The traditional SIM card is being replaced by new variants such as iSIM and eSIM. How does each one work?
Since the advent of smartphones, the SIM card and its associated technology has evolved remarkably. For example, over the years, the size of this component has been reduced, leaving behind the dimensions of the standard variant and giving rise to what is known as microSIM and nanoSIM. But the thing has not stopped there. More and more operators are providing an intangible version, known as eSIM. And the iSIM is already beginning to show its footing.
In view of all this, you do well to stay until the end. Here we will explain in great detail what are SIM, iSIM and eSIM cards. In this way, you will be able to fully understand what their differences are and how you can identify them.
What is a standard SIM card?
SIM is the acronym for Subscriber Identity Modulethat is to say, Subscriber Identification Module. We are talking about a small electronic device that allows mobile phones and other wireless devices to identify the user in a mobile telecommunications network. Inside its chip, personal and security information is stored, such as the telephone number, the mobile network to which the user is subscribed and the access data.
The technology of a SIM card is not the most advanced in the market. It is actually based on an integrated circuit and the use of a memory to store user data. The information is encoded on the chip and communicates with the mobile device through electrical contacts on the card.
In terms of security, SIM cards can be blocked thanks to a PIN code. In this way, the only one who can access the network is the legitimate user. When this key is entered incorrectly several times, another code is requested, known as PUK, which is only known by the operator. The problem is that, since they are a physical element, they can be lost, forcing you to ask the operator for a duplicate.
SIM card gets small
There are different variants of SIM cards that They have arrived to adapt to smaller and thinner devices. The original SIM card has dimensions of approximately 25 mm × 15 mm and was widely used in early mobile phones.
Then came the microSIMabout 15mm × 12mm. It was first introduced in 2010 and became popular with the release of the iPhone 4. Many smartphones and tablets use microSIM today.
Finally, the Nano SIM is the smallest variant. With dimensions of approximately 12.3 mm × 8.8 mm, it is smaller in size than microSIM. It is used in many modern devices, such as high-end smartphones and some smart watches.
What is an eSIM?
A eSIM (embedded SIM) It is a SIM that is integrated into the motherboard of the phone or device. It works exactly the same as a conventional card, with the same networks. The only difference is that instead of being inserted by the user, it must be configured by software. So much Android as well as iOS support to this technology for some versions.
The main benefit of the eSIM is that it is smaller. This means there’s more room inside the phone for things like a bigger camera or a bigger battery. It also helps prevent water and dust from entering the device by eliminating the need for a removable tray.
Despite the latter, you can usually use it together with your physical SIM card, which allows you to have both your personal and work numbers on a single device. It is also ideal for set up a foreign SIM card during a trip. The best thing is that you can choose between using the calls and data of an eSIM and a traditional SIM independently.
Currently, not all phones support eSIMs, although most modern high-end phones have added support in recent years. What is expected is that, progressively, this technology replace the traditional SIM cardeliminated, once and for all, the need to insert this component during initial device setup. In fact, in the United States, iPhones They already come without a tray for the standard SIM card.
What is an iSIM?
iSIM, or embedded SIM, is a technological innovation that involves embedding the SIM card chip in the processor, or SoC. This is possible thanks to a superior reduction of its size. Unlike traditional SIMs and eSIMs, iSIMs can be activated using a secure protocol. This technology has been developed primarily for Internet of Things (IoT) devices by ARM.
In terms of their functionality, iSIMs may appear similar to eSIMs. However, they offer significant improvements. One of the key advantages of iSIMs is greater security, both physical and logical, compared to eSIMs. By being integrated into the SoC, in a secure enclave, iSIM cannot be physically accessedwhich provides an additional root of trust for the mobile network and an additional layer of authentication.0
Technical aspects of iSIMs
In terms of technical aspects, iSIMs have been designed to be smaller, cheaper and more secure than conventional SIM cards. In fact, iSIMs are 98% smaller than eSIMs. In addition, its manufacture is 50% cheaper due to simplification of design and reduction of componentswhich also allows for a more efficient manufacturing process. Additionally, iSIMs consume up to 70% less power, contributing to longer battery life in mobile devices.
When will iSIMs arrive?
iSIMs are far from achieving mass adoption. However, there are currently SoCs that support them. In fact, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, released in 2021it was the first mobile platform to offer support for this technology. However, for the moment a physical SIM or eSIM card is still required for this chip. The problem is that the operators do not support this technology.
Obviously, iSIM has a promising future ahead of it. The advantages over the eSIM and, of course, over the traditional SIM card are enormous. However, as is often the case in the world of computing and electronics, the process of adopting a new technology can take a long time.
SIM, iSIM and eSIM: comparison chart
To finish, we provide you with a comparative table between SIM cards, iSIM and eSIM so that you are clear about the differences at a glance:
|electronic SIM card
|Physical component that allows access to the mobile network from a device. The user needs to insert the SIM card into the device
|Physical component of access to the mobile network integrated in the motherboard that the user configures through software
|Component that allows access to the mobile network from a device physically integrated into the SoC. Requires user software configuration
|SIM card tray