What is an eSIM?

You might know what a SIM card is, but what exactly is an eSIM, and how can you use it? Read this article to find out.

Most of us are familiar with SIM cards, having switched them in and out of phones when we’ve bought a new handset, signed a new contract, or changed our Pay As You Go provider. But what is an eSIM?

An eSIM is not a detachable card, like a regular SIM. Instead, the SIM circuitry architecture is soldered into the phone itself and you can change your network using the handset’s software instead of switching out the physical card. This means that you can change your network provider just by contacting them, without having to open up the SIM tray and change the card, and from there you can use your phone as normal, making calls and texts just as you would if a SIM card had been inserted.

What are the advantages of an eSIM?

First of all, a clear advantage of an eSIM is that you don’t have to go through the rigmarole of inserting an actual SIM card, or replacing your old one. This is especially useful if you’d like to switch to a new mobile network.

On top of that, you can store more than one network on the same eSIM. That means that if your coverage from one network is lacking, then you can simply choose an alternative which may provide better coverage for the area you find yourself in.

What are the disadvantages of an eSIM?

The main problem with an eSIM is that if your phone malfunctions then the data from the eSIM may not be recoverable, whereas it is likely that you’d be able to recover a physical SIM card under similar circumstances.

Is an eSIM secure?

eSIMs offer some perks, but in the past they have attracted some security concerns. We spoke to two security experts about eSIM security to get their professional take on the matter. Speaking to Trusted Reviews, Chris Hauk, Consumer Privacy Champion at Pixel Privacy gave the following assessment of the security of eSIMs:

“While there are advantages to eSIMs, there are also a few drawbacks that I’m aware of. If you are using a physical SIM, you can easily transfer it to another device if yours is damaged or if you buy a new handset. eSIMS cannot be pulled from a device, forcing users to rely on cloud storage or other ways to preserve your contact information, messages, and other important information. This increases the chances of having your data being exposed in data breaches,” he said.

“eSIMs also concern me when it comes to tracking users and their devices, as they cannot be physically removed from a handset to prevent a device from connecting to a cellular network, meaning it is difficult to prevent your phone from being tracked.”

Paul Bischoff, a Privacy Advocate at Comparitech, added they come with perks and drawbacks from a security perspective.

“Compared to a traditional SIM card, an eSIM improves your phone’s physical security by preventing port-out attacks. A port-out attack occurs when someone steals your phone and removes the SIM card. They place the SIM card into their own phone, or create a copy, to receive the victim’s calls and texts. These can include one-time passwords used for two-factor authentication, which can lead to more accounts being compromised. Because eSIMs can’t be removed, this attack isn’t possible,” he said.

“Unfortunately, eSIMs don’t do much to stop SIM-swap attacks. SIM swaps occur when an attacker poses as the victim and calls the victim’s mobile carrier or mobile phone store. They claim to have lost their phone and that they need to move their phone number to a new SIM card. If the carrier complies, then the attacker can receive the victim’s calls and SMS messages. An eSIM doesn’t do anything to prevent this.”

Which UK networks support eSIMs?

Currently, the following UK networks offer eSIM support; EE, Vodafone, O2, and Virgin Media. BT only supports eSIMs if you are a BT Business customer.

If you’re on a different network to the one above, you won’t be able to use an eSIM.

Check out the latest eSIM offers here

Can all phones support an eSIM?

Not all phones can support an eSIM. It remains a premium feature, so you will see it on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S22, Google Pixel 6, or the iPhone 13, but if this is a desired feature for you then you should double-check whether or not it is present on a device before buying it.

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