There have always been two different versions of iPads: Wi-Fi-only and Wi-Fi+Cellular model. For cellular iPads, in the past, they have been relying on using the physical SIM card to connect to the respective mobile network, just like the iPhone.
However, the latest iPads and iPhones have adopted the newer eSIM (embedded SIM) technology for better convenience and versatility, and with this new technology, there are now many benefits we get as opposed to using a standard physical SIM card like the older models.
Here, we will discuss the adoption of eSIM on the iPad, and what kinds of benefits it will bring to your iPad’s connectivity.
iPad SIM VS eSIM: Key Differences
The standard SIM cards that have powered our phones and mobile devices have been around since the early 1990s. However, the new eSIM technology, without a doubt, is coming to dethrone the traditional SIM card in the very near future.
However, contrary to popular beliefs that the SIM and eSIM are two entirely different technologies, they actually have several key similarities:
- They both have the main function of connecting your phone to your cellular provider’s network
- They both are mainly used in mobile phones but are now used in many different devices, including IoT sensors and devices
- SIM stands for Subscriber Identification Module, and so both SIM and eSIM are used to identify the identity of your device and the type of plan you are subscribed to
- In dual-SIM devices that support eSIM, we can use both SIM and eSIM together
However, there are crucial differences between both.
The main difference is that an eSIM, as the name embedded SIM suggests, is not a removable card, and even it’s not a card at all. Rather, it is a very small chip that is built right into the device, so there’s nothing to insert and/or remove.
In a traditional SIM card, typically one SIM card is locked with one cellular provider (i.e. a Verizon SIM card for Verizon). So, when we want to switch to another cellular provider, we’d need to get a new physical SIM card from the new provider, remove the old one, put the new one into the device, and only then we can register to the new network.
While this might seem like a simple thing to do if you are only using one device, it can be a major hassle if, for example, you have a hundred different devices in your office that simultaneously need to change network.
An eSIM, however, can download multiple different identification data from different networks, so when you need to switch to a different network, you don’t have to replace the SIM card (besides, you can’t remove an eSIM). Typically you can simply go to an App provided by the network provider, and download the identification to the eSIM.
The eSIM is also much more durable because it is a part of the device and is protected by the device’s shell. Also, another key difference to consider is that a physical SIM card tray, albeit small, does eat some space on the device, so using an eSIM can make the device much smaller, like in the case of the Apple Watch and other wearables.
iPad eSIM: Key Benefits
Now that we’ve understood the differences between the eSIM and a physical SIM card, what is actually the benefit of having an iPad with an eSIM rather than the older models with SIM card trays? In general, there are several key benefits:
- If you are traveling abroad and your usual network provider doesn’t work, you can use the eSIM to register to the available local network without needing to purchase a new SIM card. You can also avoid the expensive roaming charges with this practice. You can also get an iPad data plan with global coverage if you travel a lot, where the data plan will automatically let your eSIM download the most suitable local network according to your location.
- You can easily switch between networks for one reason or another. You might just have found a cheaper plan or a better plan that suits your needs. You can do this process entirely with an App and without any physical removal/configuration.
- More network providers are now adopting the eSIM technology, and you’ll soon get more coverage whether you are in Asia, North America, Europe, or anywhere else in the world
- One of the common problems with older iPads or iPhones is that when they are stolen, the thief can easily throw away the SIM card so it’s harder to trace it. With an eSIM, the thief can’t remove and throw away the eSIM.
How to Activate iPad eSIM?
First, you have to make sure that your cellular iPad model does have an eSIM or embedded Apple SIM inside it. All the latest models now support eSIM, for example, the latest 3rd-generation iPad Pro 12.9-inch. The 2nd-generation iPad Pro 12.9-inch, on the other hand, is Apple SIM embedded, while the 1st generation still uses traditional SIM cards. You can check Apple’s list here to check which iPad models have eSIM or embedded eSIM.
You will then need a data plan that supports the iPad eSIM.
Plans are available from eSIM providers like Truphone where you can simply choose between data-only bundles for specific regions or a global coverage plan. After you’ve signed up for a data plan, then you can simply add the new mobile plan to the iPad’s eSIM with the following steps:
- Go to Settings->Cellular Data-> Add a New Plan
- Scan the QR code provided by your network provider (provided via email) and follow the instructions
Alternatively, you can use an App of the specific network provider to add the data plan to your eSIM.
Apple has integrated eSIM support for almost all of their latest devices, and we can expect this technology to stay not only on iPads, but also on iPhones, Apple Watches, and other devices. As we’ve discussed, there are some very useful benefits from having an eSIM in your iPad, mainly the ability to switch between carriers without needing to remove and replace your old SIM card.
With an eSIM, you can have more convenience, especially when traveling abroad with your iPad, as you can easily switch to different local networks in different countries depending on your locations. If you plan to travel a lot with your eSIM-enabled iPad, getting an iPad data plan with global coverage can be a cost-efficient option for your travels.