Why did Apple abandon the physical SIM?

(CNN) – The days of using a paper clip to perform microsurgery and extract a mini SIM card from the iPhone tray may be over.

At its press event this week, Apple revealed that it will be ditching physical SIM cards and trays in its new iPhone 14 lineup in the US. Instead, the company is adopting a digital alternative known as an eSIM.

A SIM card is a unique identifier in every cell phone that allows a device to connect to wireless networks to send text messages and make calls. An eSIM stands for an “embedded” SIM or a card attached to a phone. People tend to change their SIM cards when they change carriers or when traveling internationally.

Apple first launched eSIM support for the iPhone range 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 doubles down on this feature by completely removing the infrastructure to support physical SIM cards in the iPhone 14.

“With an eSIM, you can quickly transfer an existing cellular plan or get a new cellular plan, all digitally,” Kayanne Drans, Apple’s vice president of iPhone Marketing, said at Wednesday’s event.

Drence also talked about how eSIMs can make devices “more secure,” noting that “no one can remove the physical SIM card if your iPhone is lost or stolen.”

The FCC also states that the eSIM has “significant security advantages”. Some criminals have been known to steal a physical SIM and replace it with a different phone to access someone’s information and reset their accounts, according to the federal agency. An eSIM can reduce this risk because “you can’t steal without stealing the phone.”

In theory, removing the SIM card slot could have another benefit: making more room for larger batteries or other features on the phone. This is no small feat for a company like Apple that is always trying to make its devices thinner.

While getting rid of the SIM card slot may not be as polarizing as Apple’s decision to ditch the headphone jack, it has already caused some grumbling on social media.

Frequent international travelers, in particular, are accustomed to changing physical SIM cards in different places and may travel to places where operators do not yet support the use of eSIMS. In China, for example, the eSIM functionality is currently not available on the iPhone 14.

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