We’ve been hearing for some time that eSIMs (embedded SIM cards) could soon replace physical SIM cards, and it now looks a lot like the iPhone 14 could be the phone to kickstart this transition, as some versions will reportedly be sold without a SIM card. removable.
This is according to the Wall Street Journal (opens in a new tab), and means that a subset of the 2022 iPhone family will potentially rely solely on an eSIM. Rather than popping out a tray from the side of the phone and inserting a physical SIM card, an eSIM is a digital SIM card built into the phone and cannot be removed; So when changing operator/network, a new number is simply programmed on it, rather than having to insert a physical card.
However, this change is unlikely to be forced on you if you buy an iPhone 14. Instead, eSIM-only variants of the iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Pro, iPhone 14 Pro Max, and iPhone 14 Max is expected to be offered alongside models that have both eSIM support and a physical SIM card.
It would then be up to telecom companies and stores to decide whether or not to stock the eSIM versions only alongside the standard versions. It doesn’t seem like a carrier is expected to stock eSIM-only versions, so you’ll probably have a choice no matter which mobile carrier you use.
It’s not the first time we’ve heard such a claim, and there are clear benefits to switching to eSIM-only handsets. They take up less space in phones, freeing up space for bigger batteries or other technology. eSIMs can also support multiple networks, so you can still essentially have a dual-SIM phone that only relies on eSIM technology.
Additionally, switching networks with an eSIM is theoretically a faster and smoother process than the method with physical SIM cards. And eSIMs can be patched more easily, with security updates pushed out on a much larger scale than is possible with physical SIM cards.
So they’re probably the future, and if any company is well positioned to drive their mass adoption, it’s Apple.
Analysis: it takes a certain motivation
Offering eSIM-only models of the iPhone 14 as well as versions that have both an eSIM and a physical SIM card makes sense in some ways. Apple has long offered the latter with iPhones, so it’s clear the company is interested in eSIMs, and offering an eSIM-only version as a choice would help boost the popularity of this new technology, without forcing people to make a switch.
Still, that’s a step that might be too small, too, unless it comes with other benefits. If customers have a choice between a phone that only supports eSIM or one with a physical SIM slot, why would they choose the former unless it’s also cheaper or has other immediate benefits?
In most cases, they probably wouldn’t. Apple is unlikely to take advantage of the space saving eSIM devices allow only when the model is just a variant of a phone that usually has a physical SIM card, and at present, most of the other advantages offered by eSIMs are not really exploited either, in particular due to the lack of support from the operator.
So while the introduction of an eSIM-only iPhone may help user adoption, it doesn’t look like it’s about to have much of an impact. Hopefully Apple will do more to inspire people to embrace an eSIM-filled future, leading to a point where all top phones are eSIM-only.