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Understand everything about eSIMs and esims.io

Understanding eSIM : What's an eSIM ?

What's an eSIM ? What is a prepaid eSIM ?

An eSIM is close to a normal SIM card except it does not need to be inserted in your phone. eSIM stands for โ€œembedded SIMโ€, which means that the eSIM is actually a virtual SIM card and that the eSIM can be downloaded directly into your phone.

Is my device eSIM compatible ?

Checkout our exhaustive list โ†’ https://esims.io/blog/what-devices-support-esim

What eSIM products will I find on esims.io ?

esims.io only features prepaid eSIM plans and packages. Prepaid eSIM plans are just like a prepaid sim (physical plans). Prepay means prepay, it is a mobile connection that you pay in advance for operator or providers services : calls, messages, data usage. With this plan, the customer buys credit before using the services. The prepaid eSIM of physical sim card requires you to top up your account first in order to use a certain service and then you can use it until your account reaches zero or the top up period has expired (whichever comes first). After the available credit limit expires, you will no longer be able to use the services. To use the services, you need to top up your account is the eSIM or sim card allows for top-ups. Although a certain payment mechanism is already available today, with which customers can easily top up their account at any time.

Does a prepaid eSIM offer a phone number, voice, SMS and data ?

A prepaid eSIM is just like a physical prepaid sim card, only the technology differs. This means that an eSIM can be voice only, sms only, (in which cases it will have a phone number) or data only, or a combination.

To summarize, eSIM plans can combine :

  • Data only with no phone number. This is the most frequent type of prepaid eSIM plans.
  • Data + Voice and/or SMS. A plan with voice and SMS means it comes with a phone number.
  • Data only with phone number. This is a less frequent combination, as the phone number can only be used to receive local calls and sms.
  • Voice and/or SMS. With phone number. This is in theory a possible a combination but we don't know of such a plan yet.
  • What network type will I get with my data eSIM ? Will I get 4G or 5G ?

    Such as with prepaid data sim cards, prepaid data eSIM plans network types will depend on multiple factors :

  • The type of plan you purchased. Some eSIM data plans are sold as 3G only. This means that your eSIM provider will throttle your type of network (and speed, therefore) to 3G. Be very cautious about that before buying a data eSIM plan, although most plans include 4G. You should also make sure that your plan supports 5G in case you have a 5G compatible device and you expect this type of speeds.
  • The commercial agreements your eSIM provider has with local operators. Most prepaid eSIM providers (Airalo, Ubigi, Redteago, etc) are not local operators. They are what the industry call "MVNOs" (mobile virtual network operators). In other terms, they have agreements with multiple local operators (Vodafone, AT&T, Orange, Airtel, etc) in multiple countries to be able to use their network. So for instance, if you purchase a North America plan from an eSIM provider and end up connected to the AT&T network while travelling in the USA, this is because your provider has signed roaming agreement with (and "buys its data") from AT&T. This is usually a big benefit for users, as MVNOs usually have agreements with multiple local operators in the same country, which will allow you to switch network and search for the best connectivity. On some rare occasions, some eSIM providers will have agreements with local providers that only include 3G speed.
  • Your location (local infrastructure). Quite obviously, your location & the infrastructure you are connected to will be the ultimate criteria that determines which network you will get. Do not expect 100MB/s speeds if you have poor connectivity in the middle of nowhere !
  • What's the difference between an eSIM and Dual Sim ?

    Each mobile phone or smartphone requires a SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card to connect to the mobile network. A smartphone or phone that can simultaneously support two different SIM cards is called a dual SIM device. Dual SIM means that a smartphone with two SIM cards can use one of the two SIM cards to make or receive phone calls. An eSIM is close to a normal SIM card except it does not need to be inserted in your phone. eSIM stands for โ€œembedded SIMโ€, which means that the eSIM is actually a virtual SIM card and that the eSIM can be downloaded directly into your phone. In the end, Dual SIM and eSIM are not opposed concepts : modern devices will offer a Dual Sim in the sense that they include a physical sim slot and an eSIM.

    Does a prepaid eSIM expire ?

    It depends. Most of prepaid eSIM plans expire within a month. Some plans can be valid for 365 days, and some rare plans never expire. Many prepaid eSIM plans that offer top-up can be extended during top-up.

    You'll always be informed before your purchase of the expiry date of your eSIM plan.

    Finding, browsing your eSIM on esims.io

    How does esims.io work ? What is it ?

    esims.io is an online comparator and distributor of eSIMs. Hundreds of eSIM providers already exist and offer prepaid plans for hundreds of countries, which makes it really hard for travelers to find the best plan based on their travel need. esims.io helps travelers avoid this hassle : we bring all those plans in one interface where our users can browse and compare features and prices based on destinations. We're just like Kayak or Google Flights, but for eSIM plans ;)

    esims.io is not only a website, but also an Android and iOS app.

