All smartphones have a physical SIM card, but for how long? The successor, e-sim, is just around the corner and is breaking through in more and more countries. What exactly is e-sim and when can we start using it in the Netherlands?
The SIM card is old, even older than the smartphone. The physical card was already in the cumbersome Nokias and other feature phones years ago, and is still required today for a working (sim-only) subscription or prepaid. Inconvenient if you switch to a different provider, get a new number or if your phone is lost/broken/stolen, because then your SIM card is also gone and you have to request a new one.
What is e-sim and what are its advantages
The e-SIM technology solves these problems. An e-SIM is not a physical SIM card, but a small chip built into your phone. When you register for the first time on your new e-SIM smartphone, you indicate which provider you are with. The e-SIM chip will then download the required data and settings to activate your digital SIM card. Furthermore, e-sim works the same as a normal SIM card.
Benefits for the phone manufacturer
You don't have to put a SIM card in an e-SIM phone, which has advantages for the manufacturer and the user. Because an e-SIM device does not require a SIM card tray, it is easier to make a device water and dust resistant. In addition, the smartphone manufacturer can design the device slightly more compact and lighter or opt for a slightly larger battery. Handy for the maker, although he must purchase a tiny e-SIM chip and put it in the device.
This is how you benefit from e-sim
For you as a user, e-sim is free of the disadvantages of a traditional SIM card. So your SIM card cannot be stolen and misused and cannot break, for example. The biggest advantage is that e-sim works directly on your new smartphone. If you - for whatever reason - need a new SIM card, you don't have to wait for it to arrive by post. That is of course good for you, but it also saves your provider time and money.
These devices support e-sim
The number of electronics manufacturers that support e-SIM is very limited. At the time of writing, only Apple and Google sell smartphones and tablets that are compatible with e-SIM. At Apple, it concerns the new iPhone XS, XS Max and XR and iPad Pro (11-inch and third-generation 12.9-inch). Older iPad Pro models support Apple Sim, which means you can put a physical nano-SIM card in the tablet.
Several smartwatches, including the Apple Watch and newer Samsung models, are also compatible with e-SIM. The Google Pixel 2 (XL), Google Pixel 3 (XL) and Google Pixel 4 (XL) also work with e-SIM but are not officially sold in the Netherlands. You can import a Pixel from Germany, for example, but you don't have to do that for e-SIM support.
Future of e-sim in the Netherlands
From August 21, e-sim will also be supported in the Netherlands. Provider T-Mobile is the only one to offer e-SIM, but unfortunately T-Mobile comes with a nasty limitation: you can only switch devices twice a year. A limitation that takes away many of the benefits of e-SIM. In neighboring countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom, e-sim is supported by a single provider, but things are not going well there either. Google promises that more providers will offer e-sim in the coming months, but does not provide details. It is therefore not clear whether providers in the Netherlands will participate. In September 2018, the providers (VodafoneZiggo and KPN) informed Nu.nl that they will not support e-SIM for the time being. The market would still be too small.
It could be, but there also seems to be another explanation. Although the companies won't admit it anytime soon, providers are afraid that the arrival of e-SIM will cost them customers, because switching providers will be much easier. Taking out another subscription will soon be faster and without transferring a physical SIM card.
And a phone with a SIM card slot and e-SIM support lets you use two mobile subscriptions on one device. Handy for work and private life, but also for combining a subscription with calling minutes and text messages with a competitively priced data-only subscription. This can be cheaper than one all-in-one subscription, which is against the sore leg of most telecom providers.
It is often unclear how telephone manufacturers think about e-SIM. In any case, Apple and Google are in favor of it. Other brands have not yet expressed their views on e-SIM and – as you read above – have not yet released e-SIM devices. Google writes in a blog post that it would like to see more smartphones, smartwatches, tablets and laptops with e-SIM support. The tech company wants to help manufacturers integrate e-SIM into their products. If that happens, there will also be more reason for carriers to support e-SIM.
Is e-sim safe?
The technology behind e-sim is still under development. That is also necessary. RTL Nieuws recently found out that hackers can take over a 06 number from a person. To do this, the hacker must have access to your T-Mobile account. Because the provider does not apply any further verification, any device can be linked to the mobile phone number. A hijacked number can of course incur costs, with expensive premium numbers. But it can also be used to hijack two-step verification or take over accounts, such as your WhatsApp. So make sure you use a strong password for your T-Mobile account, which you don't reuse on any other platform. In the meantime, T-Mobile has improved the process to prevent e-SIM fraud by sending a verification SMS to the customer.