Welcome to Airalo's eSIM guide! In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know about eSIM technology, from what an eSIM is to how it works and where to get one.
- How cellular technology is changing
- What is a SIM card?
- What is an eSIM, and how does it work?
- eSIM vs. physical SIM: What's the difference?
- Is my phone eSIM-compatible?
- Where to get an eSIM
- How to install an eSIM
- eSIM advantages
- How can I use an eSIM?
How Cellular Technology Is Changing
Like all technology, phones have evolved with time. The wireless, contactless, and digital approach is changing how phone manufacturers do business, how carriers and networks think about cellular service, and how we connect as mobile consumers.
Newer devices minimize unnecessary ports and maximize space — a trend triggered by Apple removing the iPhone's headphone jack. Apple understood users would prefer the utility and convenience of a wireless solution. And they were right.
What about the SIM tray? Imagine if you could connect to a mobile network 100% digitally without having to swap a physical chip. With eSIM technology, you can!
What Is a SIM Card?
Before we get into eSIMs, we need to take a slight detour to explain SIM cards. A SIM (subscriber identity module) is a small chip that identifies you as a mobile customer and connects you to a carrier's network. If you've used a mobile phone over the past 30 years, you've likely handled a SIM (and attempted to insert one into a tiny SIM card tray — it's no easy feat).
What Is an eSIM, and How Does It Work?
An eSIM is an embedded SIM card. Like a physical SIM, it identifies and connects you to a mobile network. Unlike a physical SIM, it's built into your device's circuitry and can download carrier data remotely.
An eSIM works 100% digitally. You don't need to remove it to change your carrier, data, or service plan. (In fact, you can't — unless you break open your phone and unsolder the chip, which we don't recommend!)
Instead, you can purchase and download one (or more) eSIM data plans and instantly connect to a mobile network. Your phone stores these as eSIM "profiles" (or lines) that you can turn on and off, making it super simple to maintain multiple plans (e.g., for home and work) and connect to local networks when you travel.
eSIM vs. Physical SIM: What's the Difference?
There are some key differences between eSIMs and physical SIM cards:
- A physical SIM is a removable chip. An eSIM is embedded in your device.
- A physical SIM is tied to a specific carrier. An eSIM is carrier-independent.
- A physical SIM is removable and can be lost or stolen. An eSIM can be uninstalled but can't be lost or stolen.
Is My Phone eSIM-Compatible?
Most flagship devices manufactured since 2018 are eSIM-compatible. However, this will vary depending on your country or region. To make it easy for you (because we love doing that), here is a full breakdown of eSIM-compatible devices.
Where to Get an eSIM
You can get an eSIM for 200+ countries and regions worldwide from the Airalo website or app (iOS | Android). Our eSIMs give you access to the best local rates and coverage anywhere you travel.
Airalo eSIM plans vary by:
- Location (e.g., local, regional, global)
- Data (e.g., 1GB, 3GB, 5GB, etc.)
- Validity Period (e.g., 7 days, 14 days, 30 days, etc.)
- Price (dependent on the package you choose)
Once you've chosen the plan that best suits your needs, you can purchase and install it. (Remember to make sure your phone is unlocked and eSIM-compatible first!)
How to Install an eSIM
Installing an Airalo eSIM is easy. There are three ways to do it, and each one only takes a few minutes:
- Direct: Follow the prompts from the Airalo app.
- QR Code: Scan a QR code to install the eSIM.
- Manual: Enter the eSIM information into your device settings.
The steps for each method differ depending on whether you have an iOS or Android device. You can find a step-by-step guide for each one here:
Using eSIMs is about making the switch from analog to digital. They're about better using your space, saving time, and reducing travel costs.
Some of their key advantages include:
- Instant connectivity. Download an eSIM plan and instantly connect to a local network.
- Multiple lines, one device. Toggle between lines without switching SIM cards or devices.
- Save time when you travel. Don't worry about finding a SIM card vendor when you travel.
- Say goodbye to roaming fees. Connect like a local and get online without paying extra.
- Better for the environment. No packaging — your eSIM is right there in your phone.
- Easy to Manage. Everything's on your device (no need to maintain an elaborate SIM card tracking system).
- Greater flexibility. Store multiple eSIM plans and switch them up as needed, no matter where you are in the world.
How Can I Use an eSIM?
More and more people are adopting eSIM technology for work and travel, from avid travelers to seafarers and digital nomads. Here's how they use eSIMs:
- International travel. eSIMs are an easy and affordable way to stay connected when you travel abroad. With Airalo, you can choose an eSIM for 200+ countries and regions and instantly connect when you arrive at your destination.
- Living and working remotely. eSIM technology is a no-brainer for digital nomads. It's an easy and affordable way to connect from any location. Whether you're working from a beachside bungalow or city center, you can skip spotty Wi-Fi and connect to reliable eSIM data.
- Studying abroad. Many international students split their time between home and abroad. An eSIM is an easy way for them to switch between networks and save on roaming costs when they travel home for the holidays.
- Traveling for work. Seafarers and flight attendants swear by eSIMs to keep them connected. The flexibility of an eSIM allows them to switch plans no matter where work takes them and keep in contact with friends and family as they travel.
- Using data at home. An eSIM can also be a flexible data alternative at home. It's a great option if your local carrier's network is slow or reliable, or if you only want to use data for a few days or weeks a month.
Ready to make the switch to eSIM technology? Browse the Airalo store to access eSIMs for 200+ countries and regions worldwide.