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eSIM: What It Is, How to Activate It, and Compatible Smartphones

eSIM

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Since 2016, with the advent of the first wearable devices and later with the release of smartphones compatible with this technology, eSIMs continue to be one of the ongoing revolutions in the telecommunications sector. eSIMs are virtual SIM cards, not physical, and technically they are actual codes that can be applied to a circuit already present inside the smartphone or connected device.

 

Wondering how they work, how much they cost, the pros, and cons? Read our eSIM guide to become an expert.

eSIM

What Does eSIM Mean and How Do Virtual SIMs Work?

eSIM or embedded subscriber identity module is a SIM card integrated into the cellphone that cannot be removed and allows you to activate a phone number without needing a physical SIM card.

 

In phones compatible with eSIMs, there is already an integrated circuit with the device's circuits, enabling eSIM activation without inserting any external hardware. Activation is as simple as scanning a QR code: scan the code, and then, from the smartphone's settings, the related phone number will be activated.

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eSIM Advantages: All the Pros of Virtual SIMs

Below are the main advantages of virtual SIMs:

  • No Risk of SIM Loss: Those who use their SIM continuously across different devices may risk losing the physical card. This especially happens when traveling abroad and needing to purchase a prepaid mobile tariff for tourists. In these cases, opting for an eSIM can be advantageous, eliminating the need to remove the original SIM card and reducing the risk of losing it.

  • Dual-SIM Option: Another advantage of phones compatible with eSIMs is the ability to install multiple phone numbers on a single device, similar to dual-SIM phones. This allows access to a greater number of services differentiated based on the subscribed tariff with the various eSIMs.

  • Easy Purchase and Installation: A third advantage of virtual SIMs concerns number portability. When canceling a mobile subscription, there's no need to physically replace the SIM card to make room for the new one. The process is as simple and automatic as scanning a QR code, avoiding the wait for the physical card to arrive by mail.

  • Eco-Friendly Choice: Avoiding the purchase of a physical SIM saves CO2 emissions by avoiding the production and exploitation of raw materials.

  • More Phone Memory: A final advantage of eSIMs primarily concerns smartphone manufacturers. With the increasing adoption of this type of virtual SIM, it will be possible to eliminate the slot for inserting the physical card, making room for increased device memory.

eSIM for Travel: An Alternative to Convenient and Economical Roaming

For those planning a trip abroad, eSIMs are an excellent alternative. You can purchase an affordable eSIM before your departure and activate roaming services without having to buy a physical SIM upon arrival.

How to Buy and Activate an eSIM?

Depending on the selected mobile operator, you can purchase eSIMs online or in a physical store. Buying online allows you to receive the QR code and activation instructions within minutes, avoiding the wait times associated with traditional SIMs.


To activate an eSIM, scan the QR code provided at the time of purchase and follow the instructions for your specific cellphone model. Sometimes, a verification code is required, either from the email sent by the operator or received via SMS. Generally, you'll always need to verify your identity before using the connection features.

eSIM: Which Swiss Operators Offer It?

As of today, the adoption of eSIMs in Switzerland is still limited, as not all Swiss mobile operators offer them. Even when available, eSIMs are not always a free alternative, making them not the preferred choice for users looking to save money.

 

Here's a breakdown of the costs of eSIMs from the major Swiss operators.

Best eSIMs Offered by Swiss Operators

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Swisscom eSIM: How it works and how much it costs

Swisscom, Switzerland's leading mobile operator, empowers its customers to independently transition from a physical SIM to an eSIM. This can be done by submitting a request in their My Swisscom account and activating it within minutes following the provided instructions. For new Swisscom subscriptions, customers can opt for an eSIM during the ordering process.

 

Swisscom eSIMs come at no additional cost and are provided free of charge with your mobile subscription.

eSIM Sunrise: Useful Info and Pricing

Sunrise, known for its forward-thinking approach, is one of the Swiss operators that support eSIM Carrier Activation alongside Swisscom. Existing Sunrise customers can transition for free by ordering an eSIM through My Sunrise. New customers can select the eSIM option during online ordering or at a Sunrise Shop.

