THE apple presented the iPhone 14 line this Wednesday (7), and the new cell phones have a peculiarity rarely seen in the cell phone market: models sold in the US will not have a physical chip entry. The identification of the smartphone with the operator will be done through the it is yesbuilt-in version of the traditional SIM Card.
It is worth remembering that the change is only for the US iPhone 14. Models sold in other countries – including Brazil – will continue to have the traditional chip tray.
By removing the SIM Card tray, Apple manages to save space to include more components in the iPhone 14. The measure should also benefit the protection against liquids, since there is one less point of contact between the interior of the smartphone.
eSIM technology is not new to Apple smartphones: the virtual chip has been present since the iPhone XR and iPhone XS, launched in 2018. The standard is also available in high-end smartphones from Samsung and Google.
The fact that the iPhone 14 only works with eSIM does not prevent the use of two lines at the same time (dual chip). It is possible to use two virtual chips simultaneously, making the use of the physical SIM Card optional.
It is important to note that the iPhone is not the first smartphone to abandon the physical chip. The foldable Motorola Razr, released in 2019, works exclusively with eSIM.
eSIM: technology is good but can be inconvenient
I am an eSIM enthusiast and have been using the technology since 2018 on the iPhone XS. In my case, it was the only way to have two lines on an Apple smartphone. Even so, I consider it fantastic to be able to subscribe to a plan with a carrier and have the service working on my cell phone instantly — something I usually do when traveling internationally, for example.
Another advantage of eSIM is that it is easier to locate the cell phone in case of loss or theft: as there is no physical chip to remove, the smartphone continues to receive a signal from the operator until the line is blocked.
The problem is that operators in Brazil and around the world have evolved little in terms of eSIM. Most of the time it is necessary go to a physical store to get the virtual chip; there are few telecoms that allow remote membership.
A major drawback is in cell phone change. At least here, Claro, TIM and Vivo eSIMs are not reusable, and it is necessary to return to the operator’s store every time it is necessary to activate a new cell phone. This does not happen on the physical chip: just put it on the other device and the line starts working immediately.
iOS 16 has eSIM transfer function
To ease the hassle of going to a store, Apple has included a new feature in iOS 16 to make it easier to transfer eSIM between different iPhones via Bluetooth. However, operators need to support this functionality.
There are those who argue that operators should allow the exchange of a physical SIM for an eSIM directly through a website or application. This would indeed be practical, but with so many SIM swap scams it is better that there is some sort of identity verification.
In theory, getting an eSIM in Brazil is an easy task: Claro, TIM and Vivo advertise on their websites that the service is available for subscription in their stores, whether for postpaid, prepaid or control users.
In practice, the reality is a little different:
- there are cases of store salespeople who are oriented to activate eSIM only on specific plans, discriminating mainly prepaid users and forcing the sale of control or postpaid plans. I myself have witnessed this in Vivo, Claro and TIM’s own establishments;
- because it is a technology that is not used much, many attendants are unaware of the eSIM activation processtransforming a simple task into something complex, time-consuming and bureaucratic;
- exist carriers that sell the eSIM on a physical card with the printed QR Code, and there is not always stock of the virtual chip in the store (that is);
- in some cases, only specific stores can activate eSIMmaking life difficult for those who live in places where there are only accredited and authorized agents.
I hope that all of Apple’s influence to popularize the virtual chip will make operators around the world review their processes, especially related to activation. eSIM is a simple-to-use technology that can boost sales of new plans and stimulate competition between telecoms.