When you get a new phone, the natural next step is to get a brand new SIM card or switch over your current one. Traditionally, that's been a physical SIM card — but should it be?

An eSIM switches it up by making this process 100% digital. Unlike a traditional SIM, an eSIM is embedded in your device and doesn't need to be swapped out to change providers or networks. You can download a digital data plan, install it on your device, and instantly connect.

So, how does this work? Are eSIMs optimal for the long term? Will we move away from SIM cards? And should we? Here, we'll dive into the differences between SIM cards and eSIMs, what happens when SIM cards go bad, and the benefits of using an eSIM.

We'll cover the following:

hands holding a smartphone

How Are SIMs and eSIMs Similar?

SIM cards and eSIMs serve the same function. No matter how a SIM (subscriber identity module) is constructed, it does a few key things:

  • It gives your device access to a mobile data network
  • It allows you to use text and call services
  • It verifies your device's identity and the network(s) you can connect to

‌‌You can think of a SIM as a digital license plate for your mobile network. It's what verifies you as a mobile subscriber and grants you access to your carrier's network.

Dual SIMs and Multiple SIMs

Most devices these days have Dual SIM support. Dual SIM technology allows you to store more than one SIM and/or eSIM on your device and connect to two different networks simultaneously. 

A few ways to use Dual SIM technology include:

  • Add a local data plan when you travel
  • Use one plan for voice and another for data
  • Keep separate business and personal numbers on the same phone

phone with sim card sitting outside of it

What Happens When SIM Cards Go Bad?

The biggest problem with a physical SIM card is that it's physical. A physical SIM has exposed connectors that are prone to damage. When you handle a SIM card, you risk snapping, bending, scratching, or breaking it. There are also risks of card degradation and loss of function over time. 

Here are a few SIM card problems to consider.

Problems with Water Damage

One of the most common reasons a physical eSIM will stop working is corrosion or water damage. Excess water, spraying, splashing, or submerging can be enough to damage a physical eSIM and prevent it from working. Spillage with corrosive or hot liquids also risks damaging a SIM card if they leak into the SIM tray.

Problems with Heat Damage

Excessive heat damage can also ruin the pins on a SIM card. Leaving your phone near a heating vent, on a window ledge during a sunny day, or on a patio table in the sun can be enough to expose it to heat damage.

Problems with Shipping

You can also face manufacturer issues. Any card that's shipped or delivered carries a risk of being damaged or malfunctioning. 

How to Tell if Your SIM Card Has Gone Bad

If you suspect your SIM is having connectivity problems, you can troubleshoot by testing these areas:

  • Can your phone still connect to your local network or mobile data?
  • Do you send and receive text messages immediately, or is there a delay?
  • Can you make and receive phone calls?
  • Is your phone trying to switch providers or connect to new networks?

If you're still unsure, you can always eject the physical SIM from your device and examine it for pin corrosion or damage to its shape. 

smartphone with an esim open

Benefits of Using an eSIM

There are several benefits of using eSIM technology. Here's a closer look at why you might want to switch from a physical SIM card to an eSIM. 

Damage Resistant

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

More Secure

It's much easier to hack a physical SIM card than an eSIM. Personal information is better protected against hacking and tampering, and bypassing phone protocols is much more difficult. 

Store Multiple eSIMs

You can download and store more than one eSIM profile on your device. You can download a French data plan, an American data plan, or a Japanese data plan and have instant access when traveling to those destinations.

Avoid Roaming Charges

Say goodbye to expensive roaming fees. When you buy an eSIM plan from Airalo, you pre-pay for a set amount of data. If you run out of data, you can top up your package or purchase a new plan. There are no hidden fees, and you won't come home to a surprise roaming bill.

Easy and Affordable Connectivity

eSIMs give you access to instant connectivity. You can download a plan from the comfort of your own home, install it on your device, and be up and running in minutes. And, Airalo's rates are market-competitive. You'll pay the same rates as a local in 200+ countries and regions worldwide.

friends looking at a smartphone

Does Your Phone Support eSIM Technology?

To use an eSIM, your device must be carrier-unlocked and eSIM-compatible. Not sure if this applies to you? Here are a few ways to find out.

  • Consult our list of eSIM-compatible devices
  • Check with your carrier to see if your device is unlocked.
  • Consult your device's IMEI number to see if your phone supports an eSIM. Tap Settings, search for IMEI, and look for terms like "eSIM" or "digital SIM card."
  • Dial *#06# from your phone app to find out if your phone is eSIM-compatible.

Ready to switch to an eSIM? Browse eSIMs for 200+ countries and regions worldwide in the Airalo store