The future of eSIM technology is bright, but providers are almost certain to discontinue it or charge additional fees.
eSIM or embedded SIM cards have been around for quite some time.
It’s almost the only way to connect your LTE-enabled smartwatch to the mobile network. But today, most Android phones and all new iPhones also come with a built-in SIM card, in addition to the usual SIM card slots.
Android 12 and Android 13, which are not yet stable, are adding more and more features to make devices with eSIM technology more convenient and standardized, and because of this technology we may not soon need those pesky plastic cards.
First, let’s take a look at the process of switching to a new phone, comparing eSIMs and actual SIMs.
If you’re not a phone enthusiast or someone who changes your phone a few times a year, this is probably something you only come across every couple of years, but the process for standard SIM cards is simple. With the SIM eject tool, simply remove the physical SIM card from your phone and then insert it into a new device. Most modern phones take care of everything else automatically and connect you to the correct network in minutes, if not seconds.
In theory, switching to a new phone via eSIM is easier. Your eSIM “card” provider must provide you with a printed or digital QR code that you can scan with your new phone, with all the credentials and details needed to configure the built-in SIM in your new phone. Your old phone should then be removed from the network, since the new phone is now using your existing credentials to access and communicate with the network.
Verizon doesn’t make the process easy. Customers often complain that they need to call support or visit a store to be able to activate their new phone, and the online process either doesn’t work or is hard to find.
AT&T offers at least a simple way to exchange eSIMs using the QR code shown above, but only for iPhones. Although the steps in the listing for Android phones seem simpler than T-Mobile’s step-by-step, it still includes similar switching actions.
Another issue with an eSIM is the additional cost. Most operators only offer free eSIMs on the more expensive packages, leaving many other customers the added cost of switching from a plastic SIM to a compact SIM. There are even some companies that charge an additional fee for each individual change.
In the Teltarif.de report for 2020, the German operator Drillisch was chosen as one of the few operators that charges around €15 per individual phone key – that’s more than the monthly price of some of this operator’s contracts.
Neither the cost of the eSIM nor the phone-replacement process itself is completely transparent, and matters are made even worse if we consider the limited compatibility of embedded SIM cards.
Only a handful of devices are currently supported by service providers, although today many modern Android phones have built-in SIM cards. Verizon states that while it supports the latest iPhones, it has only supported Pixel phones and Samsung flagships for the past two years. The list may vary slightly between operators, but the major operators currently only support a limited number of devices.
Even if you stay at Samsung and switch from the flagship Galaxy Note 20 to a low-end A series phone like the Galaxy A53, you won’t be out of luck and will have to switch back to physical SIM cards.
You may have figured it out on your own, but traditional operators have strong “incentives” to make the process of replacing a SIM card more difficult. The problem for them is not that the complicated process prevents you from switching to a new phone faster. These are eSIMs that open up a whole new world of possibilities to change the operator at the request of the user.
How is it in Slovenia? In the case of a new subscriber, Telekom Slovenije issues an eSIM for free, and in the case of changing from a classic SIM to an eSIM, the user is charged 2.95 euros. At Telemach, the change from a classic SIM to an eSIM is free until April 30, 2022, after which, as they wrote on their website, 10.95 euros will be charged. For the A1, existing subscribers will have to pay a fee of €11.99 to switch to an eSIM. Somewhere in between is the T-2, which charges its users €5 for change.
The issue also occurs with supported devices. Although your phone may have an eSIM module built in, it may not work. Namely, Telemach has a list of supported devices that are limited to iPhone and Samsung devices, and on T-2 devices from Apple, Google, Samsung and a few other manufacturers. Of course, this does not mean that if your device is not listed, the eSIM will not work if you ask for it. However, it is best to inquire before making any change.