The notion of using an embedded Subscriber Identify Module (eSIM) has been around for years, but it was usually assumed that the big carriers, like AT&T, Verizon and yes, even T-Mobile, weren’t too keen on the idea.
With eSIM, the customer doesn’t need to physically switch out their SIM cards; they can just do it digitally, making it a lot easier to switch carriers.
T-Mobile likes to brag that it does well in a high switching environment. Last week, T-Mobile made a big splash about how it’s embracing eSIM, making it easier than ever to use.
This week, Apple announced that the new iPhone 14 for the U.S. market will have no physical card slot at all. Apple already supported eSIM, but with this move, there’s no going back.
Thus, both AT&T and Verizon are each now saying how it’s so much easier to switch – to their respective networks.
Here’s what an AT&T spokesperson said when asked about eSIM on Wednesday: “eSIM makes it easier for customers to switch over to AT&T because there is no need for us to ship a physical SIM to customers. Customers can activate right online or in store and be active in minutes.”
Verizon didn’t respond to a request for comment, including as it relates to its Visible prepaid brand, which uses an all-digital model and embraced eSIM in a big way some time ago.
In a press release about new iPhone deals and pricing, the company said anyone switching to Verizon or adding a line with an eSIM-compatible phone can simply use the My Verizon app (downloaded from the Apple App Store) or use verizon.com/bringit to activate an eSIM.
“Use it to easily switch phones from other carriers, sign up for a new account — like the new One Unlimited for iPhone plan — or add a new line without having to wait for a physical SIM card,” Verizon said.
As for relatively new-to-wireless-retail Dish Network, it sees Apple’s move as beneficial as Dish moves closer to launching its own postpaid mobile service. “We already have support for eSIM technology in place, as we announced back in June with the use of the Samsung S22 through our Project Genesis brand,” the company noted in a statement provided to Fierce today.
Industry inflection point?
In a blog post, Counterpoint analyst Ankit Malhotra said his firm believes the launch of eSIM is an inflection point for the industry, helping transition from the physical SIM card to eSIMs.
Smartphones have had eSIM since around 2017, and Google started it all when it launched the Pixel 2 as part of Project Fi. However, Apple’s the one who gets credit for making eSIM popular. It introduced eSIM technology with iPhone XS and since then all iPhones launched have been compatible with eSIM, he said.
“Apple quite simply sets the de facto standard in the industry. We’ve seen this happen multiple times over the last few years,” he wrote. “Sure, other OEMs may be able to launch something faster than Apple, but the technology sees faster adoption once Apple uses that to sell iPhones. It happened with dual camera, portrait cameras, the display notch with FaceID.”
Google may have been the first one to launch an eSIM capable smartphone and Motorola may have launched the world’s first eSIM-only phone three years before Apple, but with this launch, “we’ll see an exponential increase in the launch of eSIM in smartphones,” he added.
Hamish White, CEO of eSIM-as-a-Service provider Mobilise, said Apple’s news will be a key driver of eSIM adoption and “the absolute death of the physical SIM” as operators will have no choice but to make sure the appropriate communications and education tools are available for customers to successfully onboard their service and set up their devices using eSIM.
Good news for US Mobile
US Mobile, an MVNO using Verizon’s network, applauded Apple’s move, with US Mobile CEO Ahmed Khattak calling it “a courageous decision that will democratize connectivity in America and around the world by giving customers more choices.”
More than 25% of US Mobile users adopt eSIM, he told Fierce. “This is the highest adoption rate among ANY carrier in America,” he said, adding that customers who use an eSIM have a better NPS score.
While it might seem at first glance that roaming will be more difficult – the easy route for a long time was to get a prepaid SIM when traveling in a foreign country – roaming is one of the biggest innovations to come out of eSIMs, he said. US Mobile offers instant connectivity worldwide at affordable prices with eSIMs, according to Khattak.