Nano-SIM or eSIM? What’s the difference?


By Heather

Travel & Tech Writer


A Nano-SIM is the smallest traditional SIM card. While a standard SIM card measures about 25 x 15 millimeters, and a Micro SIM measures about 15 x 12 millimeters, a bitsy little Nano-SIM is only about 12 x 8 millimeters.

A Nano-SIM works just like any traditional SIM card — giving your device access to different networks and keeps you online without Wi-Fi. It’s just physically smaller than its earlier versions.

Because phones are always getting sleeker, many manufacturers have been using Nano-SIM cards since about 2015. Makes sense. If a Nano-SIM takes up less room inside the device, then there’s more space for the phone’s internal guts, which results in a faster, more powerful phone. And that must be a good thing, right?

Well … sort of.

They say good things come in small packages, but would you want your passport to be the size of your thumbnail? How about your keys? Your wallet?

Nope, you wouldn’t. Because then they would be far too easy to lose, right? (It’s hard enough to find your wallet and keys on a good day, let alone if they were the size of a breath mint.) One little slip, oops, and that important item would be gone for good.

(You see where we’re going with this, right?)

Swapping Nano-SIM cards

Sometimes when people are traveling to other countries, they decide to “do a SIM card swap.” This means they take out the physical SIM card inside their phone (which, these days, is probably a tiny Nano-SIM), and replace it with a physical SIM card they buy once they reach their destination.

If you’ve been too nervous to crack open that secret compartment on your phone, you might be like “Woah, why would someone do this?!” Well, they swap SIM cards because that used to be a popular way to access local networks — making their phone work just like a local phone, so they don’t have to pay roaming charges or mess around with getting a travel data package from their carrier.

Swapping SIM cards was popular years ago, and considered quite the savvy travel hack. But it wasn’t without its faults:

* People lost their real SIM card while they were traveling. (And the tinier they got, the easier they were to lose.)

* They struggled to get what they needed in faraway airports kiosks. Language barriers, confusing messaging, price-gouging, you name it.

* Their temporary SIM cards were unreliable. If your new SIM card is a bust, but the the merchant who sold it to you is two hours in the other direction, there isn’t much you can do except toss it and try again.

* They couldn’t top up their data. When their temporary SIM card expired, people scrambled to buy a new one.

* They didn’t have access to their real phone number. Once they took out their real SIM card, their phone number ceased to work.

Along came eSIM

Swapping SIM cards wasn’t working out so well. So when eSIM technology was introduced, people were thrilled to have a better way to stay connected on their global travels.

An eSIM is an embedded SIM card — the digital version of a traditional SIM card, that works exactly the same way, except you can’t hold it in your hand (or drop it and lose it).

These days, many phones contain a Nano-SIM card (tied to a carrier that probably bills you monthly) as well as an eSIM. If your device is equipped with eSIM technology, you can buy prepaid eSIM data plans for almost every country in the world.

This means you never have to remove that Nano-SIM — you can just keep it tucked safely inside your phone forever, and never risk losing it — but you can still transform your phone into a “local” device, anywhere you visit. No paying roaming charges, or negotiating travel data packages with your carrier back home.

Nano-SIM versus eSIM?

When it comes to comparing Nano-SIM and eSIM, there’s really no competition. Unlike Nano-SIMs and other forms of traditional SIM cards, eSIM has the benefit of being low-cost, entirely digital, and available to purchase 24/7.

* You’ll never lose an eSIM. (They’re entirely digital, safely stored in your device.)

* You can shop for eSIM data packages online. Scroll around, compare prices, and know exactly what you’re buying.

* eSIM plans are supported online. Having trouble with an eSIM? There’s always someone available to help you out.

* eSIM data packages are easily topped up. If you run out of time or data, it’s easy to top up your plan and never miss a second of connectivity.

* eSIM users have access to their real phone number. Since you never need to remove your real SIM card, your real phone number is fully accessible even while you’re using an international eSIM. (Although you may choose not to use your number much while traveling, the choice is yours.)

There’s also the matter of cost. eSIM data plans from aloSIM are entirely prepaid, with no surprises.

If you’re traveling to Greece and you just want a couple of gigs of data, great! You can prepay for that, and use it as you please. We’ll warn you when your data’s running low, and it’s up to you if you want to add more. If not, no problem. We’ll never charge your card anyway, or automatically renew any plan. Just not our style!

So whether you’re heading off on a three-month adventure (ooh, lucky!) or just jetting off for a week away, keep eSIM in mind as an affordable, flexible, and reliable way to stay connected.