If you observed SIM cards carefully till now, you will observe how small they have been consistently becoming. From SIM to micro-SIM cards to now popular nano-SIM, you will be forgiven for assuming that someone somewhere was working hard to make them disappear. I know I was thinking it myself. The new e-SIM is an innovation that definitely catches the eye and it may not be innovation for the mere hell of it. This means that there will be certain perks to it but let us take a step back and clear up what SIM means for the benefit of a wholesome conversation. SIM means Subscriber Identification Module. It is that little card that you ram into your phone that allows your mobile network provider to identify you and grant you access to their network and cell towers.
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What is e-SIM?
The e-SIM is simply the electronic version of the hitherto described SIM. It is either inbuilt or embedded as opposed to being a stand-alone component that is the SIM.
Why is it necessary?
The e-SIM may not be necessary for the real sense of the word. Indeed, most innovative tech is usually not. At first, at least. But the e-SIM has clear advantages to its physical counterpart. For one, with the e-SIM, you do not have to worry about switching SIM for any reason like travelling or even changing your number. The e-SIM allows the user to create multiple accounts that make it easy to switch as well as re-create the dual SIM feature in your average mobile device. Settings will be updated to allow you to operate your new e-SIM from the phone just like a normal app.
It also removes the SIM slots hence leaving more space for bigger batteries or conversely smaller and slightly lighter phones.
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Is it available as we speak?
As a matter of fact, yes. A good few devices are already offering the feature. In fact, there have been since 2018 really. Apple’s iPhone XS had this feature but it did not market it in certain markets like China and some Third World countries. Google’s Pixel 2 was one the first phones with the feature and subsequently, the Pixel 4, iPhone 11Pro and Motorola Razr have the feature so this technology is very much here to stay now. Many wearables have almost exclusively gone e-SIM such as Apple’s Apple watch.
How do telcos adopt?
Around the world, telcos are adapting very quickly. e-SIMS are expected to grow side by side with LTE technologies over the next few years and we can expect physical SIMs to be extinct in the future if the past is anything to go by.
In Nigeria, I have it on good authority that MTN has rolled out trial versions of the e-SIM already. They still require subscribers to register like they usually would, however. Smile offers an e-SIM plan that allows you to use their app to make free calls for extended periods which only mirrors e-SIM than deliver the real thing.
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