Are SIM cards interchangeable between all phones

Mobile & Apps

A smartphone today has as much to do with a telephone as a typewriter has with a PC. It is hard to imagine life without it as our daily companion - we use apps and send photos and messages in chord. We are not interested in the technical inner workings of our smartphone as long as everything works.

But without a small helper who has been working for years, most of these functions would not be possible on the go: the SIM card (Subscriber Identity Module). Regardless of whether it is a smartphone or a "simple" mobile phone - the SIM card has long been an integral part of everyday life and a mobile life without it is hard to imagine. But that will change soon: The SIM card will be virtualized.

eSIM as an alternative to the traditional SIM card

The future of the SIM card is called eSIM (embedded SIM). This is no longer a physical card that has to be inserted into the phone, but a combination of integrated software and special apps. In the next few years, this will become the new standard solution in mobile devices and other networked devices. The eSIM has various advantages for users. This simplifies the selection of providers and the connection to mobile networks is as uncomplicated as with WLAN networks.

What does the eSIM change for users?

  • New balance of power: eSIMs change the rules of the game between customers and network providers and give end users more options when selecting connections. Because devices with eSIM can be connected to a mobile network much more easily. Given the freedom of customers to switch between connections more quickly, providers are under pressure to make their offers more attractive.

  • Easy change to another data plan: Since the eSIM is a pure software solution, it will no longer be necessary to buy and use new SIM cards. Instead, the eSIM can simply be downloaded and installed immediately. In this way, users can take a targeted look at which tariff is cheapest for them.

However, you must of course also note that a change to another tariff via eSIM is still subject to contractual framework conditions. And in the same way, changing the provider also means changing the telephone number. Experts therefore do not expect constant "provider hopping". Nevertheless, the easier switch option will change customer behavior and, above all, stimulate the sale of devices with two SIM cards.

  • End of roaming: With the implementation of the eSIM, roaming charges will also be a thing of the past in the long term. So far, network providers have been generating high revenues when, for example, German vacationers go online on the beach in Thailand. In future, however, users abroad will have the opportunity to easily switch connections via the Internet and look for affordable tariffs. Special search engines that suggest providers based on the location of the user, for example, will make the search even easier for customers.

  • New opportunities for companies. In addition to private users, companies also benefit from the introduction of eSIMs for their employees. On the one hand, it is particularly advantageous for small and medium-sized companies if employees on company trips abroad can easily use local tariffs via their eSIM. They in particular usually do not have favorable framework agreements like large corporations and can thus save considerable costs. In addition, eSIMs make it easier to use new tariffs company-wide: Instead of distributing and sending SIM cards to all employees (in some cases with the risk of loss or damage), they can simply be installed on all devices via the Internet.

eSIM in the Internet of Things

The breakthrough of eSIM in cell phones will take a few more years. The pioneers of eSIM, on the other hand, will include devices that are not normally offered by mobile network operators, including intelligent applications for cars, drones, cameras and wearables.

According to the Ericsson Mobility Report 2016, a total of 28 billion devices will be eSIM-capable by 2021 - and more than half of them will be cars, industrial machines and other IoT devices. Because they too derive decisive advantages from the eSIMs:

  • Installation over the Internet makes it quicker and easier to connect and update IoT devices.

  • Although the SIM card has become smaller and smaller in recent years (keyword nano SIM), the physical limit of this downsizing process has now been reached - otherwise the SIM card could no longer fulfill its functions. This also sets limits on the devices that contain SIM cards. With the use of eSIMs, this development barrier no longer applies.

  • IoT devices are often used in hard-to-reach places, such as on tall masts for analyzing air quality or measuring traffic. In order to replace the SIM card, personal use of these measuring devices has so far been necessary. In contrast, eSIMs can easily be exchanged and updated over-the-air.

More flexibility and independence for users

Nowadays customers first decide on a network and a tariff, only then do they choose the mobile device. If the connection is already installed on the smartphone or tablet in the future, the decision about the device comes first. The appropriate tariff can then simply be selected and installed. The eSIM will therefore significantly simplify mobile life and make users less dependent on the requirements of the network providers.