An eSIM can drastically change how you use your smartphone. Unlike interchangeable SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards, eSIMs are an integral part of your phone and allow you to use two different numbers on the same device. You can use an eSIM to also add mobile connectivity to tablets, smartwatches and other devices.
Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of eSIMs. The nascent technology is in the making for over a decade, but only became available to the general public a few years ago. It’s possible Steve Jobs wanted the first iPhone throw physical card slots overboardand there are rumors that Apple will Device with e-SIM card only in the near future.
Short lingo note: The phrase “physical SIM card” often refers to the older card you pull out of the side of your phone. Although an eSIM is much smaller, it is not unimportant. The wording “removable SIM card” makes more sense in contrast and emphasizes the built-in quality of eSIMs.
Can I use an eSIM on my phone?
Is this technology available to you? Unfortunately for anyone holding onto an antique like the iPhone 8, eSIMs are only available in newer smartphone models. The iPhone XR through iPhone 12 have one built-in eSIM, and iPhone 13 models have two eSIMs. Except for the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, most recent Samsung phones are eSIM compatible. Google phones released after the Pixel 3 will work with an eSIM unless you’re using Verizon, in which case it’ll be the Pixel 4 and above.
Unlike removable SIM cards, your smartphone must be unlocked in order to use an eSIM. Consumer Reports published a great article explaining: how to unlock your smartphone from major carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Each carrier has a web page with step-by-step instructions on how to start an eSIM once the phone is unlocked. Whether you continue AT&T† T-Mobile† Verizonor another carrier, Wi-Fi or mobile data access is required for the activation process.
Using two numbers on an eSIM
Here’s how to activate two phone numbers on the same smartphone. First, you need to make sure your device has two eSIMs, or a combination of one eSIM and one removable SIM. Then you must have a secondary line active and ready for use. Contact your carrier and they will provide you with a QR code or link to start the eSIM activation. iPhone owners can follow the process described in this helpful video from Apple support.
If you are a tablet owner and curious about mobile connectivity, the Apple iPad (2021, 9th generation), Apple iPad Air (2022, 5th generation), and Microsoft Surface Pro 8 are compatible with eSIM and WIRED’s list of the best tablets† And whether you are exercising now Samsung Galaxy Watch4 or Apple Watch Series 7both devices contain an eSIM that you can activate.
A smartphone with eSIM connectivity can be used by a businessman who wants to associate a business number and a personal number with the same device. (Although that sounds like a recipe for late-night texting disaster.) International travelers appreciate being able to quickly switch between paid services when crossing borders. Videos have surfaced describing the new technology as a ‘travel hack’ viral on TikTok†
You may find eSIMs frustrating if you’re an edge-case user switching between multiple devices. Lucky for you, we’re still years away from eSIM-only smartphones as exclusive choices available for purchase. This way you can unabashedly keep those metal pokey sticks in your junk drawer. (I’m.)
For the majority who rarely think twice about their SIM card after it’s installed, converting to an eSIM is also a smart privacy decision. According to the Federal Communications Commission websiteeSIMs offer “significant security benefits”. Using an eSIM protects against some of the SIM swap attacks that threaten your smartphone.