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Rumors have been swirling lately that Apple is considering ditching the physical SIM card on upcoming iPhone models – a transition that could happen as soon as this fall, when we expect to see the iPhone 14 release.
However, while many analysts believe such a move is inevitable, most agree that it is unlikely to happen all at once. There are simply too many moving parts in the mobile industry for Apple to make a unilateral decision and move its entire series to eSIM.
According to an analyst, Emma Mohr-McClune of GlobalData, Apple cannot afford to “take the ‘big bang’ approach” and try to force all users to adopt eSIM technology. Mohr-McClune thinks Apple could very well have an eSIM-only iPhone model available this year, but mobile carriers will have a choice of which version they want to sell and support.
Apple and eSIM
Apple is clearly moving closer to an eSIM-only iPhone, but the company is also taking its generally pragmatic and cautious approach, so Mohr-McClune’s analysis isn’t particularly surprising. When it comes to eSIM technology, Apple has indeed been in the lead for a few years now. It quietly introduced the eSIM to the iPad in 2016, and it’s also behind the cellular-enabled Apple Watch models that were introduced the following year.
Of course, eSIM became a much bigger deal when the iPhone XS and iPhone XR arrived in 2018, since the technology also powered new Dual SIM functionality. This made it possible for the first time to use two phone lines on an iPhone by combining a physical SIM card and an eSIM.
Last year, Apple took it a step further by adding the ability to use dual eSIM cards to the iPhone 13 lineup. This allows iPhone owners to use Dual SIM capabilities without needing a SIM card. physical. The use of eSIM has gradually grown in popularity since the iPhone XS/XR models first adopted it in 2018, and today all major North American carriers fully support it. Apple even offers a way to transfer your physical SIM card to an eSIM.
Problems in the Chinese market
Despite this, there remains a significant market in which the eSIM has not really taken off. Even today, Apple manufactures iPhone 13 models with two physical SIM cards for sale in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau. Interestingly, the iPhone 13 Mini – and the iPhone 12 Mini before it – are a special case here, with normal eSIM versions of those sold in Hong Kong and Macau, but not mainland China.
Apple has been producing different iPhone models for different markets for a long time, even apart from the dual SIM situation in China. Different cellular frequencies and carrier requirements have created a situation where there are already at least four different versions of each iPhone 13 model, each sold in different countries. With that in mind, it’s reasonable to assume that if an eSIM-only iPhone 14 is in the works, it will almost certainly be released alongside more traditional versions that still use at least one physical SIM card.
But there’s no doubt the eSIM is coming, and Mohr-McClune says carriers need to prepare for it: “Telecom carriers need to prepare carefully for such an eventuality, strengthening their own internal eSIM support general marketing and support readiness, as well as improving their own eSIM integration and anticipating the ‘test pilot’ promotion of attackers’ eSIM support, such as the ones we’ve seen recently in the US United of T-Mobile and Verizon’s Visible.