San Francisco Until now, SIM cards were one of the essential components of mobile phones. The world’s most valuable technology group Apple is now taking a radical step to change this: for the first time, the company is completely omitting the slot for physical SIM cards in the latest iPhone devices.
In the USA, the latest generation iPhone 14 devices would only support electronic SIM cards, so-called eSIM, announced the responsible Apple product manager Kaiann Drance on Wednesday at the Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California.
Technically, it has been possible to use smartphones without physical SIM cards since 2016. To do this, both the network operator and the terminal must support eSIM. Samsung introduced the first smartphone with this feature in 2016.
Apple also supported the eSIM function with the Generation 13 iPhones, for example. However, the terminals also retained the possibility of using physical SIM cards at the same time.
Apple is changing that. “For the first time, all models sold in the US will no longer have a slot for SIM cards,” Drance announced. “As a result, it is no longer necessary to deal with physical SIM cards,” said the product manager. The iPhones could store multiple eSIM and thus multiple phone numbers in parallel, Drance said.
In Germany, all three network operators support eSIM technology. Both Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone as well as Telefónica offer solutions. This eliminates the sending of physical cards for new contracts. However, users repeatedly complain that switching an eSIM to another device is more difficult. Not all modern smartphones support eSIM.
And often a process is necessary for the network operators to send a digital eSIM for another device. Drance initially left open how Apple wants to solve these problems. Analyst Daniel Ives from asset manager Wedbush welcomed the focus on eSIM at Apple and highlighted that the approach could help protect the devices from misuse.
These are other new releases of the iPhone 14 in the overview
Francisco Jeronimo from market researcher IDC is convinced that Apple will abolish the slot for SIM cards in other countries in the future. “Next year, Apple will certainly extend the move to other markets,” Jeronimo told Handelsblatt. Then the obligation to eSIM in new iPhones could also be pending in Germany.
“By giving up the slot, Apple wants to create space in the devices – to build thinner iPhones or use larger batteries,” Jeronimo said. Network operators could benefit from no longer having to manage physical cards and make them available to customers.
In addition to a stronger performance, a brighter display and a longer battery life, Apple introduced a new communication technology for the first time with the iPhone 14. The devices can also send messages via satellite without mobile radio reception. With a direct orientation to the sky, emergency messages could also be sent to rescuers in radio holes, Apple announced.
However, the connection remains a technical challenge, as the group emphasized at the presentation on Wednesday. For example, the iPhone must be pointed directly at the satellite, and the transmission can take a few seconds or several minutes. Since the satellites are not visible to the naked eye, users get help to align the devices through a graphic on the screen.
The feature will initially only be available in the US and Canada and will be free for the first two years for buyers of an iPhone 14. Apple did not specify a price for future use.
Mobile communications via satellite are currently experiencing several leaps in innovation. The US subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile, wants to enable mobile Internet via smartphone from next year thanks to a cooperation with Starlink. Unlike Apple, the technology should be usable on older smartphones. To achieve this, T-Mobile relies on a network of satellites in low-Earth orbit. The company did not specify which satellites Apple uses.
Prices increased significantly
The more expensive Pro models of the iPhone 14 get, among other things, a reduced cutout on the display for the selfie camera and face recognition. The screen can also stay on all the time.
Apple has significantly raised prices for its devices. The prices for the iPhone 14 Pro start at 1299 euros instead of the previous 1149 euros. With the larger Pro Max, you now have to pay at least 1449 euros instead of 1249 euros before. The basic model of the iPhone 14 costs 999 euros compared to 899 euros for the iPhone 13.
True, the iPhone contributes more than half to the sales of the Apple concern. However, the most important changes are taking place in other devices in Apple’s product range, Jeronimo was convinced. “The iPhone 13 is already good. It’s not easy to get customers to switch to the iPhone 14,” said Jeronimo.
To this end, Apple is focusing more on selling other Apple products to iPhone users, in particular smartwatches and headphones.
Under the name Apple Watch Ultra, Apple presented a new smartwatch, which, among other things, receives the full-fledged functions of a dive computer. At the same time, the device is also designed for long battery life of up to 60 hours and use in extreme betting conditions. All versions of the watch have a cellular connection built in. Apple also charges a high price for this: 999 euros.
The device is aimed at athletes, Jeronimo said. “Apple is challenging the specialist Garmin in particular,” said the IDC market researcher. According to calculations by IDC, Apple claimed about 51 percent of the global smartwatch market in the first half of this year. Garmin, on the other hand, came to about seven percent.
However, there are other growth opportunities for Apple. Only about one in five iPhone users also own a smartwatch, Jeronimo said. Apple is now pushing the business to convince existing Apple customers of additional devices. For the new entry-level device in the smartwatch sector, the Apple Watch SE, the company charges 299 euros.