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How does an eSIM card work?

What is an eSIM card and why do I need one?

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How does an eSIM card work? An eSIM card isn’t actually a card — it’s a digital SIM you download directly onto a phone or tablet, without adding or removing any physical cards. An eSIM provides local data without roaming charges.


Sometimes an eSIM is called an ‘eSIM card’ because people are used to the traditional plastic SIM cards that come in various sizes, like Nano SIMs. These tiny combinations of plastic and metal used to be a lifeline for us, and you’d painstakingly eject one and insert a different one, while sweating buckets that you might accidentally mess it up.


eSIM card vs. physical SIM card


For a long time, swapping SIM cards was the only way to get local data on a new carrier, or in a new country.


When tech-savy folks travelled to a new country, they would remove their regular SIM card and replace it with a local SIM card. (Or they might carry a second cell phone, and pop the local SIM card into this separate phone instead.) This was just one of the ways people would avoid roaming charges and still get to use a phone on vacation.


RELATED READ: 10 ways to prevent roaming charges on vacation


Once embedded SIM cards called ‘eSIMs’ were invented, it became much easier to get local data in a new country. Instead of messing around by adding and removing physical SIM cards, you could just install a downloadable SIM instead.


How does an eSIM card work?


Since an eSIM can’t be physically added to an eSIM-compatible phone or tablet, it must be downloaded and installed digitally. Once the eSIM is installed on your device and you’re located within the correct country, you can connect to local networks for an instant data connection.


If you run out of data on your prepaid package, you can easily top up your eSIM with new data packages anytime.


RELATED READ: How to top up an unlimited data eSIM


If you’re using an eSIM for data on vacation, you can keep the eSIM on your phone once you arrive back at home. Then it’s ready to use on your next trip to the same destination. (But if you won’t be going back to that country, it’s okay to delete the eSIM.)


Why is an eSIM card better than a plastic SIM card?

• A digital eSIM card never expires
• A digital eSIM card never breaks or gets damaged
• A digital eSIM card never gets lost
• A digital eSIM card can be purchased and installed before a vacation, so it starts working as soon as you arrive
• A digital eSIM card can be topped up with more data if you need it


Where can I buy an eSIM card?


When you buy a prepaid data package from an eSIM app like aloSIM, your purchase will include instructions on how to install a provided eSIM card. That’s because your data package can’t work without a SIM to connect it to supported networks.


1. Download the free aloSIM app

2. Select the destination you’ll be visiting (170+ countries to choose from)

3. Purchase as much data as you’d like (packages start at $4.50 USD)

4. Follow the instructions to install the eSIM on your phone

5. When you arrive at your destination, activate your data package

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