Whenever we get a new phone the natural next step is to set up a new sim or move our current SIM.

Conventionally, that's always been a traditional SIM card - but should it be?

There's a new type of SIM called an embedded sim card, eSIM for short. Unlike traditional plastic SIMs, eSIMs are internal to your device, instead of being external by swapping chips.

How does this work? Are eSIMs optimal for the long term? Will we move away from SIM cards? Should we?

Today we're going to do a deep dive comparison between traditional SIM cards and eSIM cards.

Let's start by asking:

How are SIMs and eSIMs similar?

Functionally, SIM cards and eSIMs are virtually the same. A subscriber identity module, no matter how it's constructed, serves to do a few key things:

  • Provide your device with access to cellular data through mobile networks
  • Offer you text and call service
  • Verify your device's identity and the network you're connected to

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Besides giving you the function to receive calls and use mobile data plans, SIMs act as your digital license plate for your mobile network.

It's important to keep in mind that all SIM services have to verify who is using the service. This is a unique number produced by the SIM itself and from within the device.

Dual-SIMs and Multiple SIMS

Most devices nowadays have built-in dual-SIM support. Meaning, you can have your primary SIM line active while your secondary line can sit on standby ready to be used.

(You can always name the other line with a custom label)

In the case of an eSIM, this would be downloading a digital data plan to the embedded sim. With a traditional SIM, it would require you to add the card to your device. Both work in either case.

While both are very similar, there are a few noteworthy differences between traditional SIMs and embedded SIMs.

Related: SIM vs eSIM, is shifting to the new technology worth it?

We're going to focus on the long-term differences between SIMs and eSIMs. Specifically, what are some of the long-term affects with SIM cards and what problems might you face.

We're also going to look at some of the short term problems that exist with eSIMs and what's changing in the future.

Let's start with SIM cards:

Long-term problems with SIM cards going bad

The biggest problem with a physical SIM card is that it is a physical SIM. A physical SIM has exposed connectors that will be moved from one device to another. Snapping, bending, scratching, or breaking them is always a risk if moved improperly or stored poorly. There's also a long-to-short-term risk of card degradation and loss of function.

Problems with water damage

One of the most common ways a physical SIM will stop working is through corrosion or water damage. Simple things like an excess of water, spraying, splashing, or submerging may be enough to cause the physical SIM to stop working. Spillage accidents with corrosive or hot liquids also risk damaging SIM function if any leak into the SIM tray.

Problems with heat damage

In the long term, it's important to note that excessive heat damage to the phone could cause damage to the pins on the card. This could be as simple as leaving your phone near a heating vent, on a window ledge, or on a patio table with exposure to the sun.

There could be manufacturer issues as well, Any card that is shipped or delivered has a risk of being damaged or malfunctioning. (Just a few things to keep in mind).

How can I tell if my SIM card has gone bad?

If you suspect your SIM is running into connectivity problems, troubleshoot by testing these areas:

  • Does my phone still have a connection to my local network or data service?
  • Am I receiving text messages immediately after being sent or is there a delay?
  • Can I make phone calls?
  • Can I receive phone calls?
  • Is my phone trying to switch providers or connect to new networks?

‌‌If you're still unsure, you can always remove the physical SIM from your phone and check for any pin corrosion or damage to the shaping.

eSIM Pros

Damage resistant

  • Since the eSIMs are built directly into the phone, the risk of external damage or card tampering is virtually zero. Wherever your device goes, your eSIM goes.

More secure

  • Your personal information is also better protected against hacking and tampering, as bypassing phone protocols is much harder. Even if an unwanted third party gains access to your eSIM, that same eSIM will not be readable in any tray. If you're ever concerned, you can delete an eSIM plan that is finished, making the information unretrievable.

Multiple digital options at once

Avoid roaming charges

  • You won't be charged with expensive roaming costs ever again. Pre-paid eSIM cards have a set amount of data on them, which means once it's done, you'll need to reload or buy a new card. No more coming home to an outlandish bill.

Related: Case Study on Roaming Gone Wrong: Ellen Creager

Quick and transparent

  • They're instant. From the comfort of your home, you could download a plan, manually or with a QR-Code, and within minutes have access to eSIM data plans.
  • The rates are market-competitive. For a comparable price, you could download and have a data plan ready to go without ever having to find a local vendor.

eSIM Short-Term Cons

Newer Tech

  • Currently, the biggest downside to using eSIM is that only recent phone models are eSIM capable. While more models are added month over month, older phone users will only have access to traditional SIMs.

Data Only

  • Most eSIM options only support mobile data packs and do not offer direct calling service or texting. While there are workarounds like using internet-based messaging and calling services, to make and receive calls, this is a major hindrance for some users making the switch to eSIM.

eSIM supported phones and devices

If you're interested in whether your device supports eSIM or not, there are a couple of quick ways to find out:

  1. The easiest way is to consult our list of eSIM capable devices here. While this list is constantly being updated, your device may or may not be listed.
  2. Make sure your phone is network and carrier unlocked.
  3. If your device isn't listed, you can consult your device's IMEI number to see if your phone supports an eSIM card. You can tap settings and search for "IMEI" and look for "digital SIM card". You can also go to your phone app and dial *#06# for the information.

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Future-Proofing with eSIM (5G and contactless

data plans)

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It's also worth noting that eSIMs have the built-in functionality to connect 4G and 5G networks.

Similar to 5G, the future seems to suggest that eSIM technology will take over as the ideal way to communicate.

It's a simple reality of tech, digital always surpasses analog. Conventional mediums for enjoying TV shows, films, and music have all been replaced by your phone.

It's only a matter of time when it comes to the SIM tray. eSIM is the future.