eSIM or iSIM: Everything you need to know

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Summary

Indispensable since the early days of telephony, the SIM card has lost a significant amount of size over time to the point of becoming a nanoSIM. However, this is still not enough and manufacturers have since switched to eSIM, while its replacement, iSIM, is also trying to impose itself. But what is the difference between these technologies and why do operators want to impose them on you, as well as phone manufacturers?

A question of size, ecology or security?

In a phone, every mm2 is important. Gaining a little bit of space allows you to house a higher capacity battery or even to ensure the waterproofing of the device. For this reason, phones have been trying for several years to become lighter and eliminate the various ports that take up space. To achieve this, the first method was to reduce the size of the SIM cards, which in a few years went to the Micro Sim and then to the Nano SIM. At the same time, entrepreneurs also removed the Jack 3.5 audio port. So eSIMs and iSIMs have a triple advantage, they free up space in a phone. They are also more environmentally friendly because they eliminate millions of plastic cards that contain SIM cards. Finally, they are more secure because the user’s fingerprint and PIN code are stored directly on these virtual cards.

What is an eSIM?

An eSiM differs from a traditional SIM card in that it is directly integrated into the phone. It consists of a chip found on the motherboard. It can be activated and programmed remotely, which is also convenient for deploying a corporate network. They also allow you to easily change your operator without having to change your SIM card. They also include the user’s fingerprints and PIN code, which limits fraud. Finally, it is an advantage of the phones, they allow to use the phone with two different operators, one on the SIM card and another on the eSIM.

However, they have some flaws due to their technology. They do not allow you to switch from one phone to another easily. If your phone breaks, you won’t be able to use an old backup phone that doesn’t have the eSIM option. Its other shortcoming is that it needs to be activated remotely, which requires access to an internet connection near you.

Why iSIM already wants to replace eSIM?

Where eSIM consists of a chip, iSIM is directly integrated into the phone’s processor. The advantage for manufacturers is twofold. On the one hand, they save space on the motherboard. On the other hand, it also allows for economies of scale by eliminating the famous chip containing the eSIM. They have other advantages such as consuming less power than an eSIM, which prolongs autonomy. They can also benefit from data encryption at the processor level for better security. As with eSIM, iSIM phones allow you to use two different operators.

Among the disadvantages, their cost is higher than that of eSIM for the first generations because they require redesigning the processors to integrate them. In case of breakage, it is impossible as with eSIM to transfer the card to a non-compatible backup phone.

What is the future of SIM cards and eSIMs?

If current phones still have slots for a Micro SIM or Nano SIM card, these will probably disappear in the high end of the market in a few years. There will probably still be phones with Nano SIM or even Micro SIM slots in the entry and mid-range, but there are far too many advantages for manufacturers and operators to switch to eSIM and especially to iSIM.

Which phones are eSIM compatible?

Several phones launched from 2020 onwards are compatible with eSIMs:

Huawei P40, P40+. Mate 40 Pro, P50

iPhone XR, XS, 11, 12, 13 and 14 (model A2105 and higher)

Samsung Galaxy S20, S21, S22, S23, Z Fold2, Z Fold 3, Z Fold 4, and Z Flip

Google Pixel 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7

Which phones are iSIM compatible?

iPhone 13iPhone 14

Samsung Galaxy S22Samsung Galaxy S23

Google Pixel 6Google Pixel 7

Conclusion

Although eSIMs and iSIMs are slowly becoming more known, regular SIMs are still the primary technology being used at the moment. Most new phones are eSIM compatible, however, the same cannot be said for iSIM technology. We expect to see these two technologies grow in popularity over the next few years.

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