Physical SIM card vs eSIM

Physical SIM card vs eSIM

February 16, 2023

Physical SIM card vs eSIM

Lets start with giving a small explanation about what they are.

What is a SIM card?

A SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card is, nowadays a small, removable microprocessor chip that stores a unique identification number and mobile network information. The SIM Card is from plastic on which the microprocessor chip is mounted. It is used in a mobile phone or other cellular devices to identify the user as a subscriber and grant access to the network. This then enables the device to connect and for customers to start making Voice Calls, send SMS and use Data.

The first SIM card came on the market in 1991 and was the size of a credit card. Over time the SIM card became smaller and smaller. From the size of a Credit Card to Mini SIM, Micro SIM and since 2012 the Nano SIM.

Modern mobile devices also support Dual SIM. This means you can put 2 different SIM cards in one device. For example, one for business and one for private, or a travel SIM for when you go abroad.

What is an eSIM?

An eSIM (Electronic/Embedded SIM) is a type of SIM card that is built into a mobile device and cannot be physically removed. The eSIM is sometimes also called an integrated SIM (iSIM). However an eSIM is NOT the same as an iSIM. An iSIM is an Integrated Subscriber Identity Module. It’s essentially a more advanced eSIM. It provides the same functionality, but you don’t have to solder it onto the device’s circuit board. Instead, an iSIM has a dedicated space on the System of Chip (SoC). In both cases it minimal stores the same type of information as a traditional SIM card. Including the user’s mobile network identity and subscription details.

The eSIM allows consumers to switch carriers faster, without the need to physically swap SIM cards. Of course, you can also have multiple eSIMs activated in one device. The eSIM is becoming increasingly popular in the latest generation of smartphones and other connected devices.


What are the advantages of a SIM card and an eSIM?

Some of the advantages of a traditional SIM card include:

  • Physical removal: A traditional SIM card can be physically removed and swapped with another. Making it easier to switch between devices for example a new mobile phone.
  • Physical backup: A physical SIM card can serve as a backup if the primary device fails or is lost. On a SIM Card you can store/save your contacts.
  • Compatibility: At this time the traditional SIM cards are more widely supported and compatible with a greater range of devices. Including older or future phones, tablets, etc.

Some of the advantages of an eSIM include:

  • Size: An eSIM is much smaller than a traditional SIM card, which allows for slimmer and more compact device designs.
  • Convenience: An eSIM allows for remote activation and carrier switching, eliminating the need for physical SIM card swaps.
  • Embedding: An eSIM can be embedded in multiple devices, allowing a user to have multiple active profiles for different carriers or plans.
  • Environment: The eSIM is much better for our environment since there is no plastic waste, no packaging waste, no shipment pollution, etc.
  • Internet of Things: For IOT devices and solutions the eSIM is much easier and better. Manufactures can (pre) implement mobile connectivity options in a much simpler way. And they do not have to think about in which country or mobile network it is used.

It’s important to note that both traditional SIM cards and eSIMs have their own unique benefits and limitations. The best option for a user may depend on their specific needs and usage scenario.

When you receive a new Physical SIM card it is most of the times still in Credit Card size and you need to press out the SIM you require. This Credit Card is very often printed with the branding of the provider. We think both are strange since you will throw again 90% of the plastic and never see the branding again. Therefore, a waste of money and natural resources. Some companies already use recycled plastic and help to create a circular economy for SIM Cards. We think this avoiding plastic is the way to go. 


What does the market say

More planet, less plastic: Fast facts about the sim card in your pocket

Vodafone news

The global eSIM market will increase from $4.7 billion in 2023, to $16.3 billion by 2027

Jupiter Research

eSIM: market progress, consumer behaviour and adoption to 2030.

GSMA Intelligence

What is the future of SIM Cards vs eSIM?

Our vision is that in the coming years the SIM card will be fully replaced by eSIM. It will however be a challenge for many Telecom Operators, MVNOs and MVNEs. It means the need to implement processes and to create a full digital experience for their subscribers. Big players such as Apple already announced in 2022 that some iPhones will only support eSIM. This means the Telecom Operators, MVNOs, and MVNEs eventually do not have a choice anymore and need to prepare themselves.

It does not matter if you use an eSIM or a classical Physical SIM Card the solutions of Livecom such as, Voicemail, Interactive Voice Response, Missed Call Alert or Contact Center are still needed. Imagine you scan a QR code to load/activate your new eSIM. This then still needs to be activated (you need to pay for it) and you still need to identify yourself (Know Your Customer). Which both can be done online using an IVR and Contact Center for example by forcing the first call towards this.

There is much more to tell and read on the internet about eSIM and this technology. We just wanted to alert you that we think you need to prepare. The technology and possibilities are evolving fast!