back to article Probably for the best: Apple makes sure eSIMs won't nuke the operators

The great techno-utopian fantasy for years has been that eSIMs will destroy mobile networks' lock on customers – allowing real-time switching. The phone would tune into the best signal. This notion was touted by the same sort of people who 15 years ago thought Wi-Fi would kill off mobile networks – Clay Shirky, WiReD magazine …

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Black Helicopters

The Chinese variant of the XS will take two physical SIMs.

Which makes the reason suspect.

An eSIM a thin end of a wedge. Apple want control of your operator access eventually.

You can fit an SD card and a physical SIM in a watch. It's just a lie that Apple don't have space for microSD card, 3.5mm jack and two real SIMs. It's about control and partly (like the notch) about differentiation. Not about cost or space.

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Re: The Chinese variant of the XS will take two physical SIMs.

3GPP rules around eSIM require devices provide a way to access any operator. Apple may not have a clickable icon for every 2 bit operator in the whole world, but you'll be able to enter the necessary info manually. I can't remember what the operator ID is, but I think it is something like 7 digits so hardly an insurmountable obstacle for operators who don't get an icon.

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Re: The Chinese variant of the XS will take two physical SIMs.

Bingo. Apple have only done this because it suits them. Either as something to assist negotiations with carriers or some other reason. They want to own everything. It's not unreasonable to anticipate them becoming an MVNO in certain regions. Imagine that, buy iPhone, fire it up, set up iTunes account, choose default Apple network, all your base are belong to us.

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Anonymous Coward

Multiple numbers has been available for a while

I have had for several years on my iphone a UK and US phone number both simultaneously working. I could have up to 8 international numbers all able to ring my phone regardless of which country I am in. A single sim can already do that. Two sims is good and might be able to save me money but selecting the right plan in every country is going to be a lot of work.

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I expect the main reason for not having eSIM in China is that the profile downloads would be blocked by the great firewall due to being encrypted.

Rather than the eSIM slot being secondary to the physical slot, it is the physical SIM slot that is secondary - it is there to allow these early eSIM devices to still work on networks that are not eSIM ready. It also means your £1000+ iPhone isn’t going to be bricked if something goes wrong with the eSIM. I’d give it a year or two before the physical SIM slot joins the headphone socket in the history books.

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The physical SIM slot can only go away if eSIM is pretty much universally supported by carriers. There needs to be devices out there that implement eSIM (in greater numbers than iPads with built in cellular) to push that along.

Eventually all operators will have to support eSIM, as the reason 3GPP finally ended up approving it after years of operator resistance wasn't because Apple was championing it. It is because makers of IOT devices wanted a way to go without a physical SIM for ease of deployment, or future devices where even a nanoSIM's size might be a problem.

As for the great firewall being a problem, encrypted traffic can pass through it just requires approval from the government. I wouldn't think profile updates for Chinese carriers would be a problem. You wouldn't need profile updates for non-Chinese carriers while inside China, you can get those once outside the firewall. I doubt that's the reason for two physical SIMs in China. Probably more that eSIM isn't an option yet and people are using multiple SIMs today - if they only support one physical SIM there they have to wait for eSIM support before they can win those two SIM customers.

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"I’d give it a year or two before the physical SIM slot joins the headphone socket in the history books."

But the dual SIMs will stay, even if they become to eSims. The benefit for Apple: Lots of people want two phone numbers. Today, they might buy a $750 iPhone and a $250 Android phone. In the future, they would buy one iPhone, and since they save $250 they might go for the $1,000 iPhone. So the dual SIM will make Apple more money. (Plus the buyers who paid $750 for two Android phones and might switch to a single iPhone).

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The nice thing about eSIMs is they support holding one more than one "SIM", so you could have dual SIM, triple SIM pretty much whatever the phone's software wants to deal with (I'm sure there's some limit, but it is more than 2)

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Project Fi

The concept of destroying telco control isn't new. Google attempted to create an environment where phones could roam over multiple networks while routing telephone services through a consistent central point. I really liked the idea but the implementation had too many problems for me to try it. The biggest problems being that Google is a personal data collection corporation and Sprint's unreliable network was in the mix.

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Thumb Up

Thank You Apple!

And everyone else inventing a positive technology future.

