What is an eSIM?

phone displaying eSIM

The launch of Apple’s new iPhone 14 this month came with a bit of a shock – the new model will be the first to ship without a SIM card slot, instead relying solely on eSIMs. So, how does this new technology work?

eSIM is short for embedded SIM. Rather than using a physical chip that you transfer between phones, eSIMs are rewritable SIM cards built directly into the hardware of your phone and allow you to switch providers using software and QR codes.

Most modern phones are already capable of making use of eSIMs, and have been for quite a while, but the iPhone 14 is the first to do away with the SIM card slot entirely.

While this may annoy some at first, Apple is really just accelerating the inevitable as physical SIM cards are fast becoming obsolete tech.

Read: Whistleout names the best phone and internet plans

The iPhone phone will be capable of supporting up to eight different eSIMs and have up to two active simultaneously.

eSIMs allow you to switch providers (and find a better deal) much more easily, without the hassle of going into a store to get a new SIM card or wait for one in the mail. Also, you’ll never have to worry about losing that annoying little SIM card removal tool with an eSIM.

RMIT Associate Professor Dr Mark Gregory told The New Daily that physical SIM cards are simply not needed anymore, but the widespread introduction of eSIMs has been resisted by some telcos.

“Operators are fully aware that SIM cards are a way to hold customers on their networks,” he said.

“With mobile phones, [when switching service providers], many of them require you to change the SIM card or to get a new SIM card. That means that you either get it in the mail, or you’d have to get it instore, which takes time and effort.”

Read: Big changes coming to your iPhone lock screen in iOS16

While eSIM technology does make it easier to switch between providers, some smaller telcos are yet to offer it, meaning your pool of potential providers is limited.

Most of the major telcos offer eSIM plans for compatible phones, so check with your provider.

Independent telecommunications analyst Paul Budde says that although eSIMs are growing in popularity due to their convenience, we probably won’t see physical SIMs gone completely for at least another five years.

But when it does, he says it will bring a new era of good deals for consumers, with retailers such as Woolworths and Amazon likely to offer deals for customers using affiliated mobile service providers.

Read: Ditch the ‘big three’ to save money on your phone bill

“If you look at the whole digital environment over the past 10 years, with apps, with websites and internet, then you see an enormous amount of digital innovation. And the eSIM will add to it,” he says.

“You can absolutely bet on it, that all these digital companies out there are looking at opportunities on how they can use this new development.”

Do you think you’ll end up getting better mobile deals with eSIMs? Does your provider offer eSIM plans? Let us know in the comments section below.

Written by Brad Lockyer

Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.

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