Apple has introduced a technology called eSIM into its latest iPhones that could open new revenue streams for the tech giant, but it will have to balance its relationship with major carriers around the world.
The iPhone XR, XS and XS Max will all have dual-SIM capabilities. This means that a user will be able to have two separate phone lines. One will be via a traditional physical SIM card and the other will be an eSIM or embedded SIM.
The technology will theoretically allow a user to change carriers without having to order a new SIM card or go to a shop. Instead, they could just sign up digitally.
This is useful if you’re traveling abroad and want a temporary local number. Or if you want to have your work and personal numbers on the same device.
Dual-SIM hasn’t really been a popular option in countries including the U.S. and U.K., but is liked by consumers in emerging markets such as India, a country where Apple has had a small market share. Dual-SIM could prove very popular for users in these markets. Apple has had eSim technology previously in its iPad Pro and is not the first smartphone maker to offer it.
Is eSIM support available in India?
In India, Airtel and Reliance Jio have eSIM support. At the moment only the Apple Watch Series 3 cellular variant houses an eSIM and you basically have to configure your existing Airtel or Jio SIM with the watch. So in a way, you end up replicating the phone SIM features on the eSIM.
Because of this, whenever you are away from your iPhone, the Apple Watch Series 3 becomes your replacement phone, in a matter of speaking.
With the eSIM on the Apple iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, the eSIM will be a separate number in addition to the physical SIM card inside your device. Do note, that just because the eSIM is a part of your device, it does not mean that you are now stuck with one cellular network for the rest of the phone’s life after you configure it.
The best part about an eSIM is that you can remotely switch from one network to the other, and you don’t need to physically switch SIMs.
Currently, Airtel and Reliance Jio are the only network providers in India that support eSIM. The two carriers will be working with Apple for eSIM support on iPhones in India. We did see Vodafone in the list of carriers too, but it was most likely the Vodafone for the international markets.
Why do I need an eSIM?
An eSIM functions almost exactly in the same manner as a regular SIM, except that it is believed to be more efficient than the latter. So, if you do go for the iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max, you could use it exactly the way you would use a traditional dual-SIM smartphone – to get best data and calling plans from different carriers, own two different numbers, or if you are a frequent traveller.
Many people will already have a nano-SIM card from their main carrier, in which case adding a second number involves adding a plan to the eSIM. If using a carrier app, the process is as simple as using that app to buy a plan — in the case of a QR code, you have to open the Settings app, tap Cellular, then “Add Cellular Plan.” You’ll be presented with an option to scan your code.
Notably you’ll be able to use the eSIM in place of a nano-SIM, whether for a single account or several, but you won’t be able to have more than one eSIM account active at a time.
For most people then, the best option will be to have a nano-SIM primary.
Once multiple plans are running, you’ll be prompted to label them. There are preset options like “Primary,” “Secondary,” “Business,” and “Travel,” or you can simply create your own.
To change a label later, you’ll have to go into the Settings app‘s Cellular menu, tap the number you want to change, then Cellular Plan Label.
You’ll also be asked to set a default number, which is critical since it will be
the only one supporting the full range of cellular services. Secondary numbers
can normally only field voice and SMS.
The exception is an option to relegate a secondary line to data only, which may be useful for traveling.
This will let people call or message you at your main number but avoid exorbitant roaming fees with a local SIM card.
Be warned that in addition to voice and SMS, iMessage and FaceTime will still go to your primary, which could rack up data fees.
The first wave of preorders for the iPhone XS and XS Max is underway. Quick-trigger buyers should see their orders delivered Sept. 21.