eSIM: How does an eSIM work and where can you get it?


The modern version of a SIM card, the eSIM, is intended to make life easier for users and to protect the environment.

In the younger generations in particular, there are hardly any people without a smartphone. According to "Statista", there were around 58 million smartphone users in Germany in 2019. Most of the users have at least a rough idea of ​​what a SIM card is. The small chip card is used to identify a consumer. A key, so to speak, that is provided by mobile phone providers so that a user can access telephony and mobile internet with his device. For some time now, consumers have come across the term eSIM again and again. What's this? How does it work? And which devices are supported?

What is an eSIM?

The functions of the eSIM (short for "embedded SIM") do not differ fundamentally from those of the SIM cards that one receives when concluding a mobile phone contract in a store or that is sent by post from its provider. The eSIM also serves to identify the customer and give him access to contractually guaranteed services. However, an eSIM is permanently installed in a terminal device – hence also "embedded". It is a module in the device that cannot or does not have to be removed or replaced.

Basically, it doesn't matter whether a consumer uses a smartphone, tablet or smartwatch with a SIM card or eSIM. The latter, however, has some advantages over conventional cards.

What are the advantages of an eSIM?

The biggest benefit for consumers is that the information can be quickly rewritten on an eSIM. Thanks to eSIM, anyone who changes contract or provider no longer has to wait for the new SIM card to finally land in the mailbox. Even those who are currently on the road, for example, can activate an eSIM provided by the provider. The activation code is usually provided by email or in the provider's customer portal. Simply type in or scan the code and the eSIM is active.

In addition, there is no differentiation between different SIM card sizes. SIM, Micro-SIM or Nano-SIM? Repositioning, breaking out or even filing? These annoying sources of error are a thing of the past. The eSIM is also better for the environment. The plastic card does not have to be produced, packaged or shipped, which saves resources and reduces truck kilometers.

Which providers are there, which devices are supported?

In Germany, eSIM is supported by all major providers – i.e. Telekom, Vodafone, O2, 1 & 1, mobilcom-debitel and Congstar. Edeka is the first German discounter to offer the eSIM. Users can find out more details on the providers' websites.

Most well-known smartphone manufacturers have also been supporting eSIM for some time. Use is no problem with the recently introduced models of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro from Apple, the Google Pixel 5 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 20. Other – including older – smartphones from the manufacturers mentioned are eSIM-capable, as well as the Motorola Razr 5G or the Huawei P40.

However, as already mentioned, the use of eSIMs is not limited to smartphones. These can also be used in tablets, smartwatches or laptops. Corresponding devices, including the iPad Air from Apple, the Apple Watch Series 6, the Microsoft Surface Pro X or the Galaxy Watch 3 from Samsung, are also available from well-known manufacturers.