The SIM card may soon become a thing of the past, with Apple and Samsung reportedly in talks to introduce electronic SIMs to their handsets, allowing consumers to change carriers without changing a physical card.
According to The Financial Times, the GSM Association, which represents almost 800 carriers around the world, is close to announcing a new common architecture standard for reprogrammable, embedded SIMs in a move that will “fundamentally change how consumers sign up to mobile operators.”
The e-SIM would be standardised across devices, offering users more flexibility. It would mean no more having to endure the hassle of going into a store to stop a service and retrieve a new SIM card, or waiting for one in the mail when looking to switch carriers or devices – a hassle which has stopped more than just a few people from changing carriers in the past.
By enabling consumers to switch carriers more easily than ever before, the e-SIM could turn buying an unlocked device outright a more attractive option than signing a long contract. As such, industry experts are already predicting that plans will become cheaper as the ability to switch drives competition.
Operators who have already agreed to the e-SIM include AT&T, Deutche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchinson Whampoa, Orange, Telefonica, and Vodafone.
“With the majority of operators on board, the plan is to finalise the technical architecture that will be used in the development of an end-to-end remote SIM solution for consumer devices, with delivery anticipated by 2016,” the GSM Association stated.
By removing the need for SIM slots, the e-SIM will also alter phone design, either creating even slimmer phones or leaving more room for other components.
Apple introduced a concept similar to the e-SIM in its iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3s last year, shipping devices to the UK and US with a plastic Apple SIM card that allowed users to switch between data providers direct from their devices. The Financial Times reports it’s possible that rather than introducing the e-SIM to its phones, Apple may continue using its Apple SIM.
Apple began selling the card in Australia earlier this month, allowing iPad users travelling overseas to switch to a local carrier and avoid roaming costs.
The news comes as Apple released its third quarter earnings report, reporting revenue of $49.6 billion and quarterly net profit of $10.7 billion. The company reported selling almost 11 million iPads, 4.7 million Macs, and 47.5 million iPhones.
As expected, Apple wouldn’t reveal specific numbers for the Apple Watch, reporting only $2.6 billion in revenue for “other” products including the Watch and iPods. However, despite reports over the last few weeks that sales for the Watch had been disappointing, CEO Tim Cook said that sales of the Watch had exceeded the company’s expectations.
Image: Apple CEO Tim Cook.