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Travelers' Guide to eSIM's Advantages and Drawbacks

More and more news stories about eSIM have been coming out recently.

You might be one of the people who has an eSIM-enabled phone like an iPhone XS or XR and thinks, "That would be cool to use," but you're still not sure if it's possible.

So, to make sure you don't have to worry about eSIM (what a hero! ), I've tested the eSIM of about 10 companies and put together a list of the pros and cons of each provider's eSIM for normal internet use while travelling abroad.

As a new technology that is just starting out, eSIM are still a lot more expensive than physical SIM cards. This study is based on the idea that the growing number of eSIM will lead to a big drop in costs in the near future (comparable to traditional SIM cards). So please remember that.

When compared to eSIM, we will look at how physical SIMs and renting mobile WiFi routers compare.

For and against

eSIM Merits

Buy it whenever you want and start using it right away

Getting a physical SIM takes a lot of work, whether you do it online before your trip or at the airport, a convenience store, or a mobile shop at your destination.

Even if you buy it in your home country ahead of time, like on a website, it will still take a few days to get there by mail. Buying locally in your destination country can also be hard. For example, you may have to look for stores that sell physical SIM cards and worry that you might be ripped off when it comes to data (low cost performance).

Renting a mobile WiFi router is also not as easy as it sounds. Most of the time, you have to do one of three things: make a reservation online ahead of time, have it sent to your home, or do the process at the airport counter on the day you arrive. Also, you have to send the device back either by mail or at the airport when your trip is over.

For eSIM, on the other hand, everything from buying it to using it can be done online. If you wanted to, you could even buy it right before you left using your phone's data plan or WiFi, or you could use WiFi at the airport where you're going to buy it. The best thing about this is that you can start using it as soon as you buy it. No waiting, and no bothering.

Compared to the other options, this saves a lot of time from the time you buy to the time you use.

If you want to make the most of your time on a short trip (less than a week), if you're going to be gone for a few weeks or longer, if you're too busy at work to plan your trip well, or if you just think planning is a pain, eSIM is a tool that can save you that requires little to no preparation. You can book on the spot and don't have to worry about any of the stressful parts of planning that come with the other options.

No more swapping SIM cards means you can't lose your SIM.

The best thing about the eSIM is that you can download data in the form of profiles (the information that is already on regular SIM cards) directly from the internet.

Traditional SIM cards require you to use a SIM pin to pull the SIM tray out of your device, carefully remove the small SIM, and then carefully insert the next SIM while making sure they are all lined up. eSIM gets rid of the need to do all of these annoying tasks, which are not the hardest things in the world.

If you have a device that can use two SIM cards, there are times when you don't need to replace the one you already have. However, as the number of regions or countries you visit goes up, you'll need to replace the SIM more and more.

For mobile WiFi rental, you can't switch SIM cards, but you only have to carry around one or two devices (including your phone), and the more devices you have, the more likely you are to lose or break them. Many portable WiFi plans come with some kind of loss or damage protection, but these are extra-cost services that will make the total cost of your rental go up.

With eSIMs, you don't have to take out the real SIM card, so you don't have to worry about losing it. As mini, micro, and nano SIM sizes get smaller and smaller, it's more likely that you'll lose the SIM you took out when swapping. Losing or misplacing the SIM card you got from your carrier or bought prepaid can be a real pain in the rear, so I'm glad that eSIMs don't have this problem.

A phone has a SIM card tray.

On one device, you can store two or more profiles, or cell phone plans.

If you want to rent a mobile WiFi router and go to more than one country or region, you have to choose a plan that works in all countries or rent one in each place you go. This can be a very costly thing to do. Other SIMs, like physical SIM cards that let you roam, can be fairly cheap, but you may still need to buy more than one and carry/swap it.

With eSIM, on the other hand, a device can have more than one profile. For example, a new iPhone can store 10 (or more, but we only got to 10) eSIM profiles, so you can use the best plans and providers for your destination country.

Even if your travel plans are all different, like going from Japan to Hong Kong and then India to Europe, you can still use the best data plan for each country by switching to the right eSIM.

There were no problems with starting up or physical damage.

With regular SIM cards, there is a small chance that you'll get a bad one or that the chip on the SIM will get scratched or broken when you put it in, making it useless (the later case results in you not getting a refund). People have also said that their device's SIM tray made it hard for the SIM card to be read correctly.

With eSIMs, the profile you download from the internet is in digital form, so there's no chip to interact with the outside world. This means you no longer have to worry about the physical problems listed above.

All you need is a smartphone or other device that can use an eSIM.

With an eSIM, you don't have to carry a device or charge it like you do with a mobile WiFi router. This is also true of physical SIM cards, but since you have to buy a physical product to get a SIM card, you need more than just your device to use it.

eSIM are much better than other types of mobile internet for people who don't want to carry around a lot of heavy luggage and want to travel light.

