With the increasing spread of eSIM-enabled devices and special tariffs, the classic SIM card could slowly but surely be coming to an end. Read what you need to know about the topic now.
While the eSIM is already widespread in connected cars and in the IoT environment, it is only slowly catching on with smartphone users. Yet there are many indications that in a few years there will hardly be any devices left with a conventional SIM card. All the more reason to find out more about the eSIM. We have collected and answered the most important questions.
What is an eSIM?
The eSIM is a further development of the classic SIM card, where the "e" stands for embedded. However, the fact that the Subscriber Identity Module is permanently installed in the smartphone in the form of a tiny chip means much more than just the elimination of the plastic SIM. Rather, a permanently installed module for subscriber identification enables simpler and more flexible mobile phone use. Because now all steps - from contract conclusion to activation to the administration of SIM cards and phone numbers (for example for service mobile phones) - can be carried out digitally and online. Switching contracts or using several contracts at the same time - for example with "Bring your own device" (BYOD) - is also much easier with eSIM-capable devices than with normal or dual-SIM smartphones. While the SIM profile is permanently registered with classic plastic SIM cards, owners of devices with an integrated eSIM chip can load one or more eSIM profiles onto their end device and easily switch between them at any time. In addition, the conditions of some providers of eSIM tariffs are designed for flexible use and contracts can be adjusted or terminated on a monthly basis.
Which devices support the eSIM?
Even though - similar to dual-SIM - the eSIM trend is only gradually gaining momentum, there is already a larger selection of compatible (and popular) devices on the market. For example, all mobile devices of the past two generations from Apple and Google support the eSIM. In addition, other manufacturers such as Samsung, LG or Sony are expected to offer devices with eSIM soon. eSIM profiles can be loaded onto the following smartphones, tablets, notebooks and smartwatches, among others:
Apple iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max
Apple iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, XR, XS, XS Max
Apple iPhone SE (2020)
Google Pixel 3 und Google Pixel 3 XL
Google Pixel 3a und Google Pixel 3a XL
Google Pixel 4 und Google Pixel 4 XL
Google Pixel 4a
Google Pixel 5
Huawei P40, Huawei P40 Pro
Motorola Razr (2019)
Samsung Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+ und Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G
Samsung Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20+ und Galaxy S20 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 und Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy Fold
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
Nuu Mobile X5
Tablets and Notebooks:
Acer Swift 7
Apple iPad Pro 11 Zoll und iPad Pro 12,9 Zoll (3. und 4. Generation)
Apple iPad Air (3. und 4. Gen.) Apple iPad (7. und 8. Gen.) Apple iPad mini (5. Gen.)
Asus Transformer Mini
Microsoft Surface Pro X
Microsoft Surface Duo
Lenovo Yoga 5G
HP Spectre Folio
Samsung Galaxy Book S
Samsung Galaxy Watch und Galaxy Watch Active 2
Samsung Gear S2 3G Smartwatch
Huawei Watch 2 Pro
In addition, the Apple Watch Series 4 and 5 and the Series 3 with cellular also have an eSIM. However, they only work with a qualifying mobile plan from a supported provider. How do I activate an eSIM?
Interested parties receive the eSIM profile from the mobile phone providers after concluding a contract. In most cases, the user is shown a QR code online in the customer portal. After photographing the code, the device activates the profile and the SIM card can be used immediately. However, some providers still do not provide customers with the QR code directly in the customer portal. In these cases, they must first contact a service employee, visit a branch of the provider or wait for the code to be sent by post. How quickly can I change my eSIM provider?
With an eSIM, a provider change can be made within seconds, although a video ID procedure is also required here in Germany. Immediately after online verification, the eSIM QR code is displayed and can be scanned via the mobile phone camera. Afterwards, the profile is available in the settings and can be activated with a TAP. Two mobile phone contracts are already active on the smartphone. How often can I change providers with an eSIM?
