SIM cards as we know them are doomed. Today, smartphone manufacturers already have the option of offering devices without SIM card slots, since eSIM technology already exists.
This makes it possible to integrate SIM functionalities into smartphones, and to activate operator services remotely, without having to physically insert a card. Apart from the fact that this solution is convenient for users, it also allows builders to save space. A space that could for example be used to extend autonomy, or add new features.
But if this solution is not yet fully adopted by the industry, it is because it does not yet benefit from widespread support by telephone operators. In addition, for the moment, the eSIM technology does not allow to have the dual-SIM functionality, which allows to have two operators on a single smartphone (unless the manufacturer integrates two eSIMs inside its device).
Android 13: the operating system that will change everything?
Apparently, with Android 13, Google could fix one of the drawbacks of eSIM technology. According to a post published by Epster’s blog, in 2020 Google was granted a patent for a method called multiple enabled profiles (MEP). This would allow smartphones to connect to the services of two operators, using only one eSIM module.
And according to the publication of Epster, the Mountain View company would like to offer this technology on the next version of its operating system. Indeed, elements suggesting this would have been discovered on the AOSP project (the open source version of Android).
But of course, pending an official announcement from Google, this information should be considered with caution. As a reminder, Android 13 is already tested in preview. And before the release of the stable version in the second half of 2022, Google will release beta versions, which are more complete and more stable for testing with a wider audience.
Google has already announced that its next I/O conference is scheduled for May 11 and 12. And it is expected that the main novelties of Android 13 will be unveiled during this conference.
For its part, Qualcomm is working on an even more interesting technology called iSIM
Meanwhile, Qualcomm is developing an even more interesting solution for manufacturers: iSIM. In essence, while the eSIM requires the integration of a special module into the smartphone, Qualcomm’s solution consists of directly integrating the functionalities of this module into the SoC (thus, into the chip that includes the processor and the GPU ).
This would save additional space. But besides that, we would have a more integrated connectivity with the other components of the smartphone, and the possibility of connecting new types of devices to mobile data networks. For their part, the operators would not have to change anything if they already support the eSIM.
A proof of concept demonstration has already been carried out in Europe. The smartphone used was a Galaxy Z Flip 3 equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC. This chip has been modified in order to integrate a security processing unit which executes the functionalities of Thalès’ iSIM. The operator that participated in this test was Vodafone.
“iSIM solutions offer great opportunities for MNOs, free up valuable space in devices for OEMs, and give device users the flexibility to benefit from everything the potential of 5G networks and experiences across a wide range of device categories. Some of the areas that will benefit the most from iSIM technology include smartphones, mobile PCs, VR/XR headsets and industrial IoT.”explained Enrico Salvatori, senior vice president and president, Europe/MEA, Qualcomm Europe.