The days of microsurgically removing a small SIM card from the small tray of an iPhone using a paper clip may be coming to an end.
During its much-anticipated press conference this week, Apple revealed that it is dropping the physical SIM card and tray from its new iPhone 14 lineup in the United States. In its place, the company is adopting a digital alternative called eSIM.
A SIM card is a unique identifier in every phone that enables a device to connect to a wireless network to send text messages and make calls. eSIM refers to an “embedded” SIM card, or a card that is hardwired to the phone itself. People often change SIM cards when they change carrier plans or travel abroad and seek to use a different service provider while on the road.
Apple first introduced eSIM support on iPhone in 2018, promising to make it easier for customers to activate their cellular plans and use multiple phone numbers and carriers for the same device.
Now, Apple is doubling down on that functionality by completely removing the infrastructure that supports physical SIM cards on iPhone 14.
“With eSIM, you can quickly transfer an existing cellular plan or get a new cellular plan, all digitally,” said Kaiann Drance, Apple’s vice president of iPhone marketing, at Wednesday’s event.
Drance also touted how the eSIM makes the device “more secure,” noting that “if your iPhone is lost or stolen, someone can’t remove the physical SIM card.”
The FCC also noted that the eSIM offers “significant security advantages. According to the federal agency, bad actors have been known to steal a physical SIM card and swap it for another phone to get someone’s information and reset their account. eSIM may reduce that risk because it “can’t be stolen without stealing the phone.
In theory, eliminating the SIM card slot could have another benefit: more room for a larger battery or other features on the phone. That’s no small feat for a company like Apple, which has been trying to make its devices thinner.
While dropping the SIM card slot may not be as polarizing as Apple’s decision to drop the headphone jack, it has already generated some complaints on social media.
Frequent international travelers, in particular, are used to switching physical SIM cards from place to place and may travel to places where carriers don’t yet support the use of eSIMS. For example, in mainland China, the iPhone 14 does not currently offer eSIM functionality.