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IoT SIM Card VS Traditional SIM Card: Key Differences and Applications

IoT SIM Card VS Traditional SIM Card: Key Differences and Applications

SIM cards remain a very important factor in implementing cellular connectivity in IoT deployments. While newer IoT devices and sensors have utilized the new eSIM technology, many devices still rely on our traditional, physical SIM card.

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The thing is, while an IoT SIM card might look just the same as your traditional SIM card you have on your phone or tablet, they are actually very different functionally. SIM cards in smartphones are mainly optimized to allow for faster load time and a better user experience. On the other hand, IoT SIM cards—mainly enterprise-oriented— are more designed to focus on efficiency, durability, and reliability.

What Are IoT SIM Cards?

IoT SIM cards, or also called machine-to-machine (M2M) SIM cards, are mainly implemented to achieve automation and data transaction in IoT devices and sensors, with the ultimate aim of improving the organization’s efficiency and reducing costs.

It is called machine-to-machine because its main function is to allow two devices to communicate with each other. While technically we can use our regular, consumer-grade SIM card we have on our phone to achieve the same process, they can’t provide the important functionalities that are only unique in IoT SIM cards, namely:

Aggregated data plan

This is more about the data plan itself and the network provider rather than the IoT SIM card. However, in an IoT deployment, hundreds or even thousands of IoT SIM cards can be implemented at the same time, and an aggregated data package would allow us to reduce the risk of overage charges, for example when one of our devices is overusing data while another is underusing.


Traditional SIM cards are typically locked to a single network provider in a single location. So, when you, for example, want to expand your IoT network to another country, you’ll need to purchase and install new SIM cards that are compatible with the new location. If you are only onboarding one or two devices, this probably wouldn’t be an issue, but imagine if you need to install 1,000 SIM cards to 1,000 devices. With an IoT SIM card, we can change to a new network without needing to replace it with a new card, and the device can automatically connect to the most reliable, strongest available network in the area.

This will also allow the IoT network’s owner to eliminate switching costs, which can significantly save time and money in the long run. Purchasing and physically replacing all of these SIM cards can be very expensive, and with an IoT SIM card, the IoT deployment can be made more future-proof and cost-efficient.


IoT SIM cards are designed to be much more durable than our standard, consumer-grade SIM card. So, it can tolerate harsh environments, as well as extreme heat and cold temperatures. This is useful when the IoT device is deployed in areas with extreme conditions, like mine shafts, offshore oil rigs, in the middle of the ocean, in a very cold laboratory, and so on.


Another important consideration when using IoT SIM cards over a standard SIM card is security. IoT devices are now the targets of many cybercriminals since they are perceived to be more vulnerable than computers and servers. IoT SIM cards added extra layers of security to cellular connectivity.

With the newer eSIM technology, where the SIM card is embedded in the device during manufacturing, it is also much more difficult for criminals to physically tamper with the SIM card for inappropriate use, making the IoT device much safer from various cybersecurity threats.

Management Software

With an IoT SIM card and by using a proper IoT data plan, you should gain access to a device management software where you can manage the connectivity and configurations of all your IoT devices in a single software.
This can be extremely useful as your IoT network grows bigger where it may include hundreds if not thousands of devices that are separated in different locations and even different countries. This feature will give us remote monitoring of all your connected devices.

IoT SIM Card Form Factors

A common misconception is to think that the term “IoT SIM card” refers to the shape or form of the SIM card, and many have also mistaken IoT SIM cards with another term that is “eSIM”.

In truth, just like a traditional SIM card, IoT SIM cards can come in several different factors, while eSIM—stands for “embedded SIM”—can be considered as one of the form factors of the IoT SIM card.

The different form factors are:

Mini-SIM (2FF): 25mm by 15mm, you might recognize this as the ‘standard’ SIM card size we’ve used in older cell phones. It’s rarely used in IoT devices today, but are still used in some sensors.
Micro-SIM (3FF): 15mm by 12mm, used in various tablets.
Nano-SIM (4FF):12.3mm by 8.8mm, also thinner than micro-SIM (0,67mm vs 0,76mm). Used in wearables and other smaller IoT devices.
eSIM (eUICC): a small chip measures 6mm by 5mm that is built into the device. Since it’s protected by the device’s shell, eSIMs are more durable with greater resilience to harsh environments and severe weather.

Which IoT Devices use IoT SIM cards?

With the maturity of IoT as a concept, there are now an endless variety of devices that can be considered IoT devices that are using IoT SIM cards in various form factors, including eSIM. Here are some of the common examples:

Smart home devices: various smart home appliances from smart lighting to smart thermostats to smart doorbell, among others. Most of them are relying on a Wi-Fi network, but some use IoT SIM cards to connect to cellular connectivity.
Wearables: smartwatches, fitness trackers, and smart glasses are typically using IoT eSIM form factors to conserve space.
Sensors: for example, in factories, farms (agricultural sensors), and military sensors. These smart sensors have revolutionized how we can monitor and manage various industries.
Healthcare: patients can wear wearables that can monitor their physical data so doctors can make an informed diagnosis and recommendations remotely.

End Words

Whether you are in need of a physical, removable IoT SIM card or an eSIM, Truphone can be your partner in providing your IoT SIM card needs. Truphone IoT SIM cards can securely provision and store multiple UICC from different operator profiles, so you can switch between networks and locations seamlessly. Truphone’s IoT data plan also offers global coverage, while also supports remote bootstrapping with centralized activation.

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