eSIM data plan or phone plan: What’s the difference?


By Heather

Travel & Tech Writer


One of the most common questions we get about an eSIM data plan is ‘Can I use it to call and text?’ and the answer is yes!

But there are a few different ways to do that, so let’s clear up some of the confusion that’s often tied to how an eSIM data plan is different from a traditional phone plan.

First up, there are three main options for staying connected on a phone:

1. A monthly cell plan (phone number, probably with mobile data)

2. A prepaid phone (phone number, usually no mobile data)

3. A prepaid eSIM data plan (no phone number, mobile data only)

You might be used to the first option — a monthly phone plan — where you pay a set amount of money to a carrier each month, in exchange for having your own cell phone number and the ability to call/text with it, plus mobile data to use for online apps. But you know that if you leave your coverage area, your carrier will charge you expensive roaming fees.

Or maybe your experience has been with the second option — a prepaid phone — where you had a certain number of calling minutes and texts to use up before you needed to add additional funds, but you may not have had mobile data. (So you could only use social media apps, etc. when you had Wi-Fi.)

If you’re new to the third option — a prepaid eSIM data plan — the biggest difference is that eSIMs are data-only, which means they do not come with phone numbers. (But yes, you can still call and text with an eSIM data plan, so stick with us here.)

Our eSIM data packages are great for adding short-term data to an eSIM-compatible device, and this data allows you to do plenty of things:

* Send and receive email

* Send and receive iMessages

* Make and receive Wi-Fi calls (with apps like Hushed)

* Make and receive video calls

* Browse the internet

* Check your social media accounts

* Getting maps/driving directions

* Play online games

* Stream online videos

But since an eSIM data plan does not include its own phone number, that means you’ll need to use one of the following methods if you want to make and receive phone calls or send and receive texts.

OPTION 1: Use your eSIM data to support a calling/texting app

There are plenty of ways to make and receive phone calls while using only your eSIM data. You can use an app that works over Wi-Fi or mobile data, like Hushed (our sister app, with temporary phone numbers in 300+ area codes).

And if you’re an iPhone user, you can easily use your eSIM data to support Apple-specific features like iMessage and FaceTime.

OPTION 2: Use your eSIM data to support your regular phone number

Yes, it’s absolutely possible to call and text with your regular phone number while using a data-only eSIM, when you’re outside of your normal coverage area. Many people prefer to have this option because they don’t want to worry about missing important calls or texts from back home, and they know they’ll only be charged for actual call minutes or texts sent/received.

Here’s how an eSIM can let you call/text with your regular number:

1. Leave your primary SIM “ON.” (This is where your phone number lives. If it’s off, your phone number won’t work.)

2. Turn Data Roaming “OFF” on your primary SIM. (You don’t want your regular carrier trying to connect you to a network and charging you expensive roaming fees. Let aloSIM take care of that.)

3. Turn Data Roaming “ON” for your aloSIM plan. (You want us to keep you connected for a low prepaid fee, providing the mobile data your device needs to connect to a local network.)

4. Understand that your home carrier will charge for calling minutes and texts. (Now, these fees shouldn’t be too high because you won’t be paying them anything for roaming. But confirm with your carrier ahead of time so you understand what they’ll charge.)

Whether you use your eSIM data plan to call and text with an app like Hushed, or you rely on your regular phone number for calling and texting, the choice is yours!

If you have any questions or need help configuring your eSIM calling and texting, be sure to reach out to our Support team.