For the longest time, the more up-to-date members of the Techzim community have been asking when we will get VoLTE and eSims. Well, we can still keep wishing for the former but the latter has arrived. At the 2022 annual Zimbabwe Agricultural Show Econet quietly rolled out eSim service. And because I like shiny new things I got one. But for the uninitiated here is a crash course on an eSim.
What is an eSim?
The simple answer is that it is a virtual sim. See the function of a sim (Subscriber Identification Module) is just to connect your communication device to a network of your choice. Your phone is able to detect all the networks around it and connect to them but the network will only allow your phone to connect to the network if it has a valid ID (a sim of that service provider)
If you like tinkering you can go to your settings, search for ‘Carrier’ or ‘Mobile Network’ in the settings and select ‘Manual’ or deselect ‘Automatic’. Your phone will take about 2 minutes to scan all the networks available in your area. This is to show that it can see every available network but it’s the sim that gives it the ID to actually connect to the service provider.
For the longest time, these sims came in the form of a physical card. We had full-size sim cards then we had micro sim cards which were a bit smaller than full-size sim cards and then nano sim cards after that which are even smaller than micro sim. But technology does not stop there and some years back eSims were introduced. This means the sim has evolved from being physical to being virtual. Meaning you can use your phone normally without a sim card in it. It’s all not just software. Just like how you can now buy groceries in shops via EcoCash without pulling out a swipe card from your purse.
So everything about an eSim is the same as the physical sims we are used to with the only difference being that it is now virtual and you use a QR code to load it into your phone.
Where can I get one?!
At the time of writing Econet is giving out these eSims at their Harare 1st street branch and at the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show. The eSims are being issued out for free but you will need to provide your ID or passport for you to be able to get one.
The eSims are being issued out to existing Econet subscribers with a number switch and also for new subscribers so long their devices can support them.
How do you add an eSim to your phone?
The eSim comes on a card with a QR code hidden behind a scratch card-looking material. You use the QR code scanner on your eSim supported device or you can enter the eSim serial number manually of the QR code is a bit of a problem.
From here, some internet is required so that the device can connect to the Econet network to check if the QR code/sim serial number is valid and is also not activated on another device. If all is well and good it will be added to the list for eSims in your phone settings.
The Econet team will then, on their end, assign the number to the eSim and activate it on the network. And you are good to go.
Can any device support an eSim?
Definitely not. eSims are a very new technology and so very few devices support them. It is only available on a select few high-end (flagship) devices that were released in the past 3 years. But that’s not all. It gets very hectic very quickly for a lot of Zimbabweans because our electronics market is the wild wild west. So here goes.
- XS Max
- 11 Pro
- SE 2 (2020)
- 12 Mini
- 12 Pro
- 12 Pro Max
- 13 Mini
- 13 Pro
- 13 Pro Max
- SE 3 (2022)
Note: On iPhone 13 models you can have two eSims activated at the same time.
- Pro 11 inch (A2068, 2020)
- Pro 12.9 inch (A2069, 2020)
- Air (A2123, 2019)
- (A2198, 2019)
- Mini (A2124, 2019)
Note: Only iPads with 4G LTE support eSims
- 2 XL
- 3 XL
- 4 XL
- 6 Pro
Note: For the Google Pixel 3, only models bought on Google Fi or Spring will work. All other Google Pixel 3 phones bought from the US or Canada will not work with the Econet eSim.
- P40 Pro
- Mate 40 Pro
- Honor Magic 4 Pro
Note: Huawei P40 Pro+ and P50 Pro are not compatible
- Find X3
- Reno 5A
- Reno6 Pro 5G
- Find X5
- Find X5 Pro
Note: Oppo Find X5 Lite is not supported
- Razr 2019
- Razr 5G
- Xperia 10 III Lite
- Xperia 1 IV
Other suported devices
- Microsoft Surface Pro X
- Nuu Mobile X5
- Gemini PDA
- Rakuten Big-S
- Rakuten mini
- Rakuten Big
Yes, that is the end of the list and there is no Samsung. [Correction. I got the complete list]
- S20 Ultra
- S21+ 5G
- S21 Ultra 5G
- S22 Ultra
- Note 20
- Note 20 Ultra 5G
- Fold 3
- Z Fold 2 5G
- Z Fold 3 5G
- Z Flip 3 5G
- Z Flip
- Watch (Via Samsung Wearable Application)
Does an eSim make my single sim phone a dual sim and my dual sim phone a triple sim?
Right. There are 2 scenarios to this. And each depends on a specific OEM. The first scenario is that a single sim phone can be set up to accept an eSim that is active in parallel with the physical sim. This will make it operate as a regular dual sim with both the physical sim and the eSim active at the same time.
The second scenario is an OEM does not offer you that luxury and so you can have a physical sim, as well as an eSim, enabled but only one can be active at any given time. So you can switch sims in the settings to select which one you wish to be active and by doing so you disable the other.
The second scenario is very prevalent on dual sim phones that support two physical sims and eSims. All 3 sims cannot be active at the same time so you will be forced to use any 2 at a time in any combination. Either a physical sim and an eSim or two physical sims.
You can also register multiple eSims on the same device however you can only have one of the eSims active at any one time. You cannot register a single eSim on multiple devices if anyone was wondering. To do that you may need to deregister the eSim from the current device and register it on the new one.
Why do eSims exist?
Technology is not slowing down and more and more devices are starting to demand more when it comes to connectivity. Smartwatches can do a lot but may not be very useful if they cannot operate without being connected to the phone. They depend on it.
So the next evolution of smartwatches can now make calls without needing any backup from the phone. These watches support eSims so they are able to pull this off. The same tech can be in smart glasses or even the next generation of smart headphones. It sounds like science fiction but if we have headphones coming with built-in voice assistants it’s not a future that’s too far off.
Also if you lose your phone and someone removes the sim cards, you can still call it because an eSim is software. A little perk of having one.