What is an eSim? – Advisor Forbes Australia


A SIM card, traditionally a small plastic card that fits into your mobile phone, stands for “subscriber identity module”.

It contains information, such as your mobile phone number, and allows you to make and receive calls and texts, and to use your phone’s data.

SIM cards can also store contacts and phone numbers, making it easy to switch phones. You can simply remove your SIM card from your old phone and insert it into a new one.

What is an eSIM?

But so-called eSIMs are designed to replace old-school physical SIM cards (and, in case you’re wondering, the ‘e’ stands for embedded).

Instead of being a removable plastic card inside your phone, an eSIM is a small chip embedded in your handset. You cannot take it out and put it in another phone.

However, information on an eSIM is rewritable. This means you can switch networks without removing your SIM card and inserting a new one.

The time when eSIMS will completely replace plastic SIM cards is probably still a long way off. Currently, eSIMs are more commonly used as a second SIM card in a dual SIM handset.

What are the benefits of an eSIM?

  1. It is easier to switch networks. An eSIM greatly facilitates the change of mobile network. Instead of having to order a new SIM card, wait for it to arrive, and then insert it into your phone, you can switch to another network through a phone call or online. You also won’t have to search for a SIM card “eject tool” to remove the old SIM card from your phone.
  2. You can temporarily switch to another network. Up to five virtual SIM cards can be stored on an eSIM at a time. This means you can quickly switch between different networks if you find yourself in an area with no signal on your regular network.

    It also makes it easy to switch to a local network on the go, without having to physically insert a local SIM card. Using a local mobile network abroad can be much cheaper than paying roaming charges on your Australian network. Additionally, not removing your Australian SIM card from your phone will also reduce the risk of losing it.

  3. Allows you to have more than one SIM card. eSIMs also offer the same benefits as dual-SIM phones with two slots for traditional plastic SIM cards, the most obvious being that you can have two phone numbers on one device.

    This can be handy if you want one number for personal use and another for business, but you don’t want to carry two phones. You will be able to receive phone calls and texts on both numbers all the time and choose which SIM card to use to make calls, send texts or use data.

    4. Uses less physical space on the phone. Another advantage of eSIMs is that they will eventually negate the need for a physical SIM card and its tray. Smartphone makers could potentially use this space to increase the size of a phone’s battery or add more features to a handset. Fewer holes in a handset also means more protection against moisture and dust, so fewer breakdowns.

    There’s also the option to make the handsets smaller in some cases. But the real space advantage is in wearable devices like smartwatches because people don’t want to wear a huge device on their wrist. The Apple Watch Series 5 and Series 4 already have eSIMs, as do the Samsung Gear S2 and Gear S3 smartwatches.

What are the disadvantages of an eSIM?

However, eSIMs have a few potential drawbacks.

  1. Not as easy to switch devices quickly. Currently, if your handset stops working, you can easily remove the SIM card and put it in another phone, keeping your number and contact details (if your contacts are stored on the SIM card).

    This will be much trickier with an eSIM – although the cloud storage of information and contacts is designed to make it easier to transfer data such as contacts from one phone to another.

  2. Nowhere to hide. You also cannot remove an eSIM from a device, which can be seen as a drawback if you have concerns about tracking your movements. But it can also be an advantage because it means phone thieves can’t easily hide the location of a stolen phone.

Do all smartphones have an eSIM?

Currently, only a handful of newer smartphones and wearables have an eSIM. These include:

  • All of Apple’s latest iPhones – the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR, plus the new iPhone 12 range and iPad Pro
  • Samsung Galaxy S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra
  • The Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL
  • Motorola’s Razr (eSIM only, it doesn’t have a physical SIM card)
  • Samsung Gear S2 and Gear S3 smartwatches
  • Apple Watch series 3, 4 and 5

Do all networks support eSIM?

Globally, not all networks support eSIMs – but they will over time when this technology becomes the norm.

In Australia, all three major networks (Telstra, Optus and Vodafone) support eSIM to some extent.


Are eSIMs more expensive than SIMs?

While most networks don’t charge extra for the initial eSIM setup, there are occasional additional charges when using an eSIM.

For example, since you can use one number on multiple devices with an eSIM, some carriers charge around $5 more per month for convenience.

Can an eSIM be used internationally?


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