eSIM standard is at an inflection point

Apple spearheads eSIM adoption: US iPhone 14s support up to eight eSIMs with dual-active eSIM, which means users can theoretically have two phone numbers on one device at a time, per PCMag.

How it works: eSIMs are digital replacements for SIM cards and handle voice and data connectivity. Apple has gone all in on eSIM in its US models.

"The technology sees faster adoption once Apple uses that to sell iPhones,” per Counterpoint. “It happened with dual cameras, portrait cameras, the display notch with Face ID. The same phenomenon will repeat with eSIM.”

  • The GSM Association expects 60% of all smartphone unit sales by 2025 will be eSIM compatible. Juniper Research estimates 3.4 billion devices will be eSIM capable by 2025.
  • An Apple support document clarifies the perceived limitations of the eSIM standard on iPhones. 
  • iPhone XS models and newer can support up to eight eSIMs, while iPhone 13 and iPhone 14 models can have two active eSIMs simultaneously.
  • “This could, for example, include one eSIM for your home and another eSIM for the place you're visiting,” Apple said. “You can swap which of your stored eSIMs are active simply by changing your selections in Settings.”

Migrating to a new standard: Anyone upgrading to an iPhone 14 mode in the US will need to move their phone number over to the new device.

  • The transfer is done through software, mostly using Bluetooth and a Wi-Fi connection to move details to the new device. 
  • Some carriers have eSIM Carrier Activation or eSIM Quick Transfer features that are available during setup.
  • Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) like Mint Mobile require subscribers to install their app on the new device, log in, and then request an eSIM, which is transferred instantly.
  • Carriers can also provision devices for eSIM remotely, but that’s a more time-consuming effort.

Why this could succeed: The adoption of eSIM for smartphones is getting close to an inflection point. “We are getting close to an equilibrium between the demand-side pull and supply-side push. More and more eSIM-capable devices are hitting the market every quarter across the consumer, IoT, and mobility space,” per Counterpoint. 

  • Moving to eSIM makes it possible for manufacturers to free up space for batteries or other critical components.
  • Beyond smartphones, other devices like wearables, tablets, laptops, and handheld gaming consoles can benefit from eSIM implementation.

What’s the catch? Migrating back to a regular SIM card from an eSIM can be complicated and problematic, likely requiring carrier involvement. Similarly, moving from iPhone to Android and vice-versa will not be a seamless experience.

This article originally appeared in Insider Intelligence's Connectivity & Tech Briefing—a daily recap of top stories reshaping the technology industry. Subscribe to have more hard-hitting takeaways delivered to your inbox daily.

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