 

In summary, Sunrise eSIMs are provided completely free of charge for both existing and new subscribers.

eSIM Salt: Acquisition Process and Costs

Salt Mobile facilitates eSIM activation through the purchase of an eSIM voucher at a Salt Store. For Salt eSIMs, the standard activation fee is 59.00 CHF.

Costs and Activation Conditions of eSIMs from Budget-Friendly Swiss Operators

The interest in eSIMs is such that many low-cost virtual mobile operators are actively working to offer this type of service more widely. Below is a list of the most economical proposals for obtaining a Swiss eSIM:

  • yallo: New customers can choose to receive the virtual SIM by selecting the eSIM option at no additional cost. If you already have a physical SIM and want to convert it to eSIM, yallo will apply a change processing fee of 40.00 CHF.

  • swype: All swype plans are eSIM-ready, and the operator offers complete freedom in choosing the type of card to adopt. If you decide to activate an eSIM, you can do so directly from the mobile app and receive the Swiss virtual card in a few minutes.

  • Wingo: As long as your smartphone supports eSIMs, activation is completely free for all customers through the myWingo portal.

  • Lycamobile: For Swiss Lycamobile customers, it is possible to switch to eSIM for free at any time, either through the purchase of a new prepaid package or by going to the SIM Swap section in the personal account. The only note is that you need to be physically in Swiss territory to activate this eSIM.

  • TalkTalk: This operator offers the option to access a subscription with eSIM by selecting the option when subscribing to a new contract and indicating this preference. However, this option is not available for data-only subscriptions for smartwatches or trackers.

  • Digital Republic: Digital Republic customers can switch to an eSIM at any time since 2020 easily and free of charge from their personal account.

  • M-Budget Mobile: Recently, Migros also offers its customers the possibility to switch to an eSIM. Simply go to "My Account" and select the "My SIM Card" menu and request the free change from there.

  • Coop Mobile: Coop also offers the possibility to switch to an eSIM for free by ordering the operation from your account in the "My SIM Card" > "Use eSIM" section.

  • Lebara: For existing customers with a physical eSIM, there is the possibility to change the card type and switch to an eSIM at any time by ordering it from the my Lebara portal. The cost of the operation is a one-time 40 CHF.

Requirements for Installing a Virtual eSIM

To activate a mobile subscription with an eSIM, here are the essential requirements you need to meet:

 

  • Device compatibility with eSIM: Ensure your cellphone is compatible with eSIM. Verify that the operator and eSIM provider are compatible with your cellphone.

  • Access to an email inbox: You need access to an email address to follow the entire registration process and receive your eSIM card.

  • Access to a Wi-Fi network: You must have an Internet connection on your cellphone and another device to download your eSIM profile and then scan the QR code or installation code.

  • Phone memory space: Some providers may require you to install an app to activate your eSIM, so you may need to download the app on your smartphone.

Compatible Smartphones with eSIM

The latest iOS and Android smartphone models are 100% compatible with eSIMs. Below is a list of all smartphones on which you can install virtual SIMs:

  • iPhone:

    • iPhone XS, XS Max, XR

    • iPhone XS, XS Max, XR

    • iPhone SE, SE 3 

    • iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max

    • iPhone 12 Mini, 12, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max

    • iPhone 13 Mini 13, 13 Pro, 13 Pro Max

    • iPhone 14, 14 Pro, 14 Plus, 14 Pro Max

    • iPhone 15, 15 Plus, 15 Pro, 15 Pro Max

  • Samsung Galaxy:

    • Samsung Galaxy A54

    • Samsung Galaxy S20, S20+, S20 Ultra

    • Samsung Galaxy S21, S21+ 5G, S21+ Ultra 5G

    • Samsung Galaxy S22, S22+, S22 Ultra

    • Samsung Galaxy S23, S23+, S23 Ultra

    • Samsung Galaxy Note 20, Note 20 Ultra 5G 

    • Samsung Galaxy Fold, Z Fold2 5G, Z Fold3 5G, Fold4

    • Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, Z Flip 3 5G, Flip4

    • Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G

  • Google Pixel:

