1. Business
February 2, 2022

What the Apple eSIM-only iPhone launch will (likely) look like

By GlobalData Technology

Rumors of the launch of the Apple eSIM-only iPhone model have been circling from some weeks – confirmed by some so-called ‘leaker reports,’ denied by others. But such an event has always been a question of ‘when,’ not ‘if.’

The rumor mill has it that Apple is planning an eSIM-only iPhone launch for this September. Other rumors have denied that timeline, pitching a 2023 date instead. So far, there has been insufficient consideration as to ‘how’, but there are many hints as to what Apple’s approach might be.

Apple Will Not Ditch the SIM Although Apple has been pushing the envelope on the eSIM for some time, GlobalData does not believe that the company will take the ‘big bang’ approach—getting rid of existing systems and transferring all users to the eSIM option exclusively. We think it’s more likely that Apple will launch an eSIM-only variant of its upcoming new model—retaining the dual eSIM-plus-physical SIM slot model for the mass market and its key carrier channel. To that end, telecom companies will likely be given the choice of whether to stock and sell a new eSIM-only iPhone variation alongside more cellular business-friendly dual eSIM/physical SIM support models.

Further, we believe it likely that the primary focus of this theoretical eSIM-only iPhone will be the Apple channel and that, by launch, they will provide this model with ‘wireless data connectivity inside’ together with one or more connectivity partners—much in the same way it positions 4G and 5G connectivity for the iPad today.

Apple may also consider a VAS digital service shakeup, aligning Apple-sourced connectivity with certain Apple-branded digital services for a more attractive overall proposition.

Telcos need to prepare carefully for such an eventuality, boosting their own internal eSIM support tools and general marketing and support readiness, as well as improving their own eSIM onboarding and anticipating aggressor eSIM-support ‘test pilot’ promotion, such as the ones we’ve seen recently in the US from T-Mobile and Verizon’s Visible.