SIM cards, what's a phone without them?
Short for subscriber identity module, a SIM card has been the traditional way your phone connects to a mobile network - providing you with text, call, and data service.
The reality is this technology isn't new. SIM cards have been around since the early 1990s. While the size of each SIM will vary from phone to phone (e.g., the mini-SIM, micro-sim, nano-sim), each 'new SIM' functions the same.
You pop open your cell for the past 30+ years and insert a chip into the empty slot. You look for wireless connectivity from your mobile network, and you're good to go. Right? Not always.
While much of the online world has fully adopted a digital approach, we're still stuck in the 90s with this particular aspect of cellular technology. You might say if it isn't broken, why fix it?
Technically, there was nothing wrong with floppy disks and CD trays, but for the most part, we've moved on to new and better ways of managing our data.
Let's talk about the ten most prominent problems with traditional SIM cards and the future of SIM technology with eSIMs.
1) Transferring a card
It's important to note that SIM cards are compatible with one another for most devices. However, if your phone is of an older generation or from another region, SIM card size can vary. You may need to purchase a special tray or SIM card reader to properly transfer to a new phone.
This can be a roadblock if you:
- Are traveling and need coverage immediately
- Don't have access to an adapter
- Are in an emergency
2) Switching Carriers
Switching carriers on your phone can be either straightforward or very difficult, depending on if your phone is locked or unlocked.
With an unlocked phone, all you need to do is remove the old SIM card from your device and insert a new one for the area you're visiting. It should connect to the network, and you're good to go.
If your phone is locked, you cannot switch to another carrier. A locked phone plan means you're in a contract with your provider. Typically, a locked plan allows you to pay nothing upfront (or a heavy discount) for your phone - in exchange for a commitment over time. With this commitment, you have to pay the balance off your phone plus a monthly plan. While your phone is locked, you can only use the SIM card provided by your carrier.
3) SIM Card Malfunctions
We've all broken stuff in our life. It happens! It's no different for SIM cards. In fact, the risk of damaging a SIM card is much higher for two reasons:
1) Chips are more delicate
2) We use our phones more than anything else
Leaving your phone near water, heat, or fall damage could cause your SIM card to malfunction. The risk of damage can also happen while transferring the chip. It's a lot easier to scratch a card than you think!
4) Limited Wireless Service
SIM cards are only as good as the area they cover. If you happen to be in a more remote region, your signal strength could be compromised. As mentioned before, improperly placing the card into the SIM tray may also compromise the service on your SIM card.
You may also run into issues with your SIM card when buying preloaded cards from vendors outside of your home country, such as:
- unreliable build quality
- unreliable service
- hacked or compromised cards
At best, your experience will vary.
5) Expensive Roaming Plans
If you buy roaming plans from your home provider, you could be charged an outlandish premium for the service. Some network providers offer roaming plans that work out to be $10-$15 a day (That's $70-$105 a week!).
Here at Airalo, we offer comparable eSIM plans starting at $5 for 1GB for the week. Check out more on our store page.
6) Surprise Charges
If roaming wasn't bad enough (paying an extra $70 for phone service), imagine coming home to a bill in the $100s-$1,000s extra!
Your network provider doesn't tell you that their roaming plan is for their approved networks - and no one else. If you accidentally connect to ANY network outside their approved providers, it will cost you a lot.
Read more about Ellen Creager and how she accidentally ran up a few extra hundred dollars on her trip to Greenland.
Read more about the family that racked up $13,000+ in roaming charges going to Vietnam.
7) Finding SIM Card Vendors While Travelling
Besides being unable to verify the condition and security of SIM cards you buy from vendors while traveling, it's genuinely a hassle and a waste of your time.
Imagine you land at the airport, and you need to use your phone (we all do). Ridesharing, social media, work, emails, you name it! Instead of catching up on your updates, you now need to find a vendor in a country you've never been to, in a language you may not know and find a new SIM card.
That's going to take a few hours out of your day. Time away from your vacation or business trip.
Plus, some countries require ID and a background check, making the time to get a SIM card even longer.
Pro tip: you can avoid that all by downloading an eSIM at home before leaving your living room.
8) Keeping Track of Multiple SIM Cards
On the plus side, SIM cards have become smaller and more efficient. On the downside, SIM cards have become smaller.
If you remove your SIM card and replace it with another while traveling, you'll have to keep track of it. If you're going to multiple countries, that means keeping track, labeling, and organizing SIM cards for each of those countries.
What if you lose your bag? What if you can't remember which SIM belongs to what region? What if you damage one?
It's a headache.
9) Finding a SIM Key When you need it
Speaking of losing things when you need them the most, what about a SIM key? Do you happen to have one on you? Probably not.
Once we get our phone up and running, we'll usually throw away the packaging and the SIM key. It's a small tool needed to open the tray and can be hard to have on hand, especially when traveling.
It is worth noting that you can use a toothpick or paperclip as an alternative to jimmy the tray open. However, note that both are not designed for SIM trays and risk damaging/scratching the phone or the SIM card.
10) Replacing a SIM Card
Because SIM cards are physical, replacing a SIM requires time. Either that's time out of your day to find a local vendor that can give you a new card or wait for your service provider to send you one.
That's a lot of downtime where your phone cannot call, text, or use data.
The eSIM Solution
There are still many advantages to SIM cards, don't get me wrong, but what this list should show you is that optimizing technology from the 1990s has some serious drawbacks.
Let me tell you about a better way with eSIMs. If your phone is eSIM capable (find out more), you can download a data pack directly to your phone and be up and running within a few minutes.
That means no more:
- finding SIM Vendors
- managing SIM cards
- damaging SIM cards
- buying expensive roaming plans
Allowing you to:
- save time by downloading an eSIM
- save money by only paying for the data you need
- have multiple eSIM profiles saved to your device
Try going digital, and leave the traditional plastic SIM card behind. Try your first eSIM today!
Learn more about eSIMs here: