Is eSIM a Good Idea? – The Ultimate Guide to eSIMs

The approach to mobile phones and data has evolved a lot with time, especially for people who use it for multiple purposes for personal, work, and travel. One of the most innovative advancements in mobile technology is the eSIM, or Embedded Subscriber Identity Module. It’s a big deal for travelers because it makes connecting to the different networks in different countries much more seamless and fuss-free. This guide is going to talk all about eSIMs, why they’re great for frequent travelers both for work or business, and how to pick and use one the right way.

eSIMs lets you switch to local networks without needing to buy a new physical SIM card every time you land in a new country. This means you can get more affordable rates for calls and data without having to deal with the hassle of physical SIM cards. It’s a smarter way to stay connected when you’re hopping from one place to another.

We’re diving into the details of eSIM technology to show how it’s changing the game for travelers. You’ll learn how to choose the best eSIM service, make sure your phone can use an eSIM, and understand the costs. We’ll also touch on some tips to keep in mind so you don’t run into problems while using an eSIM abroad.

Whether you travel a lot for work, are always on the lookout for your next vacation spot, or just want an easier way to stay online while abroad, getting to know about eSIMs could make your travels a lot smoother. 

Using a Planet Traveller mobile to take pictures on the go

What is the eSIM?

An electronic SIM, or eSIM, is a virtual SIM technology that enables the activation of a cellular service from a network provider without the necessity of a tangible SIM card. Integrated within the device itself, eSIMs provide a more efficient and versatile method for connecting to networks. 

Distinct from conventional SIM cards, eSIMs have the capacity to hold several profiles, which allows for the seamless transition between different network providers or service plans without the need to physically exchange SIM cards. This feature is especially beneficial for compact devices, including smartphones, smartwatches, and tablets, where space is at a premium.

Why Would Someone Use an eSIM?

eSIMs revolutionize travel connectivity, enabling effortless switching between local carriers to sidestep high roaming charges. This flexibility supports spontaneous and adaptable travel, eliminating the hassle of juggling multiple physical SIM cards, queuing up at airport counters to buy SIM cards, and lastly, offering a greener, more streamlined solution.

The convenience of not needing to swap SIM cards—a process that can be fiddly and risky—saves space, paving the way for slimmer device designs without sacrificing performance. eSIMs enhance devices by allowing multiple profiles; travelers can keep a home and local number active simultaneously, an essential feature for business travelers needing constant, secure connectivity.

eSIMs bring a new level of security, embedded directly into devices, they reduce the risk of loss or theft. Carriers can remotely update plans, making activation and switching services quicker and more convenient.

Adopting eSIM technology simplifies mobile connectivity, aligning with modern demands for flexibility, security, and efficiency. It’s ideal for those seeking to enhance their travel experience with seamless global connectivity.

How to Know if My Phone is eSIM Compatible?

Identifying whether your phone supports eSIM technology is crucial for anyone considering making the switch. The first step is to visit the manufacturer’s official website, where you can find detailed specifications for your device model. This information is typically found in the sections detailing network or connectivity options. Major smartphone manufacturers like Apple, Samsung, and Google have increasingly included eSIM capability in their newer models, making it a common feature in the latest devices.

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If the manufacturer’s website does not provide clear information, contacting your mobile carrier is another reliable method to determine eSIM compatibility. Carriers are knowledgeable about which devices on their network support eSIM and can offer guidance based on your specific model and service plan. Additionally, some carrier websites have a compatibility checker tool where you can enter your device details to find out if it supports eSIM.

Remember, compatibility is not just about hardware; it also depends on software support. Ensure your device’s operating system is updated to the latest version, as some older versions may not support eSIM functionality even if the hardware is capable.

A full array of colorful Sony phones connected to the local provider

Is eSIM Better Than Physical SIM?

While both eSIM and physical SIM cards serve the same basic purpose of connecting your device to a mobile network, eSIMs offer several advantages. They facilitate greater flexibility in switching service providers and plans, potentially leading to cost savings, especially for international travelers. eSIMs also contribute to a more seamless user experience, eliminating the physical hassle of changing SIM cards. However, it’s worth noting that not all mobile devices and networks support eSIM technology yet, so compatibility is a key consideration before you dive straight into getting a new eSIM. Also, some devices only allow 1 or 2 eSIMs to be connected at a time, so this can be a restriction if you already have an existing eSIM.

How Much Does an eSIM Cost?

eSIM pricing varies by provider and plan, with many carriers offering competitive rates similar to traditional SIM cards. The key financial benefit of eSIMs lies in dodging high international roaming fees by switching to local networks abroad, potentially leading to significant savings for travelers.

Some providers may activate your eSIM for free, while others could charge a minimal one-time fee. This cost is usually balanced by the savings from avoiding expensive roaming charges and not needing to buy physical SIM cards. Look out for exclusive eSIM deals or bundles that add extra value.

For a quick overview, the Basic Plan usually offers 1GB for around $5-$10 over 7 days, ideal for short trips. The Standard Plan, at around $15-$25 for 30 days, usually includes 3GB to 5GB plus calls and texts. If you have more expensive needs, the Premium Plan provides 10GB to 20GB for $30-$50, with possible unlimited calls/texts. For flexibility, Pay-As-You-Go is $1 per 100MB, and Unlimited Data Plans go for $60-$100 monthly. 

When choosing an eSIM plan, it’s crucial to compare options carefully. Consider plan details like data limits, call/text rates, and any hidden costs. Flexibility is also important; check if you can adjust or cancel the plan without penalties to suit your changing needs.

What is the Best eSIM Provider?

Selecting the right eSIM provider depends on factors like coverage, price, and compatibility with your device. For those traveling internationally, providers offering broad coverage and flexible plans are beneficial. In our experience, it’s crucial to compare various eSIM providers to meet your specific needs and we have used a couple of providers given our frequent traveling.

We’ve recently tested Nomad, an eSIM service, when traveling in Cambodia and Vietnam. Nomad is available in over 170 countries and requires a simple one-time registration. The process to select, install, and activate a plan is designed to be quick, taking around five minutes. Installation and activation are separate, allowing the purchase and setup of an eSIM in advance and activating it upon arrival.

eSIM Nomad

In our use, Nomad’s eSIM provided pretty reliable data for daily use, social media, and more. Data top-up is straightforward, offering a more economical option than buying a new eSIM. Nomad also facilitates easy eSIM swaps for those traveling between countries.

Nomad offers a referral program, giving $3 off for each new referral. The service aims to simplify travel by avoiding the need for local SIMs or Wi-Fi, offering competitive data plans across 170 countries. Registration and purchase processes are quick, reflected in positive app and Trustpilot reviews.

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Overall, Nomad presents a practical option among eSIM providers, especially for those prioritizing convenience and cost during international travel.

taking a picture of a boat ride while travelling overseas

How Do I Get an eSIM?

Switching to eSIM technology from traditional SIM cards might seem challenging, so let us simplify the process of selecting, purchasing, and setting up an eSIM, focusing on how to do this with Nomad. We will walk you through everything you need to know: from picking the right plan to suit your needs, to activating and managing your eSIM with ease. 

1. Purchasing Your eSIM

  • Choose Your Plan: Begin by visiting the Nomad website or app. Explore the variety of eSIM plans available, considering the data allowances and countries covered. For instance, if you’re planning a trip to France, you’d select a plan that offers coverage there.
  • Plan Selection and Purchase: Once you’ve chosen a suitable plan, proceed to purchase. During this process, you’ll be prompted to create an account or log in, which ensures your eSIM can be managed easily post-purchase.

2. Installing Your eSIM

  • Installation Instructions: After purchasing, you’ll receive an email from Nomad with detailed instructions and a QR code for eSIM installation. Alternatively, you can find these instructions in the Nomad app under “My eSIM” or on the website by signing in and navigating to your eSIM details.
  • Installing the eSIM: On your device, go to Settings > Cellular, and select “Add Cellular Plan“. Scan the QR code provided by Nomad. If you need to enter details manually, such as the APN settings, refer to the instructions provided. For instance, if your provider is Truphone, you’d use “truphone.com” as the APN.

3. Activating Your eSIM

Nomads eSIM

There are two methods of eSIM activation: auto activation and manual activation.

Auto Activation: For users with auto activation providers, your device will automatically connect to your destination’s network upon arrival, provided you install the eSIM before your trip. This seamless process ensures that your data connectivity is ready when you are.

Manual Activation: If your plan requires manual activation, you will need an internet or Wi-Fi connection to install and activate your eSIM. Look for the “Start your plan now” option at the bottom of your plan details. It is recommended to install the eSIM at home and activate it right before your flight. This approach ensures that your data connectivity is active upon landing.

Activation can be completed through your device’s settings. It is crucial to have internet access for the initial setup. Activation connects your device to your new eSIM profile and the carrier’s network, making sure you’re ready to go when you need it.

4. Checking Usage and Managing Your Plan

  • Monitoring Data Usage: Keep track of your data usage directly through the Nomad app. It offers real-time insights into your balance, ensuring you’re never caught off-guard by overages.
  • Country Plan Page: On Nomad’s website or app, the country plan page displays detailed information about the plans available for each country, including data limits, validity periods, and pricing. This helps you choose the right plan for your needs.

Purchasing a Nomad eSIM was a fairly direct process for us. We chose a plan suitable for our destinations and bought it through their straightforward website. An email arrived quickly with installation instructions and a QR code, which we scanned with our phone, adding the eSIM to our device. Activation was swift.

