Apple released the iPhone 14 series at their “Far Out” launch event on September 7. Along with it came a selection of other products as well, including the next generation of AirPodsthe apple watch series 8and the apple watch ultra. However, one of the biggest surprises of the event is the one that actively harms American consumers, and that is the brave SIM tray removal.
Apple is no stranger to anti-consumer practices (and neither are any of the other Fortune 500 companies), but this is a new low point for the Cupertino-based firm. The company has offered eSIM as an equally good alternative for bewildered consumers who aren’t sure what to do next. The problem is that eSIM isn’t necessarily the bastion of standardization that Apple wants you to believe it to be.
The problem with the eSIM
eSIM is, in theory, a great solution for digitizing physical SIM cards. It allows an operator to instantly share connectivity details with your smartphone, prevents your SIM card from being lost or stolen, and you can quickly and easily switch between mobile operators, in a perfect world. The problem is that each operator has their own obstacles to go through, and what’s more, there is a ton from carriers in the United States that do not yet support eSIM.
As serious. Look at the list of all MVNOs in the US and then compare it to Apple’s list of supported eSIM carriers. It’s not perfect, as Apple is missing a few, but *many* carriers don’t support eSIM.https://t.co/byFxayccoihttps://t.co/EipQs3Dgj3
— Zachary Wander 🇺🇦 (@Wander1236) September 7, 2022
So if you want to use a newer iPhone on your current carrier, and your current carrier is one of the MVNOs listed above, you’re screwed. You’ll need to push your carrier to introduce eSIM support or, more likely, you’ll have to switch carriers. Some carriers even only reserve eSIM support for higher-tier plans. If you break your phone, you also won’t be able to quickly grab the SIM card and stick it in an older phone. Your old phone may not support eSIM, and even if it does, you’ll often have to wait for your carrier to issue you a new eSIM. Furthermore, Ting has also been quite transparent in the past. they are not allowed to support eSIM.
If it sounds like this is a change that benefits operators with little or no benefit to the consumer, then you haven’t seen anything yet.
International roaming will be a headache with eSIM
The biggest problem with eSIM, and one that anyone traveling abroad will have realized very quickly, is that it’s going to be a batch harder to get a local data SIM card when traveling. Before the days of free roaming in the EU, when traveling I would take a local data SIM card and put it in my smartphone as a means of accessing mobile data without paying sky-high roaming charges. I bought a local SIM card in Latvia a few years ago for around €4 and had a month of unlimited data. An American consumer no longer has that luxury.
Are there local eSIM options in many countries around the world? Absolutely! Apple even has a list. However, I know from experience in the Irish carrier market that while there is an option listed, it is not what it seems. Vodafone is the only provider in Ireland to offer eSIM, but Vodafone is also significantly more expensive than any other carrier here. An American arriving in Ireland could purchase a local SIM card for €10 for unlimited data for a month here, but if need an eSIM, you’re looking at a minimum of €20 and potentially more hoops to jump through in a foreign country.
Nothing stopped Apple from maintaining single SIM plus eSIM support, as you know it still does for the rest of the world. If you wanted to use eSIM, you could, and if your carrier supported it, you could benefit from all the benefits of eSIM without being limited to a particular type of carrier. Instead, this acts as another obstacle to using a local SIM card, and for many, the hassle of switching to another local carrier when on vacation won’t be worth it. This, in turn, will return the earnings from roaming fees to the operators. It even makes the phone difficult to import from the US into some regions, which people may want to do as prices have risen in Europe, India, and many other markets.
It’s funny how this change seems to only benefit carriers.
courage is needed
What I found most peculiar about this ordeal is that there are essentially no tangible benefits for consumers. Every consumer action Apple takes will generally have a positive consumer spin on it. Removing the headphone jack, for example, has been touted as a way to increase the available space inside the phone for other components, and it turns out it can sell you the solution in the form of AirPods. The removal of the charging pad at the checkout was described as a green change, but consumers end up paying more for a charging pad. Apple is a company, companies want to make money, and companies are not your friends.
Having said that, the brave The motion of removing the SIM tray still completely stuns me. There is no positive bias for the consumer. I haven’t seen any arguments from ardent Apple supporters that make even a shred of sense, like I saw with removing the headphone jack or removing the charging brick from the case. US consumers will stick to their carriers or go through multiple arduous hoops trying to get away from them when roaming.
Even weirder is that this means that Apple is producing three separate variants of the iPhone 14 series. There is an eSIM-only version for the United States, an eSIM plus physical SIM version for most of the world, and a physical SIM version for most of the world. Dual for China. American travelers will know that the iPhone is arguably the best phone for roaming thanks to its support for a wide range of 5G and other network bands, but now it’s simultaneously the best. Y worst.
If this is a move to the long-rumored portless iPhone, then it’s a jump that I think comes too soon. I also hate what this indicates for the Android community – we all know how it will turn out. Android OEMs will scoff at Apple at first and soon adopt the same practices. In the end, it is the consumer who loses.