What will eSIMs change for you?

eSIMs have arrived. Now what ?

The eSIM (embedded SIM) is here. It’s been announced that the eSIM will be a built in part of the new Apple Watch 3. In some ways, the eSIM offers facilities just like any other SIM you’ve had. You can attached SIM Only or Prepaid Plans to it, as you always could. The only difference, from a user’s perspective is that the physical SIM you’re used to buying online or from the shops is now built in (before you even buy it) to the Apple Watch.

There are examples of eSIM phones which have already been released around the world, which also have eSIMs which are built in at the point of purchase. In time, they will take over. In time, there will be a host of new phone plans, designed with the new features of the eSIM built in.

For now, the process to follow, to pick a phone plan, to activate, on your Apple Watch, is similar to the way you’ve chosen a plan in the past. Here’s what we recommend :

The three steps which you should follow to pick an eSIM plan

1) Evaluate your eSIM options

The first step to follow, when deciding on an eSIM plan is to determine your personal data usage needs. There is no point in signing up for a SIM only or prepaid plan with a large mobile data allowance if you are only an occasional mobile phone user.

Next, you need to compare the same price point between both competing companies. You can do that on our phone plan comparison tables. Our suggestion is that you check the ‘includes’ section of each plan listing, to see what special offers are available at the time you’re comparing.

Remember, if you’re buying for your Apple Watch, the screen is likely to small to watch video. You probably just want a data plan with 500MB or less.

To help with this step, we have a dedicated article on how you can find out your specific data needs.

2) Buying your eSIM plan

Once you have made your informed choice on which plan is best for your needs, the next step is making a purchasing decision. This is the bit which has changed the most. We’ve documented the processes for picking an eSIM plan and separately, the options on how to activate it.

The difference with the eSIM, is that you can only buy online. Your plan choice will be constrained by the number of partners (phone companies) signed up to the eSIM scheme for your device, when it launches. At launch, the list is likely to include all of the major Australian telcos. It may or may not include smaller phone companies or MVNOs.

We believe that the data sharing facilities offered by the tier 1 telcos in Australia (Telstra, Vodafone etc.) probably make them the best bet for an Apple Watch eSIM. Data sharing facilities are only offered by the major networks (Telstra, Optus etc) at the moment and forecast data usage for the Apple Watch is so small, by current standards, that splitting your existing data entitlement between your phone and watch (as you can with this sort of shared plan) is probably your most efficient bet.

3) Consider how your customer service experience will turn out

Customer service is one of the final factors which you need to look at, before you make your final buying decision. In the event of an support requirement, there is nothing worse then finding that you are stuck with a problem and have no real time customer support methods to use.

Whichever phone company you choose, always make sure that there is a number provided to call, online chat support, social media and email to get your queries answered. There are likely to be a few with such a new piece of technology.

How the eSIM will change the way you buy from your phone company

At a basic level, Soft SIM technology moves all of the existing power away from the major telcos and gives it back to the consumers. Here’s what else will change.

  • You will select from a list in settings : 
    As an e-SIM virtual rather than physical SIM. In an eSIM world, everything to do with evaluation, comparison, purchase and connection of your phone plan will be controlled from inside your smartphone, laptop or tablet device.
  • You will select more than one plan at a time : 
    eSIM standards> allow for more than one plan profile to be present on your device at one time. This may be of limited use with the Apple Watch, but in the future could facilitate some interesting plan combinations. Imagine having a Vodafone data profile for when you’re in the city and, at the same time, on the same device, a Telstra plan for the times you’re in the deep bush.
  • There may evolve an app to move you between the different plans according to your context : With all new technologies come innovation and change. It’s often the arrival of more third parties which stimulate that. We anticipate this will be the case when it comes to the large scale take up of the e-SIM. Companies such as Apple, which have a track record when it comes to creating useful Apps, may come out with one which will allow you to move between network providers, based on how much mobile data you are using, and what your best available plan is, for example.
  • You won’t buy phones from the phone companies any more : 
    It seems extremely likely that hardware purchases (phones and smart watches included) will be done more independently in an eSIM world, than they have been in the past. Purchasing a device from an Australian supplier like MobileCiti and adding a SIM is often cheaper than buying a device under contract. If you don’t need to go to your phone company to get a SIM, you don’t need to get your phone from them either.

The eSIM will change every one of these steps

The eSIM will change every single one of the above steps . With the next generation of smartphones, tablet devices and watches being introduced featuring eSIM technologies, life is going to get a lot easier and it could shake the entire telco industry up.

  • Dealing with your phone company will be an entirely digital experience :
    eSIMs will allow users to switch network service providers in real time, from inside their smartphone or other enabled device, all with only a few taps of their fingers. E-SIMs will allow far more people in Australia to be connected and online, it will allow users to be more mobile. The nature of the entirely digital aspect of the soft SIM will also no doubt change the way in which we interact with our service providers. It could result in the closure of a large number of traditional retail stores.
  • Fewer Telstra (and other operator) retail stores :
    It’s almost certain that the e-SIM will move services digital, further increasing towards being more online, more automated and more mobile. There will be an increased focus on self-service and using applications to monitor your usage, rather than calling up a call center or going into a physical store to seek customer service. It’s much cheaper for the phone carriers to push for this more digital direction as it saves them money and gives customers exactly what they want.

The eSIm is likely to change telco processes in the same way that their self service apps have changed the banking process. Rather than going into a physical bank branch, to make customer inquiries, or pay our utility bills, third party tools now to help you manage your spend. In the future we may be able to manage our data for our phones, in the way Pocketbook helped you manage your financial matters.

Users might end up with multiple eSIMS, as we’ve said, even in one phone. Plus a SIM in your car. And maybe your kids backpack so you know where he or she is. Finding a way to manage data across them, adding more to some sims when required or throttling / stopping data, will all become far more common.

Summing up the eSIM and its impact

Apple has always been an instigator for change, whichever industry it touches. It seems likely that Apple, and others, will continue to have a far greater role in and control of, each of the previously telco owned stages we’ve outlined above, than was the case previously. Apple have legions of loyal fans for their products. The first use of the eSIM, being in an Apple device, will make up such a proportion of the market that their decision is likely to bring the eSIM issue to the fore and start the avalanche.

In the future, despite their denial that they want to become a phone company, we can see that happening too. Apple like to own the entire end to end experience for their products. It could very well be the case that they broker agreements with Vodafone, Telstra and other major networks and offer Apple users access to ‘Apple plans’ on those networks, from any eSIM enabled device. If they manage to pull this off and link it with better tools to manage voice, SMS, data and international call usage, Apple will have done to telco what they’ve done to so many other industries : Digitised it. We’ve seen this before in hotels with AirBnB and taxis with Uber. Now we’re seeing it in telcos too.

Sources : 

Purple, AirBNB and Uber have redefined the industries to which they were introduced. Now far more digital, they are harbingers of what the eSIM could lead to for phone plans :https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/273650