What is the Disadvantage of eSIM?

While eSIM technology heralds a new era of convenience and flexibility in mobile connectivity, it does come with certain limitations. One significant drawback is the still-emerging adoption of eSIM by device manufacturers and mobile carriers. This nascent support can limit your options, especially if your device or preferred carrier does not yet embrace eSIM technology, thereby constraining your ability to leverage eSIM benefits fully.

Another challenge with eSIMs arises when attempting to switch profiles, particularly in regions where carrier support for eSIMs is limited or non-existent. This situation can pose a significant inconvenience for international travelers who might rely on the ability to change network providers swiftly to secure the best local rates. We faced a bit of this issue during our time in Southeast Asia and lost a bit of time having to contact customer service and go through the hassle of troubleshooting it. 

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For individuals who frequently switch handsets, the embedded nature of an eSIM complicates the process of transferring service from one device to another. Unlike a physical SIM, which can easily be moved between devices, an eSIM requires a new activation each time you change devices, a process that may not be as streamlined depending on the carrier and device in question. One last thing to note is that most eSIM providers require you to download their app in order for the process to be seamless. This requirement of downloading the app may deter people wanting to convert to an eSIM due to the app taking up memory in the phone.

Stay connected while traveling around the world with the convenience of an eSIM in your mobile phones

Is It Worth Switching to eSIM?

The transition to eSIM technology offers a plethora of advantages, particularly for individuals who travel extensively. The foremost benefit lies in the unparalleled convenience and flexibility it provides, enabling users to switch between carriers and plans effortlessly, which can lead to significant savings on international roaming charges. This aspect of eSIM technology simplifies staying connected across borders, making it an invaluable asset for travelers.

However, the decision to switch to an eSIM should be made after careful consideration of several factors. 

Carrier and Plan Flexibility: Look for eSIM providers that offer plans tailored to travelers, including pay-as-you-go options, short-term international plans, and packages with extensive global coverage. This flexibility can significantly enhance your travel experience by ensuring you’re always connected at the most affordable rates.

Device Support and Compatibility: Confirm that your device supports eSIM technology and is unlocked. This is crucial for travelers who wish to switch between carriers or plans while on the go. Most newer smartphones and devices support eSIM, but checking compatibility is a vital first step.

Activation and Management Process: Choose an eSIM provider with a straightforward activation process and an intuitive management platform or app. Being able to quickly manage your plans, check data usage, and switch profiles on the fly can greatly improve your travel experience.

Customer Support: Reliable customer support is essential, especially when traveling in different time zones or when encountering issues with connectivity. Look for providers with a reputation for excellent customer support, including 24/7 availability and multiple contact options.

Cost-Effectiveness: While eSIM can save money on roaming fees, compare the costs of various eSIM plans and providers to ensure you’re getting a good deal. Consider not only the price of data but also the availability of voice and text options if needed.

The Future of Travel Connectivity

As eSIM technology continues to evolve and gain broader adoption, it’s set to revolutionize how travelers stay connected. With the ongoing expansion of eSIM support among devices and carriers, the process of maintaining connectivity across borders will become increasingly seamless. This aligns perfectly with the needs of experiential travelers, who seek hassle-free ways to share and stay connected during their adventures.

In conclusion, whether it’s worth switching to eSIM depends on individual needs, travel habits, and device compatibility. For many, the advantages of eSIM technology far outweigh the potential drawbacks, making it an excellent option for staying connected in our increasingly globalized world. As the technology matures and adoption widens, travelers can look forward to even greater convenience and connectivity options, making eSIM an indispensable tool for international travel.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Although we’ve delved into a comprehensive range of topics about eSIMs and answered numerous questions, there are still a few important points left to discuss.

1. What kinds of devices are eSIM compatible?

eSIM compatibility extends to a range of recent smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices from manufacturers like Apple, Samsung, and Google. Confirm compatibility by checking your device’s specs or contacting the manufacturer.

2. Is international use possible with my eSIM?

Absolutely, eSIMs are perfect for global travel, enabling easy switches to local or international network providers, thereby offering a potential reduction in roaming costs.

3. Can I store multiple plans on my eSIM?

Yes, eSIM technology allows for multiple network profiles to be stored, though you can only utilize one profile at a time, with switching done via device settings.

4. Is reverting to a physical SIM possible after utilizing an eSIM?

Certainly, if your device features a SIM card slot, you can switch back to a physical SIM anytime.

5. Can I use both an eSIM and a physical SIM simultaneously?

On dual-SIM devices, yes, it’s possible to have an eSIM and a physical SIM active at the same time, allowing for two distinct numbers or plans on one device.

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Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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