Updated on 6 Nov 2020

I know that you’ve been searching for ways to get better connectivity on-the-go, and if you travel often, then chances are that you change your providers a lot. Who wouldn’t want to find an alternative to purchasing an inefficient track phone plan or finding a Wi-Fi hotspot each time to get an internet connection?

I’m always trying to weigh the difference between new technology to find out whether they’re worth investing in, and that’s likely why you’re here. You’ve heard of eSIM and how it’s improving the signal quality for people around the world, so should you purchase a phone with compatibility for eSIM?

Before you decide to go out and buy an expensive new smartphone, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of both SIM and eSIM cards.

Which is better for you? – SIM vs. eSIM

Many travelers struggle to find a reliable mobile provider while they’re abroad, and even if they find one, they might not need the service for longer than a month.

Some mobile service providers don’t yet offer a consistent connection for eSIM-compatible phones, and they’re often riddled with performance issues. Likewise, the data amount and expiration date of their prepaid plans don’t seem to coincide with the requirements of a traveler.

That’s why it’s not only a good idea but a necessity to know which is better (SIM vs. eSIM) before you go out and buy an expensive phone.

sim vs esim

The similarities between the two

There’s a stigma surrounding SIM vs. eSIM that they’re entirely different technologies altogether, and they can’t be compared accurately. However, most people would be surprised to know that they have quite a few similarities, such as:

  • They both connect your phone to your mobile provider’s network
  • They both may be used in many different devices (not just phones)
  • They both identify your phone and the type of plan is used
  • They both can be used simultaneously in a dual-SIM phone
  • They’re both technically SIM cards

Yes, that’s right, both are SIMs. However, a SIM card is a chip that is physically installed or removed inside your phone with your carrier’s plan. An eSIM (embedded sim) is built-in to your phone and downloads your carrier’s plan indirectly.

The pros of SIM cards

Though more travelers may be swayed to use eSIM, there are still some advantages to choosing SIM carriers while visiting a different country.

Here are the positive aspects of SIM cards:

  • SIM is not a new mobile technology: Major mobile data carriers use SIM for the majority of their data plans. Therefore, SIM technology is revised for better service in local areas.
  • SIM is removable: Has your phone battery died? No problem, you can swap a SIM card into another unlocked phone with a working battery.
  • SIM is upgradable: If the manufacturing of the chip for your SIM is outdated or if you want to upgrade your plan, SIM can be brought into your mobile provider for a replacement.
  • SIM in prepaid form is easy to access: Many travelers can easily find a prepaid SIM plan at a local market or convenience store when they’re abroad.

The cons of SIM cards

Even though SIM is not new and mobile providers have strived to improve their connection quality, there are still a few drawbacks.


Here are the negative aspects of SIM cards:

  • SIM is hackable: Hackers can steal bank account information, social media accounts, email addresses, and more just by having access to a password recovery text on your phone.
  • SIM is limited: A SIM card’s memory capacity is limited to storing your device’s essential information and processes.
  • SIM relies heavily on apps: Other than providing mobile data, the tasks of a SIM card rely mostly on commands prompted by apps.
  • SIM receives a signal from cellphone towers: A significant disadvantage to anyone living in remote locations or traveling is that SIM requires adequate cellphone tower coverage. Most scenic areas don’t offer tower coverage.
  • SIM wears out: Since it is a physical chip, SIM does tend to go bad after a while and can become damaged from corrosion or rubbing.

The pros of eSIM cards

Now that we’ve looked at the advantages of SIM let’s find out why eSIM is the talk of the mobile industry today.

Here are the positive aspects of eSIM cards:

  • eSIM can’t be physically damaged or lost: Since it’s embedded inside phones, you run much less of damaging cards and weakening your signal quality at the least convenient times.
  • eSIM is usable with a SIM: Phones with dual-SIM technology may swap between the data line of a SIM and an eSIM to get the best signal possible worldwide.
  • eSIM is small: Since an eSIM is small, it can be fit within new wearable technology such as watches or other devices, which may become smaller in size over time.
  • eSIM can store multiple cellular profiles: There’s no limit to storing single cellphone plan information; therefore, it can be used almost anywhere in the world.
  • eSIM isn’t easy to hack: Hackers must pivot through a billing-process security feature and the cloud to intrude into your phone details while in a roaming situation.
  • eSIM is easy to locate: Network providers can control eSIM over the air, which makes your location easier to find in case your phone becomes lost or stolen.

The cons of eSIM cards

Although eSIM may seem flawless at a glance, there are still a few disadvantages to using eSIM.

Here are the negative aspects of eSIM cards:

  • eSIM isn’t available for older phones: Since it’s relatively new, eSIM is not compatible with older phone models, and you may have to pay for an expensive new phone.
  • eSIM is harder to transfer data: Instead of popping the card out of a damaged phone, you have to download your data from the cloud to get your contacts, message, and other media back.
  • eSIM can’t be used with multiple phones: There’s no way you can pull the card out and use it in an unlocked phone since it’s embedded.

Determining if you need a new smartphone to support eSIM

Why should you buy a new phone for eSIM?

If you’re a traveler who enjoys taking vacations to remote locations or different countries, you’ve likely spent years trying to find a provider that offers reliable coverage. What exactly can you expect to change with eSIM?

  • Visit over 190+ countries: Wouldn’t it be nice to visit any location without wondering whether you’ll be able to have access to coverage in any country? If you choose Airalo, you can get an eSIM data plan that works in a vast expanse of locations.
  • Flexible data plans: Don’t want to pay for data you can’t possibly use up before your trip ends? eSIM prepaid plans are flexible and offer an affordable amount of data for any vacation.
  • Spend less in coverage: Based on how much you usually spend to get limited and inconsistent coverage; you save a considerable sum of money when switching to an eSIM plan.
  • Connection consistency: Want to take your phone anywhere without a nearby Wi-Fi hotspot? Airalo partners with local telcos around the world to bring you the best coverage at local-based rates.
  • Text, call or browse: You can still use your main SIM line to make personal calls, while you can switch to an eSIM to browse the web.

eSIM is not limited to phones

There are more eSIM capable devices released every year, and not all of them are smartphones. We are used to connecting the other devices like laptops or tablets to Wi-Fi, but with growing adoption of the eSIM technology it's just a matter of time till all of them would be able to connect to the internet independently.  One of the biggest benefits of an eSIM is the size.  It's so compact that it can be built in smaller devices, like wearable accessories. This allows smartwatches stay connected even when you are away from your phone - less things to carry! eSIMs are already built in the new smartwatches, like AppleWatch series 6. However, only select operators' eSIMs can be installed in smartwatches.

SIM vs. eSIM – Which will you choose for your next trip abroad

Don’t want to purchase a new phone to use an eSIM?

Here’s something you should consider if you’re having doubts. Cellphone technology is expanding out of our capacity to build cellphone towers and meet the rising demand for global connectivity. Mobile phone customers are tired of paying for data that they can’t get in remote locations or outside their coverage areas.

Now imagine that you’re standing on a remote beach searching for a signal or sifting through a sea of overcrowded hotspot locations to get your internet to load? What if you could carry your mobile phone with you anywhere in the world without switching your provider? eSIM aims to revolutionize the way we connect on a global level.

Sure, you could rent a pocket Wi-Fi device or buy a temporary SIM from a local market, but that takes up a lot of valuable time and resources to do. Why continue to inconvenience yourself when you can get complete global coverage with only your phone?

Airalo understands that you want to strongly consider the benefits of mobile technology before you spend hundreds of dollars on a new phone. Visit Airalo today to learn more about compatible eSIM phones and available data plans for your global connectivity needs.