eSIM is becoming an increasingly prevalent feature in modern mobile phones. Modern flagships from Apple, Samsung and Google offer it alongside physical SIM functionality – and some phones (particularly foldables) are even beginning to offer eSIM as the only option. eSIM has come a long way in Australia over the past 12 months, but its still not quite there yet. Here’s why.
What Is eSIM?
An eSIM is just a digital version of the physical SIM that you use in your phone. eSIM can be used with compatible mobiles, tablets, laptops, smart watches and even some cars. If you’re interested in more details, we have a big explainer right here.
Loading an eSIM onto your device should be easier than messing with a physical SIM, but it isn’t — at least not in Australia. While in Europe you can load a travel eSIM onto your phone in a matter of minutes (some of which have generous data caps), that isn’t the case here yet. And there’s a few reasons for that.
eSIM isn’t offered by all telcos yet
At the present time only the big three major telcos in Australia offer eSIM – Telstra, Vodafone and Optus. You won’t find them being offered by resellers or MVNOs such as amaysim or Boost Mobile.
This presents a potential problem when it comes to competition and consumer choice – so much so that the ACCC is keeping an eye on the matter.
We imagine this will be taken more seriously once more eSIM-only phones enter the Australian market. At the present time there is only one – Motorola’s new RAZR foldable phone.
eSIM is hot new tech that seems destined to replace the humble SIM card. It could even reshape the telco industry. Change always takes time, but we're already seeing eSIM trickle into Australia. It's even supported by the big three telcos on select devices. But what actually is an eSIM? Here's everything you need to know.Read more
eSIM is inconvenient in Australia
Despite being a digital product, only one Australian telco currently lets you install one exclusively online – Vodafone. It allows a QR code to be sent to your email, which you can then scan on your chosen device. It’s not the most elegant solution in the world, but at least you can do it from home.
If you’re with Optus you have no choice but go into a physical store. If you’re a Telstra customer you can either go into a store or call to have an eSIM card sent out to you. Both of these telco options seem counter intuitive considering this is a digital product.
You can’t easily swap eSIM between phones
This won’t be a problem for everyone, but if you are someone who swaps phones somewhat frequently (eg – me, a phone reviewer) this might become an annoyance. eSIM means you can’t simply pop your SIM out and stick it in another device.
Vodafone was the only telco to provide direct advice on how to swap an eSIM between phones.
“The easiest way for a Vodafone customer to swap their eSIM to a new device is via the MyVodafone app. It is the same process as requesting a physical SIM swap but customers can select an ‘eSIM’ option,” said a Vodafone spokesperson in an email to Gizmodo Australia.
“Securely log into the app and go to the Swap my SIM option. Follow the instructions and security prompts and when asked, select the eSIM option. Confirm the swap!”
A Telstra spokesperson stated that the telco is “working on a more digital way (electronic eSIM card) where you can do this swap faster.”
Optus currently has no advice on how to swap eSIM between phones. “Optus is keeping track of various trends in the telco market, including how eSIM is developing,” said an Optus spokesperson in an email to Gizmodo Australia.
“We are constantly accessing our approach with a customer first lens to ensure we continue to offer customers the best product in market. Optus is very excited by the opportunities that eSIM can unlock for its customers.”
eSIM will get better in Australia
As eSIM functionality becomes more common in devices, they will need to become easier to use in Australia. It’s kinda funny that you need to go into a store or be mailed a physical card for a digital product. It completely defies the point, particularly when early adopters who revel in online functionality are the most likely to be using eSIM.
Perhaps the the demand simply isn’t there yet and it’s not worth telcos doing much about eSIM just yet. But I’m sure we’ll see that change over the next year or so.