eSIM Myths and Facts: User experience, privacy, security, cost...

February 1, 2024
In September 2022, Apple launched the “eSIM-only” iPhone 14 to the U.S. market. With that the eSIM market changed forever. As with every groundbreaking Apple product launch, other manufacturers soon followed. The same way the first iPhone created a smartphone gold rush, eSIM will soon be the standard, no longer the exception. And mobile operators will have no choice but to adapt.

How many smartphones are there on the market?

With over 90% of all cellphones being smartphones, there are currently over 6.5 billion smartphones worldwide, accounting for more than 8.58 billion mobile subscriptions in use worldwide as of 2022 (compared to a global population of 7.95 billion).

This number of smartphone users has been increasing 5% per year on average.  You could say the smartphone is the #1 “must-have” piece of electronics, that has come to dominate both the consumer and business markets.

How many people are actively using eSIM or even aware of it?

According to Mobilise statistics, support for the eSIM-enabled smartphone is growing.  As of 2022 46% of all countries supported eSIM and eSIM-supported smartphones grew over 90% between 2020 and 2023.

What that translates to is 986 million eSIM-capable smartphones as of 2023.

The absurd thing is that not everyone who has an eSIM smartphone realizes what this really means or that they have the eSIM capability at all.  

Out of the 74% of consumers with eSIM-only smartphones, only 32% knew about its eSIM functionality. But as eSIM becomes ubiquitous, users will become more aware or will just come to treat eSIM as the expected standard they don’t even think about.  

GSMA predicts there will be 850 million eSIM smartphone connections globally by 2025, growing to 6.7 billion by 2030.

Is eSIM difficult to handle for an average user?

Let’s look at eSIM operations and how it works for the average smartphone user.

eSIM Setup: The nice thing about setting up an eSIM device is you don’t have to deal with a physical SIM card. There’s no risk of losing the SIM, putting it upside down, or needing a special tool to install it.  With it already being a part of the phone, the user just needs to scan a QR code or download the carrier’s app and follow the instructions.  The process to setup up eSIM is indeed very straightforward.

Changing Mobile Operators: This is a key benefit, or not... of the eSIM-enabled device. Users can change carriers at will, modify their plans, or in some cases even have multiple plans/carriers (something beneficial for international business travelers who can’t find a single operator to provide the coverages they need).  While it may be simpler to pick up a prepaid phone rather than sort through the process of getting a separate SIM card with a typical smartphone, with eSIM mobile users can quickly make the change within just minutes without needing physical shop or any other assistance.

Dual SIM: Having dual SIM setups, where mobile users require two separate active phone numbers (usually one for personal and one for business) on the same phone, can be achieved without having to carry two phones around.  With this flexibility comes some downsides.  

As the iPhone instructions demonstrate, users will need to make sure that they are using the correct phone number when calling out or texting. Much of that is tied to their phone’s contacts list.  Business contacts use the business number, personal contacts use the personal number.  But when trying to reach someone who is NOT on the contact list, what does it default to?  And when you call a new number that isn’t in your address book, which number do you want to use?  This can be a hassle that users might just not want to deal with.

Troubleshooting: For people who are not technically savvy, a single eSIM setup is fairly straightforward.  Setting up a more complicated configuration such as dual-SIM would not be recommended if users struggle to understand and explain the technical details to a support technician. When a physical SIM card isn’t involved, it can be tricky.  

What’s the economic value of eliminating a physical sim card?

While moving to eSIM eliminates the consumer’s need to fumble with a physical SIM card, much of the economic benefits of eSIM show up on the Mobile Network Operators (MNO) side and in the supply chain itself.

Cost Reduction: Eliminating physical SIM production, packaging, distribution, storage and installation elements results in significant cost savings.  In addition, remote SIM provisioning (RSP) can generate an additional 15% savings.

Green Benefits: While cost savings are important, the impact on our planet is significant as well. Going eSIM cuts out CO2 and other product waste - “eSIM technology scored 46 percent lower in carbon emissions when compared to traditional SIM cards” in a 2022 Life Cycle Assessment.  

Eliminated are the credit-card-sized cutouts that physical SIM cards are manufactured from, SIM card packaging goes away, devices that incorporate eSIM can be slimmer than ones requiring the space for the SIM card, and CO2 generated from delivery vehicles and consumers getting to a physical store to complete their phone setup are reduced or eliminated entirely.  

Opening New Markets: MVNOs can leverage the operational efficiency associated with an eSIM-only business and differentiate through their marketing, to launch new businesses or carve out market share from legacy MNO businesses. MNOs can also market to various affinity groups and utilize eSIM and digital platforms as a way to counter competition from MVNO entrants.

Truths about eSIM

While eSIM is most often discussed relative to the smartphone, international use, and the ease of changing mobile providers, there are other interesting aspects of eSIM to consider.

Remote Provisioning: Activating and provisioning IoT devices remotely, without having to be physically at the device enables IoT at scale, especially when global placements is needed.

Getting Smaller: eSIM technology reduces the physical space required within devices. Eliminating this space element allows for more connected products such as thinner smartphones, smartwatches, and various IoT devices.

Durability: No SIM tray means devices can be made to be more water resistant and hold up better in extreme environments.

Security: While many think eSIM is not as secure as having a physical SIM, that is a myth. With sophisticated encryption and authentication protocols, along with the “embedded” aspect of eSIM, risk of a security breach due to physical tampering is significantly reduced.

While consumers and product manufacturers are increasingly adopting eSIM, MNOs and MVNOs are often cautious as they explore this path for their businesses.

triPica provides efficient, cloud-native SaaS solutions to their telecom and energy customers in supporting their eSIM journeys.  

Being a market pioneer digital BSS globally and one of the first to launch eSIM enabled fully digital telco, triPica enabled their customer Yoodo, to be ahead of their competitors, and while others are trying to figure out their eSIM strategy, Yoodo is already ripping the benefits of eSIM.  

Today Yoodo achieves as many as 50% of all their new customers signing up with eSIM and as a result they have truly expanded their market reach.

Reach out to learn more.