When it comes to contract terms, there is also a minimum contract term for eSIM contracts. Many providers have simply turned their 24-month contracts with plastic SIMs into eSIMs without making any other contract adjustments. With other providers, however, the conditions are already designed for flexible use and contracts can be adjusted or terminated on a monthly basis.
What advantages does an eSIM offer me as a private user?
The eSIM makes mobile telephony more flexible, cheaper and ensures unrestricted reception - similar to dual-SIM smartphones, but without having to insert and change the SIM card. In this way, any weaknesses in the existing mobile phone contract can also be circumvented with the eSIM. While the existing initial contract represents the basic equipment for the customer, the additional eSIM offers the desired freedom. What is needed at the moment can be added spontaneously and without a fixed term:
Radio blackout in sight? - Quickly change the network.
Have you used up your data flat rate? - Then switch directly to the provider with the largest data volume for the lowest price.
Planning a trip abroad? - Simply set the tariff in your smartphone and avoid expensive roaming charges or the trip to the local mobile phone shop.
In general, the scenario of separating voice and data is also a good idea. One provider can be used for a low-cost data flat rate and another for low-cost voice flat rates or minute packages. A second mobile phone number can also be used on a mobile phone via the eSIM.
What can I use the eSIM for in the business environment?
Compared to the classic SIM card, the eSIM offers several advantages for business users and administrators. For example, the administration effort for eSIM profiles is considerably reduced in contrast to conventional SIM cards. No one has to wait for a physical SIM card to be able to use their company smartphone. Colleagues can be provided with a mobile radio solution in real time, regardless of location.
Since current smartphones still have a SIM card slot in addition to the eSIM chip, these smartphones also automatically become dual-SIM devices. Many users who currently use two smartphones for two different phone numbers will in future be able to do without one of them, as both phone numbers can be used in parallel on one device. The prerequisites for this are, of course, DSGVO-compliant protection and the separation of private and business contacts.
In addition, the eSIM allows two completely independent mobile telephony options to be used on one end device. For example, this can be a business mobile phone contract in the SIM card slot and a privately used prepaid contract as an eSIM profile in a smartphone provided by the employer.
What do I have to bear in mind when it comes to data protection with the eSIM?
Similar to the SIM card, the eSIM also stores personal data such as address book entries or the subscriber's mobile phone number. The following security measures are activated by eSIM providers as standard:
The eSIM profile is encrypted during installation. Asymmetric procedures secure the end-to-end transmission between the servers of the eSIM provider and the module of the end device. Each end device can only decrypt and install the eSIM profile assigned to it.
In terms of data protection, an eSIM is no worse than a SIM card. It even has the advantage that it cannot be lost or stolen from the device like the plastic card.
What are the disadvantages with an integrated SIM card?
In theory, there are two potential disadvantages for the user with the éSIM:
With the eSIM, the possibility of SIM swapping - and thus identity theft - has become somewhat easier for criminals. If the hacker has successfully posed as his victim with the mobile phone service provider and applied for a new SIM card, he no longer has to obtain the new physical SIM - the built-in chip is electronically written with the eSIM profile.
Moreover, with the eSIM, paranoids are no longer able to physically remove the SIM card as protection against mobile phone tracking. However, they can delete the eSIM profile.
It is not quite so simple with the disadvantages for mobile phone providers: theoretically, they are threatened by the danger that customers with the eSIM will switch to the competition much more easily. This is because many carriers have not made any process changes in the procurement and activation of the eSIM. So it is still quite possible that switching to a new device can lead to days of inaccessibility. If you want to change your smartphone, you have to order the eSIM again. Will I still be able to get around the eSIM in the future?
The eSIM offers device manufacturers and mobile phone providers advantages in the areas of process improvement, logistics and costs, among others. For customers, mobile telephony becomes more flexible, cheaper and possibly provides better reception. For this reason, experts predict that the eSIM will completely replace the physical SIM card after a certain transition period. The Motorola Razr (2019) is the first smartphone to have only an eSIM chip. Computerwoche Manfred Bremmer