You might be familiar with SIM cards – those little chips you put in your phone so you can connect to your mobile provider.
But there's a new SIM bad boy in town – the eSIM. eSIMs are the future, both due to necessity and convenience. With more providers offering as an option these days, find out how they work and why they could make your life easier.
eSIM is short for embedded SIM. Rather than using a physical plastic chip you need to move between phones and replace every time you move to a new carrier, eSIMs are already built into your phone.
This is great for when:
- You're traveling and need to get a prepaid SIM from another country. You can just find an eSIM provider and activate your plan, rather than looking for a physical SIM to buy.
- You want multiple numbers on the 1 phone. Depending on how your phone supports eSIM, there's no need for a dual-SIM phone anymore.
- You have a smartwatch and want to pair it with your smartphone to share its phone number.
- You're looking to sign up to a new mobile plan. You no longer need to wait for a physical SIM to arrive in the mail.
It depends. While eSIMs can be convenient, because they're not widely available in Australia yet, you might not want to ditch your physical SIM just yet.
- Quicker to change mobile providers
- Less waste
- Can have 2 plans in the 1 phone at the same time (1 eSIM, 1 regular)
- Great for travellers
- You don't have to deal with that tiny SIM removal tool that gets lost almost immediately
- There aren't a lot of providers that are compatible with eSIMs in Australia at the moment
- There is a more limited range of phones compatible with the technology (and it's generally saved for premium flagship phones)
eSIMs are yet to become popular with a lot of mobile providers in Australia. The 3 major telcos and a handful of the smaller ones offer it as an option when you sign up.
There are others that support eSIM for travellers (such as Airalo, GigSky, eSIM Australia and KnowRoaming), while ALDImobile is considering moving into eSIMs in the near future.
We've compiled a table of plans which currently offer eSIMs in Australia. The first tab shows plans that offer eSIMs for phones and tablets and the second tab shows plans that allow you to share the same number between your phone and a wearable device.
There is no singular provider known to be best for eSIMs. There are some which have a more convenient activation process (i.e. you don't have to head in-store to get a QR code), but the best one for you will depend on which mobile plan suits your needs.
We've broken down the 3 major mobile providers offering eSIMs below so you can get a better understanding of how the process works.
Telstra eSIM plans
Telstra has committed to eSIMs by offering 2 types of plans:
- eSIM plans for compatible phones and tablets (like a regular phone plan, but with slightly less plastic).
- "One Number" which allows you to share the same number between your phone and a wearable (such as an Apple Watch) as long as you're on a postpaid plan.
You can request a regular eSIM plan via the phone app if you're already an existing customer. Otherwise you can request one when you sign up.
- Keep in mind: We've found that Telstra does intermittently stop offering eSIMs to new customers, so check the lay of the land at the time.
You will need to either go in-store for the activation QR code or get one mailed to you, so the process isn't entirely seamless yet.
Meanwhile, the One Number plan will cost you an extra $5 a month but you'll be able to use it across multiple devices. You can sign up for it on your device, but you'll need to chat to Telstra to finish activating it.
Optus eSIM plans
Optus has made things a bit easier for eSIM users, with neither of their plans requiring a QR code for activation. The 2 types of plans available are:
- "Number Share" for wearables.
- eSIM prepaid Flex and postpaid plans for eSIM-compatible phones.
Optus's Number Share is the same as Telstra's One Number, in that you need to be on a postpaid plan, activate it in the app for your device and then chat to Optus to confirm it. Number Share costs $5 a month.
If you're an Optus customer and would prefer to use an eSIM, you can use the My Optus app to activate and download it, without resorting to a physical QR code.
Vodafone eSIM plans
Vodafone has similar options to the other 2 bigger providers. Its options are:
- NumberSync for wearables on postpaid plans costs $5 a month and can be activated through the device's app.
- Customers on postpaid plans can request to switch to eSIM through the Vodafone app.
- eSIM is available for prepaid plans, but you have to buy and activate a physical SIM first.
The company also strikes the happy middle of requiring a QR code, but without the need of going in-store for it.
There are heaps of phones that support eSIMs in Australia. Phones with eSIM tend to be ones closer to the top of the range, with most newer flagship phones being compatible.
Only 2 brands currently meet the criteria for watches with eSIM capability. These include:
- Apple Watches 1–6 (with cellular capabilities)
- Samsung watches (with cellular capabilities)