And, it’s rumoured that the iPhone 12 will ditch a physical SIM card in favour of eSIM exclusively.
As far as network support, EE and O2 now offer eSIM packs (no doubt through gritted teeth). Vodafone has dipped its toe in the water too, though they’re only supporting it for Apple Watch Series 3, 4 or 5 cellular at the moment. Away from the traditional networks, our partner Truphone has started selling eSIM international data plans that work across 80 countries including in Europe, the Americas and Australasia.
At Raylo, we think the customer is king, not the networks. That’s why we want eSIM to become the standard across the mobile market. Locked handsets, roaming charges and an intentionally tedious process enforced by the networks – should be consigned to the dustbin of history, and eSIMs are a step in the right direction.