The new 2018 iPhone seems likely to have an eSIM
September is an unusual time at your phone companies. The closest equivalent to what goes on inside them, in the ninth month of the year is a family Christmas. This is the time of year that the iPhone launches. The press covers it non stop, there are lines outside of shops and to feed the monster, much of each phone company works on the project to bring the product to market. It can be stressful.
The rumours about the new features and functions of the iPhone usually start much earlier than September. One of the most persistent pieces of gossip which has been around this year’s is that the new phone will have an ‘eSIM’. But what is an ‘eSIM’ and what will it do for you?
What is an eSIM ?
An eSIM is an ‘Embedded SIM’. When your phone has an eSIM, you just don’t have to worry about having or using a physical SIM any more.
Remember how you used to have a digital camera and, separately, a phone and then they just built the camera in to the phone? The eSIM is a little like that, instead of making it easier to take pictures, it makes it easier to deal with SIMs.
Until now, when we wanted to connect to a network, we would go to the mall, pick up a SIM, go home, insert a tiny electronic chip in to the phone and then call / SMS people using your new service. With the eSIM, there will be no need to leave the house in order to connect your device to the network.
The ‘smarts’ of the SIM card is already built in to your handset (here, an iPhone) and the specific technology codes which are required to attach you to the network (in the world of phone companies, this process is known as provisioning) are downloaded by your phone, to the eSIM, Over The AIR (OTA) for free.
Why are eSIMs useful?
The eSIM will also be useful for the Internet Of Things (IoT). Mass production has seen the price of electronic components fall to the point that many new products are designed with the Internet built in. Everything from vacuum cleaners to fridges are now connected to the Internet. The eSIM will make it much easier for the owners of these pieces of electronics in the field
The eSIM could be extremely useful for Apple. Industry rumours suggest that Apple are interested in using the eSIM capability in launching their own phone company, to compete with the likes of AT&T and Sprint. Apple would resell the networks of one of the bigger phone companies acting as an ‘MVNO’ – a Mobile Virtual Network Operator.
Apple prizes the customer experience and selling phone plans like this would give them total ownership of the entire end to end customer experience. It may also aggravate the phone companies which have been the iPhone’s main sales channels for the last decade, too, however.
How can users take advantage of the eSIM?
What does all of this mean to you?
- Easier to pick your phone company: All phone companies will be visible from settings on your iPhone. This sounds like a small change but it’s not. From the time the eSIM launches, the owner of any phone equipped with the technology will be making their decision as to which phone network to choose, from their handset, sitting on their sofa. The ramifications for the ways phone companies market their products are substantial.
- Easier to swap your phone company: Similarly, there will be less friction in the process that people follow in moving between phone companies. Users will be able to swap there and then (subject to their contractual terms.)
- Better phones: The eSIM eliminated some electronic components that were required to read the SIM card. The eSIM also means the device needs one less Smaller, cheaper, lighter, more reliable, more waterproof
- Builds around you: The eSIM already exists in the Apple Watch and many operators around the world have configured their billing systems such that the user is charged for the network connection service – effectively, their standard phone plan – but the phone number they have is shared with the Apple Watch as well as the iPhone, for a monthly charge. As the number of smart products and wearables on our person increases, the eSIM will help us manage these Personal Area Networks.
Bringing it all together
The eSIM could be the most important thing to happen to the world of phones since the release of the new iPhone a decade ago. To users, it will appear a marginal improvement in convenience around the way they find and buy their SIMs.
For the industry, it is the start of a slippery slope to lower profits on phone plans