Last September, Apple removed the SIM card tray from all US iPhone 14 models, triggering the biggest adoption of eSIM technology we’ve seen so far. And it could have gone a step further. Prior to its launch, the expectations were that eSIM would be rolled out to selected European markets, or perhaps to the entire European Union with the iPhone 15.
But technical specifications confirm that all four models will keep their SIM card tray in countries including the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and every other country beyond US borders. While eSIM is enabled on the devices, the fact the iPhone 15 is not globally eSIM first is disappointing as many consumers will default to the traditional physical SIM card method of connecting.
eSIMs are digital SIM cards that allow users to activate their mobile subscription by downloading over-the-air network credentials directly onto the device instead of installing a physical plastic SIM.
Apple itself has publicly cited many benefits of the eSIM approach, including greater security as they are irremovable, the ability to manage eight eSIMs from one device, and have two eSIMs active at the same time. For consumers, this changes the entire mobile experience. Say goodbye to troublesome travel and the need for different devices for work and personal matters — users can just switch to a different SIM card in just a few taps.
The benefits aren’t just for consumers, but for operators too. Digitalising one of the last elements of the customer onboarding journey eliminates the associated manufacturing, logistics and packaging costs and complexities, making that first customer interaction simpler and more seamless. If there’s so many benefits, why hasn’t Apple rolled out eSIM-only beyond the US?
Realistically, the persistence of the physical SIM card is down to a perception that someone — be it consumers, operators or Apple itself — is not ready for the shift. Consumer awareness of eSIM is on the up, but is it sufficient to force consumers into adoption?
There are two players in the value chain that drive consumer eSIM awareness — device manufacturers and operators. A recent GSMA Intelligence report revealed that just 15 per cent of consumers learnt about eSIM from a device manufacturer, and just eight per cent learnt about it from an operator. Most consumers became aware of the technology through reading an article on it, or through word-of-mouth.
If Apple, and other device manufacturers, are to push an eSIM-only future, it’s imperative that users are made aware of the benefits and technical how-to of eSIMs and how they operate. Device manufacturers need to do more to promote their products’ eSIM capabilities, and similarly operators need to stop their systems from defaulting to physical SIM cards over eSIM. If consumers are not aware of eSIM, they are less likely to adopt it, which directly will have impacted Apple’s decision to hold off on the eSIM shift further.
Another, more pressing matter relates to operators’ ability to deliver eSIM services. Adoption of eSIM technology has steadily increased over the past few years — just 45 operators offered an eSIM service in 2018 compared to the 399 that do so today. But this is still far off every operator globally offering eSIM services to consumers.
There are several reasons why operator adoption of eSIM isn’t quite there — particularly among smaller local operators and MVNOs. For some, it’s because they haven’t needed to offer eSIM to mitigate the risk of customer churn — until now. For others it’s a lack of in-house resources, talent or technical knowledge on how to offer eSIM capabilities.
For those struggling with the latter, Mobilise is an expert on launching eSIM capabilities through its host of eSIM products. Its eSIM SDK is available for those with an existing mobile application that enables them to integrate eSIM APIs in a matter of days. For those with little-to-no digital footprint, eSIM as a Service is a full, white-labelled application that can be used to launch a fresh eSIM app, with everything you need to digitalise the full customer onboarding journey and prepare for the eSIM shift.
For operators, nothing motivates more than a clear churn risk, and an inability to adequately support a new generation of consumers is a customer experience disaster waiting to happen. While Apple’s eSIM-only shift hasn’t happened this year for Europe, it’s still coming. Operators and consumers alike need to prepare for how it will impact telecoms as we know it, making a slicker, sleeker and more intuitive experience.
For more information on how Mobilise’s products and services, click here to book a free demo.