    Can I purchase my eSIM directly on esims.io ? Why am I sent on an external website to purchase ?

    We're working on it. Most of the plans that we list on esims.io currently need to be purchased on provider's website directly, but we are actively working on letting our users purchase directly on esims.io to offer a better experience to our users.

    Purchasing, installing and using an eSIM

    How will my eSIM be delivered ?

    Your eSIM will be delivered to the email address you provider when you purchase. Some providers require you to create an account before you can purchase their eSIM products, so in that scenario your eSIM might wait for you in your user account after you have purchased it. You'll usually receive installation instructions for your eSIM If you are not sure about what exactly you will receive, here is an example of what you receive when you buy an eSIM on Airalo.com.

    https://prod-files-secure.s3.us-west-2.amazonaws.com/86dc850b-4684-4cd6-aa0d-674936600941/93e7448d-b4d3-478c-b6c3-34854fab444a/Untitled.png?X-Amz-Algorithm=AWS4-HMAC-SHA256&X-Amz-Content-Sha256=UNSIGNED-PAYLOAD&X-Amz-Credential=AKIAT73L2G45HZZMZUHI%2F20240302%2Fus-west-2%2Fs3%2Faws4_request&X-Amz-Date=20240302T021905Z&X-Amz-Expires=3600&X-Amz-Signature=fd678298e9d73b5130b05735c95a2b6a1a91991ad40ef3ecda7dee11773233cf&X-Amz-SignedHeaders=host&x-id=GetObject
    Can an eSIM be refunded after I purchased it ?

    It depends on providers. Some will offer refunds if your eSIM is untouched (you haven't used it at all), some providers will not offer refunds. Some providers will be more flexible. esims.io can't be considered responsible for provider's refund policy.

    When should I buy my eSIM ? When should I activate it ?

    Here are some tips though regarding when to buy and activate your eSIM. Let's say you live in Paris (you have a french phone number and a postpaid plan) and need a prepaid eSIM to go to New York for 5 days in one months :

  • Buying : You can buy your eSIM before you go (in Paris) or when you arrive (In New York). Just be aware that to buy your eSIM, you'll need to be connected to the internet (to buy it online and receive it by email). So this can happen from the airport wifi when you arrive or from the comfort of home before you leave.
  • Installing : You can install your eSIM before you go or when you arrive too. Same as when you buy, your device will need to be connected to the internet so that you can install your eSIM. We usually recommend that you install your eSIM just before your flight, as some providers will initiate your eSIM duration period when you install it (most providers will initiate your eSIM when you actually "activate" it and connect to the network, which is explained below). To install your eSIM, just follow your provider's instructions. Once you have installed your eSIM and until you land in your destination country, do not touch anything. Your eSIM is installed and just needs to be activated once you arrive.
  • Activating your eSIM : Your eSIM is installed on your device, unused, and waiting to connect to the network. When you arrive in New York, you can just turn this line on from you iPhone settings. You'll immediately be able to connect to the local network. Please note that some eSIM providers will require that you turn on mobile roaming on your eSIM line (not your main line or you will get roaming fees !) in order to get network connectivity.
  • How can I make sure to avoid roaming fees on my main line ?

    Yes, you don't want roaming fees on your main phone line (Which would be super expensive). From your device sim card settings, make sure to turn off your main line to avoid any issue with roaming fees. If you need to keep receiving texts through your main line/phone number you can optionally keep this line activated but should then make sure to turn of data roaming (remember : data is now handled by our eSIM line - that's why we bought one ;)). Another reminder : unless your main line plan says otherwise, data usage, emitting calls, emitting text messages, receiving calls (don't pick up !) and receiving MMS will generate roaming fees. Only receiving texts is free.

    Roaming fees

    Can I get roaming fees with my prepaid eSIM ?

    As long as you use your eSIM according to what your plan includes (in terms of data, voice, and text) you will not have roaming fees. If you use your eSIM prepaid plan out of what your plan include, you risk roaming fees. Since your plan is prepaid (money paid upfront) and not postpaid (paid after), you have "no overdraft" and any roaming fees might end-up deactivating and expiring your prepaid plan almost immediately. Some providers will provide securities that will simply prevent roaming by not allowing you to connect to networks excluded of your plan.

    Can I install an eSIM to a new device after I installed it on my first device ?

    No. A Prepaid eSIM can only be installed to once device and can't be transferred to another device.

    eSIM plan usage & top-up

    How can I keep track of my data, voice and text usage ?

    Some providers offer means for you to check your data, voice, text usage. Instructions (Mobile app to download, phone number to text, etc) will be shared by your provider after your purchase.

    Can I recharge an eSIM ?

    It depends. Some providers offer rechargeable eSIM plans where your can add additional data, and or voice/text, and or extend validity period. Some eSIM plans are non rechargeable. If existing, top-up instructions should be shared by your provider after you purchase.

    What is an eSIM?

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