You Don’t Need a SIM Card for the New Google Pixel 2

Image credit: Matt Cardy/Getty

Google’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are the company’s newest smartphones, but they don’t exactly break the mold. Both run Android 8.0, ditch the headphone jack in exchange for IP67 water and dust resistance, and feature an aluminum body, all table stakes among high-end Android smartphones. But one cool feature inside the Pixel 2 is absent from every smartphone released so far: embedded SIM (also known as eSIM) support.

What is eSIM?

Inside your smartphone is a subscriber identification module, or SIM card. The minuscule card, like the Nano SIM in your latest smartphone, is responsible for associating your device with your wireless carrier’s cellular network, granting you access to whatever plan you’re paying for. Unlike a normal SIM card, which requires a paperclip or some minor hardware disassembly for entry or removal, eSIM support is built into the device itself, and lets you choose between a variety of carriers.

You won’t have to deal with the hassle of popping SIM cards out, waiting for one to arrive in the mail, or worse, getting one yourself in a retail store. It’s a software change instead of a hardware swap, one you can do from your device’s Settings page (assuming you’re not beholden to a carrier contract). Some eSIM devices are assigned to a particular carrier, same as traditional SIM cards. Luckily, if your device supports the addition of a physical SIM card, you can switch providers by adding a physical SIM card to your device.

Do Carriers Support eSIM Devices Yet?

The Pixel 2’s eSIM support is restricted to Google’s own Project Fi cellular network. It’s the first smartphone with the feature, though other devices (like the Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch) also use eSIM to support multiple wireless carriers. Apple has its own version of eSIM

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