Apple, Samsung in talks with carriers to launch e-Sim cards

“Apple and Samsung are in advanced talks to join the rest of the telecoms industry to launch electronic Sim cards, in a move could fundamentally change how consumers sign up to mobile operators,” Daniel Thomas and Tim Bradshaw report for The Financial Times. “The GSMA, the industry association which represents mobile operators worldwide, is close to announcing an agreement to produce a standardised embedded Sim for consumer devices that would include the smartphone makers.”

“The traditional Sim card locks in the user to a network but an embedded Sim would enable a smartphone, tablet or wearable user to avoid locking themselves into a plan with a single operator or sign up to switch instantly,” Thomas and Bradshaw report. “Networks expected to support the plans include AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Whampoa, Orange, Telefónica and Vodafone. Anne Bouverot, chief executive of the GSMA, said all parties were heading towards an agreement for the ‘common architecture.'”

“Last year, Apple revealed its own Sim card for its latest iPads. However, it was supported by only a handful of operators such as T-Mobile and AT&T in the US, and just EE in the UK. Those familiar with its UK rollout said that it had not been widely adopted,” Thomas and Bradshaw report. “The electronic Sim is not expected to replace the Apple Sim, a piece of plastic that fits into a device and could be included in the next generation of iPhones. The GSMA said it was ‘continuing to work with Apple to secure their support for the initiative. While we are optimistic, a formal agreement with them is still in progress.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Anne, when it comes to handset makers, all you have to do to get Samsung et al. to sign is to get Apple to sign first.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Bill” for the heads up.]

36 Comments

  1. I don’t see the benefit. The argument given makes no sense. With an unlocked phone, you can swap SIM cards from different carriers with no effort at all. Your number and carrier info is on the card and you can move it between various phones with no effort. Many women do exactly that– swap phones daily, to match their outfit.

    Eliminating SIM card will hand control back to the carriers. They will be able to decide whether to allow your phone on their network or not. In order for the phone to work on a network, you’d have to contact the carrier and activate the device. With a SIM card, you activate the card and move it from phone to phone. Carrier can’t do anything about it.

    I don’t see the advantage.

    1. Yes, you can swap SIMs on an unlocked device, BUT you have get that SIM physically. An eSIM means go waiting for a SIM, no standing in line at a carrier store. You call up, they configure it and Voila! You’re on their network. Fast, simple, easy.

      1. That sounds great, until the carrier tells you “I’m sorry, but we cannot activate your phone on our network at this time…”

        I just ordered a T-Mobile nano-SIM prepaid package for $0.99 (free shipping). I activated it on a pre-paid $30 monthly plan (100 min voice, unlimited text / data, 5GB per month data throttling limit). I can stick that SIM into any unlocked phone without having to deal with T-Mobile, and T-Mobile cannot refuse to let the SIM work with the phone of my choice.

      2. I can see how it might be a bit more difficult for thieves to activate a stolen phone on carriers networks without the ability to pull out the old SIM and stick in a different one, but that was one of the most significant benefits of the SIM card concept.

        With the SIM card, I never ever have to deal with the carrier if I don’t want to. If I have an unlocked phone that supports correct frequencies, I can buy an activated, pre-paid SIM card in any news stand (even from the street vendors), stick it in my phone and I’m good to go. I can then buy pre-paid refill cards (also at news stands, or in ordinary grocery stores) and refill the credit. The carrier has no data about me, my privacy is fully protected and I never need to deal with them.

        Without the SIM, I am at the mercy of the carrier; before my phone can work on their network, I have to call them (or go to their web site), give them my information (what little, or not so little, they ask for) before they can allow me to activate the phone on their network and obtain the phone number.

        I am not sure I’m in favour of this solution. It seems like it is designed to give the control back to the carriers when there was little before.

    2. The SIM slot has been reduced in past years but it still take up a huge amount of space while weakening the case with a slot. Manufacturers would love to lose the SIM and put it into software. I used to have a phone years ago that had an eSIM and wondered why it didn’t catch on.

  2. The only 2 openings that cause problems for water penetration are the charging port, and the SIM tray. Eliminate those – eSims don’t need a tray, add magnetic charger (like WATCH), epoxy the boards and speakers and we’re well on our way to a waterproof iPhone!

            1. Good for you. According to the AppleCare + terms and conditions liquid damage is covered. Instead of having an ugly bulky case I prefer to have AppleCare + and a very minimalist case to protect against the “normal wear and tear”. In the end, your Apple products will treat you the same way you treat them.

            2. Those terms may have changed. In part due to the settlement. In 2009, when I had a bad firmware update (frequent reboots after update) on my 3gs, the very first thing the Genius did was check the water sensor sticker and refused to honor AppleCare. The phone was never wet. Humidity did it, but there was no convincing them. The City of Houston was up in arms at the time over the same issue.

              The fix was my one and only jailbreak.