    • Google Pixel 3 & 3 XL, 3a & 3a XL

    • Google Pixel 4, 4a & 4 XL

    • Google Pixel 5

    • Google Pixel 6, 6 Pro, 6a

    • Google Pixel 7, 7 Pro

    • Google Pixel Fold

    • Google Pixel 8, 8 Pro

  • Huawei:

    • Huawei P40, P40 pro

    • Huawei Mate 40 Pro

  • Motorola:

    • Motorola Edge+, 40 Pro

    • Motorola Razr 2019

    • Motorola Razr 5G

    • Motorola G52J 5G, G52J 5G II

    • Motorola G53J

  • Oppo:

    • Oppo Find X3 Pro

    • Oppo Find X5, X5 Pro

    • Oppo Reno 5 A

    • Oppo A55s 5G

    • Oppo Reno 6 Pro 5G

  • Nokia:

    • Nokia XR21

    • Nokia X30

  • XiaoMI:

    • Xiaomi 12T Pro

    • Xiaomi 13T pro

    • Xiaomi 13, 13 Lite, 13 Pro

 

If your smartphone model isn't listed here, don't worry. You can directly check the manufacturer's website in the Help or FAQ section by searching for "eSIM" to confirm compatibility.

eSIM-Compatible Smartwatches

To use your smartwatch for calls and messaging without carrying your smartphone, you'll need to activate an additional eSIM. Verify the smartwatch's compatibility with virtual SIMs. Here are the supported models:

  • Apple Watch:

    • Apple Watch Serie 3

    • Apple Watch Serie 4

    • Apple Watch Serie 5

    • Apple Watch Serie 6

    • Apple Watch Serie 7

    • Apple Watch SE

  • Samsung Watch:

    • Samsung Gear S2 Classic 3G, Gear S3 Classic, Frontier, 

    • Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, Galaxy Watch, Galaxy Watch 3 LTE, Galaxy Watch 4 LTE, Galaxy Watch 5 LTE, Galaxy Watch 6 LTE

  • Altri Smartwatch compatibili con eSIM:

    • Huawei Watch 2 Pro

    • Huawei Watch 2 Pro, Huawei Watch 3 LTE

    • Amazfit Nexo

    • Xiaomi Mi Watch

    • Nubia Alpha

Frequently Asked Questions about eSIM

What do I need to activate an eSIM?

To activate an eSIM on your phone, ensure that your smartphone is compatible. Then, simply purchase a subscription or a prepaid offer from an eSIM provider and activate it following the instructions provided after purchase.

Can I share data via eSIM?

Yes, eSIMs allow data sharing via mobile hotspot, but this depends on the features of the eSIM and the contractual conditions applied.

How do I activate the eSIM?

The activation process depends on your smartphone's operating system. Typically, you'll need to scan the QR code received via email after purchase. Then, select the virtual SIM as the default for mobile data and activate mobile data. This will successfully activate your eSIM.

How much does a Swisscom eSIM cost?

The cost of a Swisscom eSIM is 0 CHF. Swisscom subscriptions can request eSIM profile activation directly online in their personal area without any additional cost.

How much does a Sunrise eSIM cost?

Sunrise eSIMs are free for both existing and new subscriptions. In the case of a prepaid eSIM, Sunrise applies the same activation fee as traditional SIMs, which is 19.95 CHF, offering a credit top-up of 20 CHF in return.

How much does a Salt Mobile eSIM cost?

The standard activation cost for a Salt eSIM is 49 CHF. Additionally, you'll need to add the monthly subscription fee for the selected plan.

Can I keep my number with the eSIM?

Yes, number portability is guaranteed even when activating a new mobile subscription on an eSIM.

Which iPhone supports eSIM?

All iPhone models released after the iPhone XS support eSIM. Generally, it's advisable to have downloaded iOS 13.3 or later updates to ensure proper management of the eSIM.

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Author: Lapo Zarina

Publication: June 2023 | Last Updated: January 2024

Sources: Wikipedia (e-SIM page), official websites of mentioned operators, technical specifications of mentioned cellphone models | Images: Wix

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