eSIMs. When they first came out, they were deemed to be the next best technological advancement that would change the way we used our mobile devices, but they’ve taken a lot longer to gain popularity. Reports of complications and an incapability to pair an eSIM with certain phone devices phone carriers’ hesitation to make it simpler to move to other networks.
Although major phone providers in the U.S. have created international roaming plans, these may not always cut it for the type of speed and coverage you’re looking for.
Currently, phone providers prefer to promote postpaid plans that include international roaming add-ons, such as T-Mobile’s Magenta plan for $75 per month or Verizon’s International Plan for $100 per month, while AT&T offers $10 add-on international day passes to select plans. These plans connect to specified local networks when you’re in the country, but these may not always offer the best coverage.
If you don’t have an international plan included in your service, you might receive the nasty surprise of high roaming bills if you forgot to turn off data roaming on your phone ahead of your trip.
While some countries offer easy and cheap processes for getting traditional SIM cards, others can be a little more complicated if you haven’t done your research. This is where eSIMs can come in handy as an alternative to finding physical SIM cards while traveling, where language barriers and sim card set-ups have proven difficult for some people.
What Is An eSIM?
eSIMs are digital sim cards that replace the need for a physical plastic card in the back of your mobile phone. The chip, which is still embedded in your handset, allows you to still activate a cellular plan from a carrier without the need for the traditional chip. You’re allowed to install multiple eSIMs depending on your device and model (up to 8 on certain iPhones), which means if you’re taking a multi-country trip, you’re able to install different eSIM plans for each country.
eSIMS can be purchased from service providers, such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, or Xfinity Mobile for your national plans, but if you are traveling internationally, you will need to purchase your eSIM from a store that offers international coverage, such as Airalo or Holafly.
What Are The Benefits Of International eSIMs
- Quick To Install From Your Phone: the eSIM is relatively easy to purchase from online stores. You just need to choose the plan that suits you and then set it up in the backend of your device’s settings with a QR code. This allows you to avoid finding traditional sim cards in person and setting them up via their website or over the phone, where you can sometimes run into language barriers and have complications with the setup.
- Avoid High Roaming Bills From Your Local Provider: since you can select the amount you want to put on your eSIM card, there won’t be any surprises on what your bill comes to, and you can track how much money you have left from the apps. eSIM stores offer variable pricing plans that range depending on the duration and data size that you need. Airalo offers plans from $6 – $35 per month, while Holafly gives a choice of $19 – $64 plans per month.
- You Can Keep Your U.S. Carrier As Your Primary Network: since you can keep your U.S. sim card in your phone, you can alter between networks and use your U.S. phone number and data service as your primary network if you prefer. This is helpful if you have an international roaming plan, but there might be some locations without strong signals, so you can change to a different local provider using the eSIM.
- You Can Purchase Multiple eSIMs For Different Countries: with eSIM online stores boasting data plans across 190+ countries, it enables you to switch to different networks if you are planning to visit multiple countries.
What Are The Disadvantages Of International eSIMs
- Not Compatible With All Phones: the latest Apple iPhones are all compatible with the eSIM, but anything before the Phone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR are not. Samsung has a select few devices compatible, but if you have a Samsung S20/S21 and Galaxy Z Flip 5G version from the U.S., these will not work. You can find the full list of the compatible devices here, but make sure you check the fine print since compatibility is also dependent on which country you purchased the phone, and not all countries support eSIMs yet.
- Issues With Installation: most eSIMs cannot be reinstalled, which means if there are any problems during the download process, you won’t be able to try again. Unlike removing the plastic sim card and placing it back again, once you remove the international eSIM, you won’t be able to install it again.
- Most International eSIM Plans Provide Data Only: most of the eSIM plans only offer data, so you won’t be able to make phone calls or send SMS text messages using the network. You will need to rely on WiFi calls and text messaging instead.
- Mixed Reviews: international eSIM providers have received very mixed reviews and seem to be dependent on compatibility with certain devices or the installation process. Airalo reviews have ranged from people calling it “a scam” to “superb service,” so make sure you check with your current phone provider and device that you will be able to use an international eSIM, as this will impact your experience.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com