  3. I bought an iPad mini 3 last November. It had an Apple SIM card in it. The morons at AT&T had no idea how to get my iPad activated. I spent two hours trying to get activated. Finally, someone at an AT&T store just gave me a new AT&T SIM card. My guess is that AT&T wasn’t ready for the new cards, or they don’t bother to train their people. Let’s see what happens when electronic SIM cards start showing up in iPhones and iPads. They will probably be just as clueless as they were in November.

  4. Predrag, most users will never notice a difference because we do not change out our sim cards. If we travel, we either turn off roaming data or leave our phones at home. For those that do travel, or live near international boards, or work in the travel, entertainment or shipping industries. The elimination of roaming charges would be more than enough reason to upgrade to a phone with an eSIM.

    Goldndoodle, in addition to waterproofing the phone, there is a space consideration. Start sims take space for the card and the supporting structures. Going eSim will free up more internal space for new goodies and will reduce the cost of manufacturing the devices. Plus, eSims can be worked into even thinner iPhones or new devices like the iWatch.

    Plus making it easier to switch carriers (visit a website) or even create new carriers (think virtual carriers that have data/voice contracts with other carriers).

    It is not a question of ‘if’, but of ‘when’.

  5. One of the biggest potential advantages would be to do with deterring theft. If there was no physical SIM card, a thief wouldn’t be able to pop out the card the moment they steal somebody’s iPhone. The only way to stop it being tracked would be to switch it off, but in order to switch off a locked iPhone, they would first of all need to unlock it, which would need either a fingerprint or a code.

    Find My iPhone needs an internet connection to be able to track the iPhone, so by making it difficult for a thief to disable the internet connection, you increase the chances of tracking them and make it less desirable to steal an iPhone.

    1. The flip-side is that even the original user is not safe from being tracked. Even if the phone is physically turned off, unless you remove the battery or completely discharge it somehow and wait a few minutes the phone can continue to be tracked.

  6. Surely on a basic level a Sim Card is just telling your phone what network to connect to and identifying your phone to that network. That’s just information, essentially login information, much like you login to iCloud, Google, email services, etc, etc. Having a SIM Card just seems incredibly antiquated and a waste of internal space.

  7. It would be great when traveling to be able to join a network in another country easily. Sure you can do that with SIM cards but it would be even easier if there was the ability to join a new network outside of your home territory. Having a choice would also be good.

  8. Perhaps an additional advantage (one day) would be the possibility of having 2 eSIMs in one phone (i.e., 2 phone numbers). It’s not really in Apple’s interest to do this (as they’d rather sell you 2 phones), but it is in ours and there have been occasions when the customer interest overrode Apple’s interest. A lot of people have 2 phones and this way they would only need one…

  9. I’d say: Anne, when it comes to handset makers, all you have to do is talk about Apple doing something and Samsung will sign up just to try and beat Apple to the punch line.Anne.

  10. They don’t want to lose the SIM, that’s the only reason why you MUST go into a shop. Apple tried this years ago and the European carriers said they would no longer sell the iPhone. It wasn’t as popular then. A SIM-less phone will work wonders when Apple becomes an MVNO and you get the best coverage from where ever you are, independent of operator or country.

  11. Think bigger.
    Phones switching seemlessly & automatically between wholesaled IP networks based on performance.

    The carrier is soon just plumbing.

    Unless they control the content.

  12. This is dumb… Analog AMPS had no SIM, later CDMA has no SIM…

    You simply programmed the mobile using OTA (over the air activation). CDMA was also first to support over-the-air updating of the PRL (Preferred Roaming List)

    So now, after adopting the backwards GSM/SIM standard for 4G, they’re just now realizing the CDMA crowd had it right all along?

    This is what happens when you let the Europeans run the standards bodies.. “European Technology”, truly an oxymoron.

    1. I see it the other way round. Standardising on SIM took away one significant level of control that carriers had with AMPS (and CDMA). They decide which phones can and which cannot connect to their network.

      With the introduction of SIM, the phone itself was separated form mobile service, which was abstracted in the form of a standard SIM card. It is no longer the carrier who decides which phone is allowed on the network: their only device is the SIM card. As long as the consumer has a working unlocked phone that supports the necessary frequencies, he can stick the SIM card in and use that phone — carrier has literally no way to prevent that.

      With OTA and PRL, we give carriers complete control over our mobile devices. I can have a perfectly good and functional iPhone 9s, but that iPhone would be a paperweight if Vodafone in Bulgaria says “I’m sorry, we cannot activate that phone on our network; it wasn’t purchased in our country, and was illegally imported”. With an iPhone 1 through 6, all I need is an activated SIM (or micro-SIM, or nano-SIM, depending on the model) card to stick in my phone and it’s fully operational.

  13. It’s interesting how the public article writes “Sim” all the way through, as if it’s a proper name, yet everybody here in the comments does it correctly writing SIM as an acronym. Are the authors just lazy, ignorant or did the publishing of their article change the case?

      1. British spelling guidelines say that when you have an acronym that is commonly pronounced phonetically, it should be spelt like a proper name, with initial cap. Common examples are Nasa, Unicef, Nato, etc. Americans seem to ignore this spelling rule.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.