The iPhone 14 marks the first nail in the coffin for physical SIM cards

Apple just introduced its iPhone 14 lineup, and overall it looks awfully familiar to last year’s phones. Despite some minor iterative updates, there’s one big difference Android users should be aware of, and no, it’s not the iPhone 14 Pro’s “Dynamic Island” hole punch. The SIM tray is no longer in the US. ., and buyers are forced to trust exclusively on eSIM from now on. It’s a sign of the times in the smartphone industry, as Android makers are likely to do the same for years to come.


Headphone jack sets a precedent

It’s no secret that Apple has a history of ditching standards for something new. The headphone jack is the most obvious example, a move the company itself called brave on stage. exactly six years ago today. At the time, buyers and competitors derided Apple, deservedly so for those comments. A month later, Google joked about the First generation pixel that keeps its 3.5mm port. Samsung launched its Ads “clever” to advertise the Galaxy S9. Everyone was laughing at Apple’s expense.

It didn’t take long for all that to change. In 2017, the Pixel 2 and 2 XL dropped the headphone jack and provided a USB-C adapter in the box. Samsung went one step further, removing those “clever” ads from the web when it introduced the Galaxy Note 10 series without 3.5mm jack. One by one, almost every phone brand has removed built-in wired headphone support from their devices, leaving it in the hands of niche companies like Asus and Sony or budget phones that most Android fans would never consider driver material. daily.

After today’s Apple launch, physical SIM card slots seem destined to follow the same pattern. It’s very easy to imagine Google doing a big deal with its SIM card tray in Pixel 7 event next monthor watch another embarrassing Samsung ad (as usual) mocking his biggest rival. But it’s a safe bet that, one by one, we’ll see Android makers follow Apple’s lead here. It may not be with this next generation of smartphones, or even the next, but it’s coming.

We reached out to Google, Samsung, Motorola, and OnePlus to ask about their plans for physical SIM cards, specifically in the US. Motorola, OnePlus, and Google declined to comment.

How will the death of SIM cards affect Android users?

Unlike the headphone jack, I don’t expect consumers in general to feel so convinced about the imminent death of SIM cards. For one thing, most people only interact with their SIM trays every two to three years; even we Android Police writers, who constantly jump from phone to phone throughout the year, don’t swap SIMs every day. eSIM also, at least in theory, provides a much smoother experience for buyers. You no longer have to deal with the hassles and headaches of carrier stores – just scan a QR code and you’re ready to go.

That said, we should all expect a few bumps in the road to eSIM mastery. As the AP’s Manuel Vonau detailed earlier this year, eSIM can bring its own headaches, depending on your operator and your smartphone. Some carriers have long, detailed guides that complicate a process far beyond putting a physical SIM card in a tray. Others require you to chat with an associate online — so much for not dealing with customer service. AT&T makes eSIM support on iOS easier than ever, but you’ll still need to dive into the setup and Play with QR codes and carrier logins on Android.

Phone manufacturers can make this process easier through software; in fact, that’s exactly what Apple has done. In addition to that joyous process described by iPhone users at AT&T, iOS 16 now supports eSIM transfer over Bluetooth. That sounds easy enough, but it won’t help you if you’re switching from iPhone to Android. In Apple’s opinion, staying in its ecosystem is yet another advantage. Stray, and the company can’t help you if you feel overwhelmed or frustrated by what you find.

Unfortunately, while Google has made some improvements to eSIM in Android 13, the experience of adding one is not consistent across devices. The Pixel 6 presents a completely different set of menus than the Galaxy Z Fold 4 when trying to add a new card to your phone.

eSIM could actually be a good thing, with a few catches

There are some concerns about eSIM, driven primarily by carriers rather than manufacturers. Not all phones support virtual SIM cards, which is also true for some MVNOs in the US For every Straight Talk, there is a Consumer Cellular. If you’re on a prepaid carrier, there’s a good chance the next iPhone — and future Android phones — won’t work on your plan. Travel can get more complicated; weather some eSIM services make flying abroad a breeze, you’ll be saying goodbye to grabbing a cellular plan at the airport once you land. Some security concerns also remain; while the The FCC highlights that the eSIM is actually more secure than a physical card, it was previously rejected by a T-Mobile representative in early 2022.

All that aside, a move like this had to happen eventually, and if any brand can drive it, it’s Apple. Although all three major US carriers support eSIM, most are not rushing to promote it. Makes network sharing much easier, somewhat T-Mobile has recently bowed out with a recent promotion. It’s no secret that these companies don’t want you to switch to their competition. That’s why they routinely lock phones and tie the price of new hardware to your monthly plan. With eSIM becoming the gold standard, a huge barrier could come down.

That’s the bright spot in today’s news. There’s no doubt that an eSIM-only future is bound to be full of pitfalls, but this move could lead to a space where trying out a new carrier doesn’t require you to leave your couch or wait for a SIM in the mail. It’s nothing but good news for the typical consumer, even if on the Android side we have to deal with glitches and customer service calls along the way.

Physical SIM cards are far from perfect: some readers might even celebrate their impending doom. If you’ve been considering looking around your carrier with the goal of finding a more reliable network or lowering your monthly payment, the eSIM revolution may sound like a dream come true. But for those of us who find ourselves rotating between phones on a regular basis (bloggers, developers, and enthusiasts alike), the road ahead looks rocky. Although this does not mean that pixel 7 or the Galaxy S23 will drop the SIM tray entirely, don’t be surprised if your next phone is eSIM only.

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