Dean Bubley: I don't know what you're doing. But sticks in the mud have their uses. Just please stay out of my back orifice. We're working here.

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From that 2003 article

"When you try to make Wi-Fi cover a wide area, it's absolutely the worst way to do it, Martin Cooper, told CNET recently. Cooper is credited as the first person to make a cellphone call (in 1973, he led Motorola's cellular project).

"In order to cover a city, you need a million sites; we actually did an analysis of that. And every one of them has got to have backhaul. So it turns out it's neither economical nor practical. "

And yet 15 years later proponents of 5G are going exactly the same route. Fascinating.

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Re: From that 2003 article

"In order to cover a city, you need a million sites; we actually did an analysis of that. And every one of them has got to have backhaul. So it turns out it's neither economical nor practical. "

The same applies to mobile cells at the kinds of densities 5G envisages. The difference being that cellular systems have more frequencies available than Wifi and the built-in ability to turn down the transmitter power to a gnat's fart or less instead of blasting out at 100mW regardless of link strength.

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Re: From that 2003 article

Sorry, but how ability of 5G cell to reduce transmitter power changes the fact that there will be millions of those cells required ?

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But Hell would freeze over before our mobile networks would dispense with the plastic SIM, and agree to real-time switching.

Isn't that what they were saying when Apple introduced iMessage and later followed by FaceTime Video?

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Gimp

Like in an iPad

Just come back from a trip to the UK. My iPad has a plastic SIM from my Australian Supplier. It was really useful to just switch to the built in eSIM for a local UK provider, it worked.

In a phone I could see that this would be useful, a friend wants to have one of the SIMs on a cheap prepaid plan just for crap callers (like car salesmen, insurance touts, etc.) and then periodically kill and replace the cheap plan.

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A phone that fits northerns shovels.

The most important announcement of the day. Two reasons. Phone operators are rubbish. Particularly with transatlantic support. Verizon (by market and software design) don't know that there's a world outside of a zipcode, you can barely dial a number on some models and native two number support isn't.

Also, if you work in a recorded industry to prevent theft and greed. There's more than one global operator with clever integrated back-ends that will be dancing with joy. Also £1050 is less than two current iPhones.

Also can someone make a full size thin solar panel. The large form factor is more popular than the small.

#buyanoperator #dontlookinthehandbag

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Re: A phone that fits northerns shovels.

Forgot to mention the cryptography on physical SIM's is intentionally broken, for obvious purposes and mine's the A12 eSim 5G Apple TV/Gaming console and every other product line. With short-range wireless power. #dualchipwithvms #chisel

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Project Fi is already network agnostic with one phone number but multiple networks

Google's Project Fi is already doing this (with eSIM on the Pixel 2 and standard SIMs in other phones) and despite its faults and flaws works incredibly well. Largely seamless switching between T-Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular and will roam on Verizon when nothing else is available. The SIM card has IMSI profiles for each network. In some places it will also roam on AT&T. It switches automatically between networks and leverages whatever is best in an area. Then, when abroad, its one price, $10 per gig and .20 per minute for phone calls, texts and pic messages are unlimited. Also, if there's a Three network in the country being visited and/or roaming on Three would provide a better experience, the SIM has a Three IMSI and will utilize that network all without any notification or involvement by the user. If one wishes, they can force the phone to any of the networks, although if in the US, one cannot force the Three SIM profile.

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Re: Project Fi is already network agnostic with one phone number but multiple networks

Google Fi is just an MVNO, with roaming agreements to multiple networks and a list of preferred networks. Nothing magic there in a technical sense. You only need a single IMSI. Switching to a different IMSI on the same directory number and a different network is essentially porting the number and cannot be done instantaneously nor transparently to the user to protect against slamming. They use a USA country code (310) and MNC (260).

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Its all about the data

People have your number, for example. How would people find you in a real-time switching world?

Ahhh, that's cute, someone is still using there phone as a telephone.

The truth is the majority of usage is data, and data doesn't need a number. But data can be very expensive if you are roaming, so most people turn it off. However if you could get a esim for each region or even a esim per provider for areas are patchy and switch between them as needed, then that's pretty useful

Of course not everyone would need this and it would mean you having money tied up in PAYG that you may never use, but if you are buying a £1500 iphone, I'm sort of guessing penny pinching is not high on your priorities

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