micro nano sim

The wireless industry’s biggest fear—that mobile customers could one day switch service on a whim without changing their SIM card—is coming true. Following years of opposition to technologies that would allow people to easily change carrier on the fly, the likes of Apple, Samsung and others are now working with the mobile standards organization GSMA on electronic SIM cards for consumer devices.

The Financial Times newspaper reported Thursday that Apple and Samsung are “in advanced talks” with mobile telecom groups on a standardized embedded SIM card for consumer devices, the so-called e-SIM.

While the GSM organization, which represents mobile operators worldwide, is said to be “close” to announcing an agreement, finalizing the technical specifications for the emerging standard will take “at least a year” so the devices supporting the electronic SIM standard won’t appear until late 2016.

“With the majority of operators on board, the plan is to finalize 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,” said the GSM organization.

The GSM is “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,” they said.

If you recall, Apple tried to do this a few years ago and all the carriers balked. If all goes as planned, an ‘iPhone 7’ expected in the fall of 2016 should include e-SIM technology.

apple sim

e-SIM reportedly works similar to the Apple SIM.

The Apple SIM, a custom SIM card, lets iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 owners switch service between T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T in the United States, and EE in the United Kingdom, right within the Settings app.

On the downside, carriers can still impose some limitations on the technology so, for example, choosing an AT&T service on your iPad locks the Apple SIM to that network.

A recent partnership with GigSky has brought affordable mobile data at local rates with Apple SIM to 90 countries.

To that extent, e-SIM should provide similar features like the Apple SIM though the article states that the emerging standard is not expected to replace the Apple SIM.

Contrasted to swapping SIMs when changing service, e-SIMs free up compatible devices from carriers’ clutches. Rather than being locked to a carrier network, an embedded SIM would let one sign up for a wireless service right on one’s device, and switch carrier instantly.

How I converted Micro SIM into Nano SIM

Networks expected to support the common e-SIM architecture include AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Whampoa, Orange, Telefónica and Vodafone.

“We have got everyone back on one point, with Apple and Samsung agreeing to be part of that specification,” said Anne Bouverot, the GSM’s outgoing CEO.

It’s unclear whether the e-SIM standard is a set of technological guidelines or an actual card that must be inserted into a tray of sorts. If e-SIM won’t require the physical card, a tray may become a thing of the past so smartphone makers could use that space to add more features or engineer even thinner mobile devices.

Are you in support of the e-SIM standard?

And will e-SIMs be able to gain momentum in the industry, do you think?

Pictured above: a nano-SIM card.

Source: The Financial Times

  • Connecting Mac User 

    e-SIM now? okay we’re getting there.. waiting for Apple iHologram (not sure what that means) 😉

    • I hope they don’t go e-sim.. Not until every carrier is on board. It’d feel like we have sim-less CDMA devices depending on the carrier we want to switch to.

  • Ashymer

    i already have 6 GigSky SIM (all my family members) and i can assure you it is the best thing for those who travel a lot between countries even… continents 🙂

    • Mohamed Rizk

      Depends on where you live, and how bad are your carrier roaming rates. Where I live a Gigsky plan when roaming will be a rip-off. My carrier offers me 1 GB for roaming, 100 international and receiving minutes almost anywhere in the world for just about $30 a week while GigSky could make me pay $15 for just 250 MB in many countries.

  • Mark S

    This is great but the bottom line is it’s still up to the carriers to allow this. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Unless Apple or Samsung wants to become an MVNO which is just reselling from the carriers they ultimately have to play by the carriers’ rules. I realize they both sell lots of devices and make lots of money for the carriers but I don’t see that the carriers have to go along with this.

    • Rowan09

      Well they both control the market so carriers will have to bend to their demands, since they don’t make phones.

      • mahe

        But if no carrier supports them and they do it … their phone would be useless ^^

  • Xee

    I hope they get rid of the physical sim and tray altogether. I like the idea of changing provider on a whim. Could also be usefull for traveling abroad.

  • This article represents a complete misunderstanding of the wireless industry…

    SIM cards are cheap pieces of plastic and don’t matter at all when it comes to your ability to switch carriers. Service providers don’t care at all about the SIM cards; they hand them out like candy. The article even mentions that the majority of carriers may already be on board including the likes of AT&T, Deutsche Telekom and Orange. This is because the creation of an e-SIM would actually make life easier for service providers.

    The retail cost of devices is – and always has been – the real road block to consumers just being able to jump from one provider whenever they want. PERIOD. END OF STORY. The retail cost of an iPhone 6/6 Plus starts at $650. The Galaxy S6 begins at $685. The same is true for most other popular devices on the market.

    When you don’t pay full price for something at the time you get it, you don’t get to have your cake and eat it too by fully controlling what you do with it. Purchasing a device under the dying 2-year contract structure with subsidies to the carriers built into the bill to get back the retail cost (or more) used to be the barrier to switching for consumers. Now carriers have the better, much more fair and no contract retail-price installment plans. But either way, you simply cannot change providers without paying for your equipment; e-SIM or not.

    The only way Americans will have total control over their services without assigned obligation is to start paying the manufacturers’ full retail price for phones at the point of sale like other parts of the world; countries in which buyers immediately receive unlocked devices and can choose whatever provider suits them at any time. That will have to happen in order to create the desired freedom, or the manufacturers will have to start charging a whole lot less for the devices so that Americans will pay for them in full upon receipt. Until then, consumers will have to continue to tolerate having some shred of loyalty to the companies that facilitated their device purchases.

    (How would I know all of this…? I have worked in the wireless industry for over nine years and have also been a published writer covering the technology sector during that time.)

    • Joe Sixpack

      Very insightful comment. As a mere customer, I am wondering why the OEM’s initially resisted the e-Sim, as it always seemed easy to switch one your contract expired? Was it just stubborness on their part? As for Apple and the other OEM’s, will they be working with the likes of existing SIM card producers like Gemalto to make the e-SIm? Or will the likes of NXP go downstrea and make the e-SIM in addition to the chip?

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