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X marks the slot as Apple moves to eSIM

Apple iPhone XS

Every new Apple iPhone is an X thanks to the launch of the XR, XS and XS Max, with the pricier ones being the first iPhones to support eSIMs.

The latest launches mark the upgrade-and-tweak phase of the iPhone cycle, having unveiled the more fundamentally redesigned X last year. So we have the flagship XS, the over-sized XS Max and the cheaper XR (starting at $999, $1,099 and $749 respectively, with exactly the same numbers in pounds despite there being 1.3 dollars to the pound).

Apple’s marketing is focusing on the new A12 Bionic chip, which is apparently the first one made using the 7nm manufacturing process to ship (Huawei also has a 7nm one in the pipeline). There are the expected upgrades to the screen, camera and other key components, but perhaps the most intriguing to the telecoms industry is the imminent support for eSIM, which removes the need to swap out a physical SIM when you want to switch providers, thus significantly facilitating the process.

“[The] iPhone XS is packed with next-generation technologies and is a huge step forward for the future of the smartphone,” said Apple marketing head Phil Schiller. “Everything is state of the art including the industry-first 7-nanometer A12 Bionic chip with 8-core Neural Engine, faster Face ID and an advanced dual camera system that shoots Portrait mode photos with Smart HDR and dynamic depth of field.”

Mikaël Schachne, VP Mobility Solutions at BICS, reckons operators shouldn’t panic about the increased churn threat posed by eSIM technology. “Many operators will greet Apple’s introduction of eSIMs with apprehension, yet the move should be grasped as an opportunity, rather than feared as a threat,” he said. “This goes for telcos, device manufacturers, and other parties which stand to benefit from a globally connected IoT.

“For consumers, eSIMs present clear advantages thanks to the increased flexibility and seamless device roaming they support, meaning operators can curry favour amongst customers by supporting Apple’s decision.

“In addition, eSIMs provide operators with an opportunity to add multiple devices to subscriber contracts, on a global scale, creating valuable new revenue streams. Manufacturers and logistics firms also stand to benefit, as connected devices with embedded eSIMS can be produced in one region, and then easily shipped and tracked across in the world, giving them access to wider global markets.

“However, sourcing SIM profiles form multiple operators and managing the handover from one to the other presents a challenge. For eSIM strategies – including Apple’s – to be a success, a global eSIM profile must be used. Only then can eSIM’s benefits be full realised.”

Only the more expensive phones get all the latest tech, including the eSIM support that will come with an update to iOS 12 later this year. Apparently it won’t be supported in China for some reason. Here’s a quick spec comparison:

XS – 5.8-inch OLED, 448ppi screen; A12 chip, double 12MP camera, up to 512GB storage

XS Max – 6.5-inch OLED, 448ppi screen; A12 chip, double 12MP camera, up to 512GB storage

XR – 6.1-inch LCD, 326ppi screen; A12 chip, single 12MP camera, up to 256GB storage

Isn’t it amazing that you can now get half a terabyte of storage in a phone? It’ll cost you though, with the 512GB Max coming in at $/£1,449. The phones will start shipping on 21 September. At the same time Apple also refreshed its Apple Watch range and tweaked its HomePod smart speaker, but nobody seems to care.


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