Archive for September 17, 2022

iPhone 14 and eSIM…. Here’s My Thoughts On This Without Trying To Influence Your Opinion

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 17, 2022 by itnerd

It wouldn’t be iPhone season without some sort of controversy over the new iPhone. This time around the controversy centres around the removal of the SIM tray and going to eSIM on US phones. This has been a topic of debate since the phone was announced, and I’ve had some people ask me about this. Thus I am writing this article share what my thoughts are. But before I get to that, let me define what a SIM and an eSIM are:

  • SIM: A Subscriber Identity Module or SIM card is a physical card that you insert into your iPhone to get cellular service from your carrier.
  • eSIMs: A embedded SIM is still a SIM card. However they’re electronically programmable and built into your phone. This means there is no physical SIM card that has to be inserted into your iPhone. Instead, you log in with your carrier information and the carrier will remotely provision your iPhone so it can be connected to their network. This process differs from carrier to carrier but all get you to the same place.

Next, let me be clear about something. In markets outside the US, there is still a SIM tray in iPhone 14 models. This change only affects US models of the iPhone 14. Though I will point out that all iPhones since the iPhone XS have the option for eSIM. So if you wanted to go eSIM only, you’ve been able to do this for some time. I will also point out that if you have an Apple Watch or an iPad with cellular service, you’ve been eSIM only since the day you got those devices.

With that out of the way, the best way to tackle this is to list the pros and cons of eSIMs. Let’s start with the pros:

  • eSIM’s are more secure: Having an eSIM mostly removes the possibility of SIM swap scams. Which is when a threat actor either steals your SIM card outright, or social engineers your carrier into transferring your service onto a SIM card that they control. Now I say mostly because I can still see a few scenarios where a SIM swap scam may still be possible. But an eSIM is a lot more secure than a physical SIM card.
  • eSIM will improve water resistance: One of the drawbacks of having a physical SIM card is that the slot for it will give water one more place to get inside your phone. Removing that solves that problem.
  • eSIM is more reliable: I’ve had situations where a physical SIM card dies outright or has issues which required me to replace it with my carrier of the moment and have them swap my service over to it. And there’s the possibility that the SIM card slot itself could have some sort of issue requiring repair or replacement of the phone entirely. An eSIM solves that those problems.
  • There are multiple eSIMs on phones these days: You can install eight or more eSIMs on an iPhone and use two phone numbers at the same time. That means that you can have two numbers from two different carries live at the same time. That’s handy if you travel as you can get a QR code for example from another carrier to get local service. Or if you need to have a work number, you can just add it to your iPhone.

Now let’s go to the cons:

  • Swapping phones is now more complicated: When I review phones, I will swap my SIM card into the phone so that I can test it and that takes 30 seconds. This is now going to be a pain as I likely either have to use my carrier’s app or phone my carrier to get this done. And I am going to go out on a limb to say that carriers will find a way to charge you if they have to do this swap.
  • Travelling might be more complicated: When I travel I will swap out my Canadian SIM for a local SIM. If I go someplace once the world stops ending that doesn’t support eSIM, that could be a problem if I have an iPhone that doesn’t have a physical SIM slot. Right now only 10 countries support eSIM. So this is a legitimate concern for travellers.
  • Carriers might have more power: This is a double edged sword. Let’s start with the negative. This might be a way for carriers to lock you into their services. I’m not sure how, but if there’s a way for a carrier to lock you in using eSIM, they will find it and do it. The flip side to this is that T-Mobile in the US is letting you try their network for three months free by downloading their app and activating an eSIM on your iPhone. That’s novel and I suspect we’ll see more of that going forward.
  • You can’t remove the eSIM: You also can’t remove an eSIM from a device, which may be viewed as a downside if you have concerns about your movements being tracked. But this may also be an advantage as it means phone thieves cannot easily hide the location of a stolen phone.

Ultimately you have to make a call as to whether the move to eSIM is a positive or negative. In my case, I am sticking with a physical SIM because once the world stops ending, I will be travelling again and only ten countries support eSIM. But once that support broadens, which it will because once the US does something other countries will eventually follow, I will adopt eSIM. It is the future and since I am already using it on my Apple Watch, I really have no concerns about it. Your use case may be different and hopefully the information that I have provided above allows you to form your own opinion. But if you do have questions, drop a comment below and I’ll see if I can answer your questions.