Google has finally launched the much-awaited Pixel and Pixel 2, and they come with a lovely little surprise – the eSIM. This is an in-built SIM card within your device which can be used for device authentication and for making calls or mobile data. Until the launch, this technology was reserved for LTE-equipped tablets, smartwatches and other cellular wearables. Having entered the smartphone domain, it has the potential to revolutionise the telecom industry.
What is the eSIM?
Your SIM card connects your phone to your cellular network by identifying you and your device to your mobile carrier. The eSIM is similar to this traditional SIM card (plastic with electronic chip), but it is embedded into your device. It cannot be removed– hence the e for ‘embedded’ in the name. Currently, Google Pixel only lets you connect to Project Fi, Google’s own carrier provider. But this may change as the technology becomes more popular.
What is Project Fi?
Project Fi is Google’s telecom carrier provider service. It has been launched in 135 countries around the globe and operates on 4G LTE networks within each country. It can automatically switch you between wifi and the top 3 4G networks in your area, giving you access to more cell towers and the best coverage.
Benefits of the eSIM
Project Fi and the eSIM let you access your mobile network the same way as you access your home wifi. It brings greater flexibility, coverage, ease of use and affordability to customers, making it a futuristic technology with the potential to become very popular.
Flexibility in Payment plans
Project Fi is a pre-paid plan that lets you pay for exactly what you use. At the start of each month, you estimate usage and make a deposit. You are then allotted a data and mobile ‘budget’. For example, if you pay $15 at the start of the month, you will be allocated 1 GB data and 20 minutes talk time. If you go over this budget, additional charges will be added at the end of the month. If you underuse this budget, you will get a refund to carry forward your remaining budget to the next month. Charges are straightforward, and there are no hidden fees.
Best mobile data option for travellers
The eSIM is a dream come true for frequent travellers. You can now travel seamlessly between the 135 countries covered by project Fi. No purchasing local SIMs, filling forms to sign up to local carriers or misplacing SIMs. Enjoy a hassle-free journey as the eSIM switches you automatically to domestic carriers at NO EXTRA CHARGE. Yes, you get the same flat rate of $10/GB no matter where you are in the world. And you can use as much data as you want, without worrying about paying extra if you cross a pre-set limit within a specific period (e.g. 1 GB in 30 days.)
Easy set up and sign up
Signing up for Fi with the eSIM is a breeze – similar to subscribing to any app on the Play Store. You can use Project Fi for as long or short as you want, as there aren’t any contracts or commitments involved. You can start fresh with a new number or port your old one in just a few clicks.
Disadvantages of the eSIM
As the technology is comparatively new, the prices for using the eSIM are still quite steep. When you club this with the high down payment of the Pixel2 you get a niche market of jet-setting business travellers and gadget connoisseurs. While the eSIM remains out of reach for the general public, things could change once networks mature and prices of Google handsets fall.
Prices will also drop as more carriers develop virtual SIM service capabilities and support eSIM. Because Google has launched it, only Google’s network Project Fi can currently provide service to eSIMs. But eventually other carriers like Vodafone, Optus and Telstra will be able to do the same, making the eSIM the norm rather than the exception.
Currently, the eSIM – Project Fi combination gives you the most optimum coverage by auto-switching to the best network in your location. However, Project Fi can only be accessed via Google Pixel2, Google Pixel2XL, and the last 3 Nexus phones – the Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X or Nexus 6. (Google will send you a SIM card for the Nexus devices.) So the auto-switching technology is apparently in a trial phase for a beta set of Google’s customers – time will tell if Google will open up it’s network to all Android users (dropping prices further) or whether it will keep it proprietary to Google device owners only.
Google Pixel 2 in Australia –what you need to know:
- The official release date for the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL in Australia is October 31, 2017.
- You can pre-order your Google Pixel2 or Pixel 2 XL in Australia from October 20, 2017.
- You can purchase the devices outright for:
- Pixel 2 64GB – $1079
- Pixel 2 128GB – $1229
- Pixel 2 XL 64GB – $1399
- Pixel 2 XL 128GB- $1549
- Australians can subscribe to Project Fi and use their eSIM as long as they purchase the North American model.
- Project Fi rates in Australia are $10/GB and 20c/minute calling with unlimited international and local SMS.
- If you choose to use Fi, you still have the option to transfer your current mobile number to Fi.
- The Google Pixel2 also supports traditional nanoSIMs for those who wish to avoid using project Fi. You do not have to use the eSIM if you don’t want to.
- You can always sign up to get a Google Pixel2 or Google Pixel2XL via Telstra’s two-year leasing plans for $66-$199 per month depending on your talk time and monthly data streaming needs.