Traditional SIM cards could soon be a thing of the past


Say goodbye to SIM cards as Apple and Samsung are working to get rid of them. Photo: Simon Yeo/Flickr CC

It seems Apple and Samsung can agree on something after all: they both don’t have any interest in keeping the traditional SIM card around for much longer. You know that tiny plastic thing that gets inserted into your phone or taken out when you want to switch carriers? Manufacturers and carriers have something better in mind.

The two companies are talking with the GSMA (GSM Association) to start embedding electronic SIM cards in smartphones and connected devices as early as 2016, according to a report from the Financial Times. These e-SIMs would stay embedded in the phone so they aren’t user replaceable, but would allow users to switch between carriers more easily. Plus, the removal of SIM card slots might free up some extra space to pack in more useful hardware technology.

An array of networks are on board with the idea too, including AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Whampoa, Orange, Telefónica 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,” said GSMA chief executive Anne Bouverot.

Apple already got somewhat of a head start with its Apple SIM. Embedded in every iPad Air 2, the e-SIM allows anyone to set up a cellular data plan from the iPad and pick any carrier to sign up for without getting locked in to contracts (in most cases.) You can also switch between them at any time without having to buy a new SIM or different, compatible iPad.

The Apple SIM doesn’t necessarily have to go away, but the GSMA is planning for its own standard to work across multiple brands and devices.