Apple set to introduce e-SIM functionality in next generation devices

Both Apple and Samsung are in talks with the major network providers in the telco industry, to launch soft SIM technologies which allow the next generation of smartphones to utilise e-SIM functionality.

With big tech companies such as Apple pushing the way forward with emerging technologies, soft SIMs are just another way in which users lives are made easier, giving them more freedom of choice and convenience.

Unlike existing physical SIM cards which lock users to one network provider and not allowing them to change providers in real time, e-SIMs enable this functionality and lets them take advantage of increased flexibility and choice.

What is the Apple e-SIM?

The Apple e-SIM or also known as a soft SIM is a functionality which has been introduced to their latest generation of iPad tablet devices, for consumers which are in the US or the UK.

The technology replaces the need for physical SIM cards and pits network carriers against each other, as there is no longer a need for a traditional SIM card as it’s all done virtually from inside the device.

The soft SIM gives users the added flexibility of staying connected at all times and picking and choosing which plan you wish to connect to, at your time and convenience.

How does the Apple soft SIM work?

Currently, smartphones require a physical SIM card installed into the SIM card slot for the user to be able to make and receive calls as well as text messages.

A soft SIM works on the principle of being electronic and virtual, inbuilt into the smartphone or tablet device and allowing users to change their SIM only prepaid plan, all at the touch of their fingers.

Being able to switch network providers depending on where you are, at what time and selecting the best-valued deal for that moments usage, is the freedom of choice which Apple is pushing for.

Benefits of Apple’s soft SIM functionality abroad

If you are an avid user of Apple products and have an Apple iPhone device, if you were to travel abroad for business or just as a tourist on holiday, soft SIM technology would make your life much easier.

Just imagine arriving at the foreign country and not needing to waste time getting a local SIM card, switching out your Australian one and then putting the new one into your smartphone and powering back on.

The same goes for expensive roaming fees, eliminating the need for spending costly amounts of money on your existing number and a prepaid plan if you happen to make calls or send texts when you are in a different country.

By being able to connect to local carriers no matter where you are in the world, all from inside your enabled next generation smartphone or tablet device, a world of choice is literally at your fingertips.

Who are GSMA and why are they important?

GSMA is the telecom industry association which represents all of the different mobile network operators around the world and are the standard to which all smartphones and physical SIM cards operate on.

GSMA (Groupe Speciale Mobile Association) is said to be close to announcing a new agreement with Apple to produce a standardised internal e-SIM for smartphone and tablet devices manufactured by Apple.

This would help to pave the way for the e-SIM or also known as the Soft SIM, to become the standard way in which users would connect their next generation devices to the network carriers.

GSMA was quoted as saying:

“With the majority of operators on board, the plan is to finalise the technical architecture that will be used in the development of an end-to-end remote SIM solution for consumer devices, with delivery anticipated by 2016.”

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.”

In previous years, GSMA has already designed and worked with the management of e-SIM technologies in the machine operation industry, specifically in common utility devices such as traffic lights or assisted living machines, where traditionally it’s not as easy to change the SIM cards, compared to a simple mobile phone.

Why are Apple and Samsung developing soft SIM technologies?

Apple is all about creating and enriching the user experience, the happier consumers are to purchase, use and engage with their products, the more revenue their business model can generate.

Built-in SIM card functionality is just another step in the long line of previous ones which Apple has taken since they started to manufacture smartphone and handheld devices.

By removing the need to a physical plastic SIM card, Apple is effectively making the mobile phone operators play by their rules, which is great news for consumers which for a long time have been locked into poor value plan choices.

Next-generation devices with Soft SIM functionality could drastically change the way in which we sign up for carrier plans, with a large shift from prepaid and poor value long term contracts, but rather to SIM only plans which are offered by the MVNOs.

The Apple e-sim gives users the flexibility and choice to pick and choose at their convenience, from a variety of SIM only plans from selected carriers in the US and the UK.

While Soft SIM functionality is currently limited to tablets and smart watches and to only users from the US and the UK, it won’t be long before Australians will be able to take advantage of this emerging technology as well.

Traditional SIM card limitations

You might have noticed with each new generation of smartphones and tablet devices, that they are getting smaller and thinner. With the move towards virtual SIM cards and the removal of the port usually required to hold the physical card, this allows manufacturers to create much thinner devices.

Soft SIM technology goes much further beyond the limitations of the traditional SIM cards and allows users to switch in real time to a different network carrier or MVNO than they are currently using.

Apple and Samsung are two of the biggest global players in the manufacturing world and hold a large influence. By forcing telco companies to adapt to changes which make their users lives easier, they stand a chance of converting more users to other areas of their ecosystem.

Just like all new technology announcements, nothing is official yet when it comes to next-generation smartphones, but we can already see the e-SIM technology in the latest version of Apples iPad and as a function in the Samsung Gear S2 smart watch.


See all SIM Only plans

If you need another network, for example you’re after an unlimited plan with Telstra coverage, or you live in a city and you’re happy with Vodafone, you might like to check our SIM Only Comparison page and compare all the plans ( including every one mentioned on this page. )



Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.