An eSIM-only iPhone, finally!
eSIM in Smartphones has been around since 2017, however, the adoption has grown slowly. Google started it all when it launched the Pixel 2 with eSIM Support as part of “Project Fi”. However, it has been Apple that has led the popularisation of eSIM in the industry. It introduced the eSIM technology with iPhone XS and since then all iPhones launched have been compatible with eSIM. Now Apple has introduced eSIM only SKUs in US with iPhone 14.
Following in Apple’s footsteps, other OEMs such as Samsung, Huawei, and Motorola have launched smartphones with eSIM capability, mostly in the premium segment. So far, 14 OEMs have launched eSIM-capable devices.
So why is an eSIM-only iPhone significant?
Apple quite simply sets the de facto standard in the industry. We’ve seen this happen multiple times over the last few years. Sure, other OEMs may be able to launch something faster than Apple, but the technology sees faster adoption once Apple uses that to sell iPhones. It happened with dual cameras, portrait cameras, the display notch with FaceID.
The same phenomenon will repeat with eSIM. Google may have been the first one to launch an eSIM capable smartphone, and Motorola may have launched the world’s first eSIM-only Phone three years before Apple but with this launch, we’ll see an exponential increase in the launch of eSIM in smartphones.
We believe the launch of eSIM is an inflection point for the industry, to help transition from the physical SIM card to eSIMs. An eSIM-only iPhone will not only embed eSIM to the mind many consumers around the world, but it will also push other OEMs to switch to eSIM in the future.
Why is Apple choosing eSIM?
The eSIM excels across multiple attributes compared to a traditional SIM card, including provisioning, size, flexibility, security, customer experience, and, above all, cost.
From a device design standpoint, features like thinner, smaller, and more power-sensitive device form-factors, often themselves embedded in a larger machine, are also driving eSIM solutions
Self-provisioning is the biggest advantage for service providers, which drives a superior and stickier customer experience. The eSIM re-programmability extends the SIM lifecycle, bringing durability and convenience for customers.
From a consumer perspective, eSIM offers the potential for greater flexibility in how to access services seamlessly and securely. At the same time, it offers time and cost savings associated with some of the current in-store provisioning or activation processes.
There have been rumors that Apple is looking to bring a portless iPhone. Removing physical SIMs would have to be an essential part of that. I believe the introduction of dual eSIMs in iPhone 13 and now the eSIM-only iPhone 14 is the first indication that a portless iPhone is in the works. The next step would ideally be moving to iSIM by adding functionality baked directly into the “Apple Silicon” which will further save board space and give Apple even greater control over the SIM.
Are operators ready?
MNOs have been gradually adopting eSIM capabilities as many face challenges either in terms of faith in the technology, a fixed mindset or cost constraints. As the eSIM-capable device ecosystem is entering the mainstream bringing rising consumer awareness, many MNOs have integrated eSIM technology into their networks.
A further push toward eSIM has been the semiconductor shortage that has impacted availability of physical SIMs. And while many aspects of the semiconductor shortage have ameliorated, this is not fully the case for SIMs.
More than 200 leading mobile network operators in over 75 countries are already supporting eSIM provisioning and management however some MNOs have gone above and beyond when it comes to eSIM are considered L.E.A.D.E.R s in the industry. They support an average of 20 or more devices, including smartphones, smartwatches, laptops, and tablets. Most of the operators who support eSIM devices are already supporting older Apple devices like the iPhone 13. With the launch of eSIM-only iPhone in the US, it is a signal to MNOs around the world to get ready, the eSIM is here to stay!