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Will Apple switch the iPhone to eSIM-only everywhere by ’24?


With the arrival of the iPhone 14, Apple has only sold smartphones with eSIM support in the US. But that may be about to change. At least one analyst thinks Apple plans to extend eSIM use to Europe and some Asian markets by next year, when SIMs will be removed from its devices.

eSIM for the rest of us?

We’ve expected the move since Apple began with eSIM inside the iPhone in 2018, though consumers have complained at the complexity of setup in the US. In part, these challenges reflect inconsistent approaches to the tech across mobile carriers, but there could be a reason for that — particularly if Apple and Google begin to try to monetize carrier choice on new devices.

Speaking to Light Reading, Omdia analyst Dario Talmesio shared his speculation, and suggested how wider eSIM adoption could affect mobile carriers and consumers:

  • For device makers, Apple in this case, removal of the SIM makes it possible to use the liberated space for other components and services.
  • Mobile carriers become able to compete for customers on the device, not just online and the high street.
  • Competition between carriers becomes more intense, in part because services can target customers directly.
  • User churn could rise because it becomes easier to switch providers.
  • Prices could drop.
  • Apple (and Google/Android) might act as gatekeepers on mobile contracts, levying fees.
  • eSIM’s could give Apple a chance to become an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator), competing with existing carriers.
  • And eSIMs will be mandatory as carriers seek to support emerging markets such as wearables, vehicles, and more. (Apple Watch carries its own eSIM.)

Are there other benefits?

Along with the convenience of using one device for multiple lines, the obvious benefits to eSIM on an international scale for consumers is that they can look forward to competitive sign-up deals as carriers combat churn. That might translate into lower prices, but could also turn into additional inducements such as free access to Apple Music, accessories, or robust quality-of-service levels.

Talmesio speculates wider eSIM adoption might also lead to the evolution of automated switching services, in which consumers are automatically signed to new deals based on factors they see as important — price, coverage, data allowance, etc.

Despite potentially increased competition, there are benefits for carriers, too. As they evolve from business models based on network provision toward becoming complex network-based service and integration providers, additional services such as private, secured 5G communications across companies could become easy to access.

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