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eSIM. When they first came out they were seen as the next best technological breakthrough that would change the way we use our mobile devices, but they took a lot longer to catch on. Reports of complications and inability to pair an eSIM with some phone devices reluctance of phone companies to simplify switching to other networks.
Although the major phone providers in the United States have created international roaming plans, these may not always be suitable for the type of speed and coverage you are 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 additional $10 international day passes for select plans. . These plans connect to specified local networks when you’re in the country, but these don’t always offer the best coverage.
If you don’t have an international plan included in your service, you might get the nasty surprise of high roaming bills if you forgot to turn off data roaming on your phone before your trip.
While some countries offer simple and cheap processes for obtaining traditional SIM cards, others can be a little more complicated if you haven’t done your research. This is where eSIMs can be useful as an alternative to finding physical SIM cards while traveling, where language barriers and SIM card configurations have proven difficult for some people.
What is an eSIM?
eSIMs are digital SIM cards that replace the need for a physical plastic card on the back of your mobile phone. The chip, which is always built into your handset, allows you to always activate a cellular plan with a carrier without the need for the traditional chip. You are allowed to install multiple eSIMs depending on your device and model (up to 8 on some iPhones), which means that if you are traveling to multiple countries, you can install different eSIM plans for each country.
The eSIMS can be purchased from service providers, such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon or Xfinity Mobile for your domestic plans, but if you are traveling internationally you will need to purchase your eSIM from a store with international coverage , such as Airalo or Holafly.
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What are the advantages of international eSIMs
- Quick to install from your phone: the eSIM is relatively easy to buy in online stores. All you have to do is choose the plan that suits you, then configure it 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 through their website or over the phone, where you can sometimes encounter language barriers and have complications with setup.
- Avoid high roaming bills from your local provider: Since you can select how much you want to put on your eSIM card, there won’t be any surprises on your bill amount, and you can track how much money you have left from apps. eSIM stores offer variable pricing plans that vary depending on the duration and size of data you need. Airalo offers plans from $6 to $35 per month, while Holafly offers a choice of plans from $19 to $64 per month.
- You can keep your US carrier as your primary network: Since you can keep your US SIM card in your phone, you can switch networks and use your US phone number and data service as your primary network if you prefer. This is useful if you have an international roaming plan, but there may be places without strong signals, so you can switch local providers using the eSIM.
- You can buy multiple eSIMs for different countries: With eSIM online stores offering data plans in over 190 countries, it allows you to switch to different networks if you plan to visit multiple countries.
What are the disadvantages of international eSIMs
- Not compatible with all phones: Apple’s latest iPhones are all eSIM-enabled, but everything above the Phone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR are not. Samsung has a few compatible devices, but if you have a US version Samsung S20/S21 and Galaxy Z Flip 5G, those won’t work. You can find the full list of compatible devices here, but be sure to check the fine print as compatibility also depends on the country you purchased the phone in, and not all countries support eSIMs yet.
- Installation issues: most eSIMs cannot be reinstalled, which means that if there are any issues during the download process, you won’t be able to try again. Unlike removing the plastic SIM card and reinserting it, once you remove the international eSIM, you won’t be able to install it.
- Most international eSIM plans only provide data: most eSIM plans only offer data, so you won’t be able to make phone calls or send text messages over the network. Instead, you’ll have to rely on WiFi calling and text messaging.
- Mixed reviews: International eSIM providers have received very mixed reviews and seem to depend on compatibility with certain devices or the installation process. Reviews of Airalo range from people calling it “a scam” to “superb service”, so be sure to check with your current phone provider and device that you will be able to use an international eSIM, as this will have an impact on your experience.
Traveler alert: Don’t forget travel insurance for your next trip!
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
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