If it all goes according to plan, you could soon be able to switch mobile carriers by going to the settings page on your smartphone.
On Thursday The Financial Times (paywall) reported that Apple and Samsung are in “advanced talks” with telecom operators from all over the world to launch new electronic SIM cards. These e-SIM cards would be standardized among both smartphone makers and come embedded in their devices, creating a “common architecture.” Unlike physical SIM cards, e-SIM cards offer more flexibility to users. Instead of being locked into a cellular plan, you will be able to sign up to a new plan or switch plans instantly.
Mobile carriers that are reportedly a part of this new e-SIM initiative include AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Whampoa, Orange, Telefónica, and Vodafone.
“With the majority of operators on board, the plan is to finalise the technical architecture that will be used in the development of an end-to-end remote SIM solution for consumer devices, with delivery anticipated by 2016,” read a statement provided to The Financial Times by GSMA, a global mobile operator industry group. GSMA has previously created e-SIM standards for other types of machines, like traffic lights.
Although the partnership will soon be announced, it will take at least a year before devices with e-SIM cards reach the market. Apple, Samsung, and the telecom operators have yet to finalize the technical aspects of these e-SIM cards, according to The Financial Times.
The GMSA is “optimistic” about having Apple devices be a part of this intiative, however, it’s important to note that a formal agreement with the Cupertino tech company has not yet been signed. Apple’s iPad Air 2 already comes with a custom Apple SIM card that allows you switch between mobile carriers for data service. The Financial Times reported that these new e-SIM cards won’t replace Apple’s built-in SIM card in its iPad Air 2.
The impact on you: As my colleague Caitlin McGarry noted, having “carrier-agnostic” devices could drastically change how we sign up for cell service and data plans. These new e-SIM cards mean no lengthy contracts, no expensive roaming charges, and no longer having your smartphone become a brick overseas. Being able to switch to a local carrier will be a game-changer.