eSIM is the next big thing in cellular connectivity, and while it is Apple is working on it allObviously, the Android world has a lot of work to do. Let’s take a look at the state of eSIM on Android and how things work across different smartphones, carriers, and more.
What is an eSIM?
eSIM is an acronym for “embedded SIM”. A quick explanation for this is that an eSIM is a virtual copy of the SIM card, not a physical item that you insert into your smartphone.
An eSIM basically carries the same information as a traditional SIM, with customer ID, mobile network details, and more. The eSIM is integrated directly into your device and can therefore be reprogrammed as you need. Many eSIM-enabled phones support multiple active connections simultaneously, which means you can switch between providers.
What Android smartphones support eSIM?
But like any emerging technology, eSIM isn’t available everywhere, and it’s pretty inconsistent as the feature is available on Android at this point.
The only company to fully embrace eSIM on Android is Google, with full support for the technology in every Pixel smartphone released since 2017. This is partly because Google’s mobile network, Fi, offers eSIM support on Pixel phones and other devices. But Pixel phones from the Pixel 4 and later can also use an eSIM on carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and more.
In addition to the Pixel, Samsung has also made a big push with eSIM support on various Android phones.
Some examples of eSIM-enabled Samsung devices include the company’s latest releases, such as the Galaxy S22 series, Galaxy Z Fold 4, and Galaxy Z Flip 4. Samsung has also expanded support for this feature with the Android 12 update for the Galaxy S20 series. And the S21 series, Note 20 series and the rest of the foldable lineup as well.
But there are still plenty of ups and downs with Samsung’s eSIM support. While the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S21 support this feature, the “Fan Edition” models, the S20 FE and S21 FE, do not. The company’s mid-range phones, such as the Galaxy A53, also lack an eSIM.
There are some other Android phones and devices that also support eSIM, but they are not very consistent.
Samsung’s LTE smartwatches, for example, use an eSIM. Motorola also supports the feature in select devices, as do select devices from Huawei, Honor, Oppo, Sony, and more. Andrew Romero has a complete list of eSIM-enabled Android phones in the US.
How do you set up an eSIM on major carriers?
The process of setting up an eSIM on Android depends on your smartphone and carrier, and here things are inconsistent.
On a Pixel phone, just go to Settings > Network & Internet and tap the “+” icon to add a new eSIM. You will get a list of carriers and a shortcut to use the camera to scan a QR code provided by your carrier.
Notably, Google Fi offers a different setup method on the Pixel as well. Instead of using a QR code, you can simply download the Google Fi app and activate it using your usual Google account credentials – this also applies to transferring an eSIM to a new device. But for now, Google Fi only supports eSIM on Pixel phones. Oh, and the Pixel 2, 3, and Pixel 3a all only support eSIM at all on Google Fi — you can’t use an eSIM from Verizon or other carriers with these devices.
On Samsung phones, you’ll go to Settings > Connections > SIM Card Manager > Add Mobile Plan. From there, you can scan a QR code from your carrier or transfer an eSIM from another smartphone, but this Just It works on T-Mobile in the US.
But that’s just software – what about actual carrier support?
There are several US carriers that support eSIM on Android, including the big three – T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T. But even within those companies, you’ll find a lot of inconsistent messaging.
T-Mobile, for example, supports eSIM on most recent Samsung phones. But let’s say you just bought the new Galaxy Z Fold 4 or Galaxy Z Flip 4 from Samsung. According to T-MobileWill do You have To activate this device on a physical SIM, but you can then switch to an eSIM after the initial activation.
Beyond that, Verizon says support page It only supports eSIM in Samsung’s Galaxy S21 series, S22 series and Galaxy Note 20 series – no foldable.
MVNOs are more confusing in this regard. Mint Mobile websiteIt claims, which is woefully outdated with its Android phone list, that neither Samsung nor Pixel phones are compatible with its eSIM service, despite Max Weinbach He found that he was able to use the eSIM with the Pixel 6 Pro fairly easily.
Google Fi, as mentioned, only supports eSIM on Pixel phones. US Mobile is also limited For Pixel phones only. And other airlines that an act eSIM support is not available on supported devices.
Verizon-owned Visible is perhaps one of the best examples of clearly communicating eSIM support on Android phones, but even this carrier has issues with the technology.
And it gets worse from there
Really, we’re just scratching the surface so far with this. The eSIM is a great technology, but the headache it can cause without a traditional physical SIM to support it is enormous.
One of the biggest concerns with eSIM-only devices is international travel. Often times, buying a physical SIM card at a store while traveling, or even at the airport itself, is a quick and easy way to avoid costly roaming charges while traveling. There are solutions for that with eSIM as well. Services like GigSky And the AirAlo eSIM offers international travel, which is very convenient, but they Can They are much more expensive than traditional methods in some cases. In addition, local carriers may offer promotions for additional free data that these other services do not provide.
Zachary Wander, a friend of the site, pointed out that in Portugal as an example, Vodafone offers a 5GB plan with 5GB of free bonus data. AirAlo offers access to that plan, but without the bonus data, despite it being the same price. Adam Conway too refers to this.
There is also an activation headache with anything eSIM related. Most services require IMEI and EID to be etched and entered on a website. Not really a big deal, but it’s more complicated than simply sticking a paper clip to your device and inserting a new SIM card ready to go, as Joshua Vergara points out in tweet.
Another headache that can (and may happen) is when it comes to switching devices. You cannot simply transfer an eSIM from one device to another in most cases. Google Fi makes this relatively easy, as T-Mobile does on Samsung smartphones. But others simply do not. Verizon, for example, requires customers to contact support to transfer an eSIM between devices, Even on iPhones.
Is Android ready for an eSIM smartphone only?
In short, no. Android is far from ready to rely on any device completely on an eSIM.
However, with Apple doing exactly that in the iPhone 14, it’s quite certain that the likes of Samsung, Google or other brands will be fully working on an eSIM within the next couple of years. One can only hope that Apple’s push with this technology will help carriers streamline their operations and standardize how the technology works on Android.
More on Android:
FTC: We use affiliate links to earn income. more.