Cool new tech on the cutting edge

I'm not sure if this should be counted as a strength, but I thought using the new eSIM technology was really cool and satisfying. I was so excited to learn that you can buy data profiles from your phone as long as it has an internet connection.

Even though it's not a sure thing that eSIM will be the next big thing, the tech industry as a whole seems to be moving in that direction. I think eSIM technology will be very interesting for people who find value and fun in seeing how far technology has come.

Phones like iPhones and Pixels


Not the least expensive choice.

This seems to be due in part to the fact that this market is still young and there are still only a few companies that offer eSIM services. Depending on where you live or where you're going, physical SIM cards are often still cheaper than their eSIM counterparts.

At this point, it depends on what's important to you. If the price difference is only a few dollars, many people may still choose eSIM over traditional SIMs because of their many benefits (not having to worry over losing it, time savings, etc.). Still, eSIM are not always the cheapest option.

Still, it's only a matter of time before the prices of eSIM and traditional SIM are the same. As more and more providers and eSIM options come onto the market, prices will drop to be more like those of traditional SIMs. Also, eSIM don't need to be made or shipped, which means that sellers and providers can keep their overhead costs low, which means that prices will go down as well.

Most of the time, local phone numbers aren't given.

Most physical SIM cards, especially those sold in Asia, come with a wide range of prepaid options that include local phone numbers and packages that let you make voice calls and send text messages. The truth about eSIM, though, is that most of them can only send and receive data at the moment. VoIP apps like WhatsApp, Skype, etc. can be used to make calls, but a phone number can't be used to send and receive calls or SMS.

In the near future, it's possible that prepaid eSIM plans with phone numbers will become more common, but if you don't need a real phone number, messaging apps like WhatsApp will be more than enough for your calling needs. So, most travellers won't notice any major problems even if they can't use a phone number to make calls or send and receive SMS.

There are still not that many devices that can use eSIM.

I think it's only a matter of time before this no longer counts as a bad thing (that being said, it still could be a while).

When it comes to iOS devices, iPhones and iPads from the latest series do support eSIM. Since Apple is always on the cutting edge of new technology, it is likely that all iPhones and iPads that come out in the future will also support eSIM (this excludes the low-budget option). So, in the near future, you can expect to see a huge rise in the number of iOS devices that can use eSIM.

Some Windows PC tablet-laptops can also use eSIM.

As a side note, the latest news says that MacBooks made after 2020 may be able to support 5G. Like Microsoft, which calls its computers "Always-Connected PCs," Apple could make a laptop with a cellular communication module in addition to WiFi. But Apple will need to stand out from Microsoft and other competitors, and I think they could do that with eSIMs instead of a traditional physical SIM.

Few wearable devices, like smartwatches, can use eSIMs right now. However, there are already a few smartwatches that can, and the number of eSIM-capable wearable devices is likely to grow in the near future.

Apple devices

OS problems and bugs are still there.

It looks like most operating systems are still getting used to how to handle and process new eSIM technology.

For example, iOS lets you give each eSIM a custom name, but that name often goes away or changes back to the default name, especially on the iPad. There seems to be the occasional problem during the process of installing an eSIM profile, but I can't say for sure because I haven't done it myself.

Other problems are that eSIMs that are installed on one device can't be moved to another device. This isn't really a problem when using eSIMs for international travel, though. This can be annoying if, for example, you buy a new phone and want to move your eSIM to the new one. Because eSIMs are a developing technology, this is less of an OS problem and more of an eSIM problem. Just something to remember about how things are right now.

As with any new software, you can't expect it to work perfectly from the start. This is why it's so important for developers to listen to and address feedback and problems from real users. eSIM technology is just like this in this way. If the GSMA, eSIM carriers in each country, and all the major.

OS developers can work together well, eSIMs will be much easier to use and users should have less trouble.

My Impressions

Even though this article has talked about many of eSIM problems, like fees, incompatible devices, and OS problems, I think that almost all of them will be fixed soon, once some of the bugs are worked out.

Even though I may be biassed, I honestly think that the pros of eSIM more than make up for the cons listed above. I think it's worth it to use an eSIM, even though it's still a bit pricey (early adopter mentality!). You don't have to worry about losing your main SIM card, and there's almost no downtime between buying and using it, which saves me time.

There are, of course, many other ways to get mobile internet, depending on your travel plans and budget. These include physical SIMs, renting a WiFi router, and data roaming and soft SIMs, which were not mentioned above, but at the very least, eSIM should be seen as a comparable alternative.

Above all, I find this technology useful and really interesting, and I'm excited to see where it goes.

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