This September, Apple unleashed a bevy of new products and features. The highlight of which is the iPhone X, which includes slick Super Retina display, Facial Recognition, and Wireless Charging. However, the most overlooked product and feature of their announcement on Tuesday is the built-in cellular capabilities of the new Apple Watch. The newest watch will enable users to make and receive calls without being tethered to their iPhone.
The technology that makes this possible is called eSIM, or an Embedded SIM card. SIM (subscriber identification module) cards are traditionally purchased by the mobile phone operator then inserted into your device when signing up for a cellular plan. Every time you want to switch between providers, you need to replace the SIM card to access the new provider's network.
eSIMs, unlike traditional SIM cards are built into your device, and take control away from the mobile operator by allowing you to register your device with the provider of your choice through your device. This will allow Apple Watch users to not only easily activate their cellular plan over the internet, but also, change providers at will.
It remains to be seen whether or not the eSIM technology will make the jump to the next gen of the iPhone, but wireless carriers are definitely taking notice. In the case of the Apple Watch, eSIM will eliminate the need to visit a cellular retail location to activate your device, which is alarming for carriers, as they are missing an opportunity to up-sell customers with the latest gadgets, price packages, and promotions. Beyond retail, eSIM could revolutionize the wireless industry in several ways:
- Consumers could easily switch providers at a moments notice based on the best possible pricing and coverage
- Mobile operators would be subject to constant churn, and could be forced to acquire customers with short term pricing and promotions, giving consumers increased choice and a wider variety of flexible service packages
- Roaming pricing would be antiquated, as users could easily switch to a local regional provider
- MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) like Google's Project Fi could enable phones to dynamically select a provider based on the best connection, and your bill would be based on usage only
This is not the first time that eSIM has been used in a smart watch (Samsung was the first mover), but Apple adopting this technology marks the largest consumer reach of eSIM technology to date, and the "Apple Effect," can have far reaching implications in the future.