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eSIM: Not just a premium option

eSIM: Not just a premium option

The long-awaited iPhone SE is here, marking Apple’s re-entry to the budget-smartphone market. And—you guessed it—it’s eSIM enabled!

A brand-new iPhone, for half the price

Retailing at $399, the ‘budget’ iPhone SE comes in at under half the price of Apple’s premium iPhones. The price tag’s also loosely comparable with other manufacturers’ cut-price and cut-spec smartphones, such as the Google Pixel 3a, the Honor View 20 and the Samsung Galaxy A70.

Apple states that it has “put the brains of the iPhone 11 Pro in the body of an iPhone SE”, using A13 Bionic, the fastest chip ever to be used in a smartphone. Keen not to fall behind its more expensive predecessors, the iPhone SE comes equipped with front-facing portrait mode, high-definition video, Apple Pay, water resistance (up to one metre for 30 minutes) and “binge-worthy battery life”.  

For better or for worse, it also sees the return on the Home button, with fingerprint recognition. For those accustomed to facial recognition, this might take some getting used to—but, for anyone who’s ever accidentally unlocked their phone with their face, it might come as a welcome throwback.

eSIM—the future of SIM technology

The iPhone SE is the first cut-price smartphone from any of the major manufacturers to come eSIM enabled. As well as its standard plastic-SIM-card slot, it has a tiny additional SIM built into its circuitry. This ‘embedded SIM’ future-proofs the device, and opens the door to benefits for users, manufacturers—and network operators.

As eSIM enables the switching of network providers, end-users aren’t tied to a single operator, so they can change if other networks have better coverage or cheaper data plans. This means operators will have to adapt when they’re no longer able to tie customers to their network.

But there’ll be plenty for operators to promote if they can ensure new-device support around product launches. The scope for clear connectivity promotions and user-friendly onboarding will also provide additional potential for brand building and developing a competitive advantage.

Other eSIM-enabled mobiles

The iPhone SE joins the iPhone X and 11 ranges in Apple’s suite of eSIM-enabled handsets.

Google has featured an embedded SIM in its Pixel devices since the 3 and 3XL (and even the 2 and 2 XL, though usage was locked to Google’s ‘Project Fi’ network).

Samsung’s Galaxy Fold and the recently launched Galaxy S20 both have an eSIM as well as a physical SIM slot.

And, way back when, American company Nuu released the eSIM-enabled X5 for a truly budget price of £200!

Motorola is the only manufacturer to date to have gone ‘full eSIM’ with the 2019 iteration of its classic razr flip phone.

The future for eSIM

eSIM is already widely used across the Internet of Things (IoT)—providing businesses with remote management of device-to-device data communications.

But the iPhone SE’s launch is the latest and greatest sign that eSIM is becoming standard fare for newly launched smartphones, too.

Michael MoorfieldTruphone’s Director of Product Michael Moorfield recently predicted that 7 billion eSIMs would be active by 2024.

And with eSIM compatibility in a handset available for under £400, it seems that cost isn’t a prohibitive factor for other manufacturers following suit. eSIM is still a relatively new technology to end-users, but for manufacturers, it seems its inclusion in new-mobile development has moved from a ‘why?’ to a ‘why not?’

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