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Why the iPhone 14’s eSIM Might Be a Problem for You

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Apple has a habit of aggressively removing features in the name of progress. They killed the DVD drive from the Mac while discs were still popular, removed HDMI and MagSafe from MacBook Pros (before subsequently bringing them back), and, of course, are responsible for the death of the headphone jack. Apple’s decision to now remove the SIM tray from the iPhone 14 lineup in favor of eSIM may seem minor, but it may cost you down the line.

What is eSIM?

If you guessed that eSIM stood for electronic SIM, well, you’d be wrong, but you’d also be on the right track. Instead, it stands for embedded SIM (with SIM itself standing for subscriber identity module), because eSIMs are, in fact, embedded in your device.

Rather than using an external SIM card to connect your iPhone to cellular data, a built-in eSIM can be activated at any time, and switch plans with ease. That frees you up to change networks at will, just by downloading a new app or signing up for another service. Plus, because there are no SIM cards to deal with, you don’t risk losing or breaking your eSIM. It lives in your iPhone, unable to be messed with.

The iPhone is no stranger to eSIM. All iPhones since the iPhone XS and XR have had eSIM alongside a traditional SIM option. You could even have both active at the same time, a process known as dual-sim. However, the iPhone 14 lineup marks the first time Apple is ditching physical SIMs altogether. From here on out, we’ll need to rely on embedded SIMs for our cellular needs.

Why you might not be ready for eSIM-only

Many of us in the US, we won’t feel the effects of this change much. You’ll still pick your carrier, activate your eSIM, and move on. However, for others, buying an iPhone 14 could be costly.

First off, physical SIMs are still important for those who purchase cellular services from smaller companies. Some do not support eSIMalthough the list has expanded recently, as you can see from this Apple support page. If you subscribe to a provider that doesn’t offer eSIM support, you won’t be able to use an iPhone 14 — in order to switch to one of Apple’s brand new iPhones, you’ll need to switch your cell service, as well .

Even if you have a subscription through a supported provider, you might run into trouble traveling abroad. A common travel tactic is to purchase a prepaid SIM in the country you’re visiting, as it’s often much cheaper than relying on your US cellular provider. With an iPhone 14, however, you won’t be able to purchase these SIMs. If the country doesn’t yet support eSIM, which many still don’t, you’ll have no choice but to pay the premium to your home network.

That’s not to say eSIMs are inherently anti-tourist. When a country supports eSIM, it can be more convenient than a traditional SIM card for activating a local plan. We’ve even talked about how an eSIM can be a great option when traveling. However, the lack of a backup option when a country doesn’t support eSIM makes it a potential challenge. Perhaps that’s why European iPhone 14 models actually support physical SIMs. Lucky Europeans.

The hope here is that eSIM will now take off in a big way. That’s not simply wishful thinking, as Apple does influence tech trends (again, remember the headphone jack). It’s entirely possible the iPhone 14 kicks off an eSIM revolution, and you’ll find carriers everywhere supporting the feature. The iPhone 14 supports up to eight eSIMs, which provides a great potential for travelers.

Until then, though, you’ll need to weigh the new features of the iPhone 14 lineup with the drawbacks of eSIM-only life. Are you ready for it? If not, the still excellent iPhone 13 might be the way to go.

This article was updated to correct which carriers offer eSIM support.

[PC Mag]

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