No, an LTE-equipped Apple Watch will not come with a physical SIM card

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited March 28
Amidst a lull in Apple hardware releases, an industry analyst on Monday issued a research note claiming Apple's next-generation Apple Watch will use a physical SIM card for standalone LTE connectivity. We explain why that is an unlikely scenario.




Citing checks with Apple's supply chain, Susquehanna Financial Group semiconductor analyst Christopher Rolland said he believes an Apple Watch version slated for release later this year will come with a SIM card, reports Barron's. With a SIM card on board, this future Apple Watch is likely to support the LTE communications standard.

"We understand a model of the next Apple watch will include a SIM card, and therefore is likely to support LTE," Rolland writes. "We understand some issues remain, including battery life and form factor size, but significant progress has been made."

While the presence of a SIM card might presage cellular connectivity on wearables from other manufacturers, Apple is unlikely to turn to such technology for its Watch product.

More likely for a device as small, and with the power limitations, of Apple Watch, Apple will almost certainly use its own SIM technology, called Apple SIM. Available since 2014 in a format identical to chips handed out by cellular providers, Apple SIM's latest variant debuted last year and is the most likely candidate for an LTE Watch.

In fact, the newest Apple SIM iteration is not a card at all.




Already in circulation for a year, the embedded Apple SIM was introduced with Wi-Fi + Cellular models of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro last March. Unlike traditional SIM cards, embedded variations are integrated directly onto a host device's logic board, streamlining subscriber-provider linking while at the same time saving on valuable internal space.

Apple has been working on the technology for years. In 2010, the company was rumored to be developing an embedded SIM hardware with Gemalto, the world's largest SIM card manufacturer, for use in future iPhones. Five years later, reports claimed Apple had teamed up with Samsung to push forward an "e-SIM" standard.

The basic premise of Apple SIM is simple. With physical card versions, customers can use a single chip and pick a data service that fits their needs. No contracts, no card swapping, no hassle.

Telcos looking to lock in subscribers blanched at the thought of ceding control to a hardware manufacturer, but Apple slowly won over big names in the industry, at least for iPad. In the U.S., Apple SIM is supported by AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, while international support includes the likes of EE in the UK, SoftBank and AU in Japan, and Three in Hong Kong.

Pay-as-you-go provider GigSky hopped on board in 2015 with its large list of supported countries. In all, Apple SIM coverage spans more than 140 countries and regions around the world.

Considering Apple Watch is an always-on, always-with-you device, an embedded SIM that allows users to select their carrier and plan would be the obvious choice over a removable SIM card. The already cumbersome process of swapping out SIM cards on an iPhone or iPad would be even more inconvenient with a wrist-worn wearable, especially when traveling.Considering Apple Watch is an always-on, always-with-you device, an embedded SIM that allows users to select their carrier and plan would be the obvious choice over a removable SIM card.

In addition to added choice, an embedded SIM cuts down drastically on overall device weight, an important consideration for a wearable weighing in at about 30 grams. Without a physical card, a cellular-capable Watch would have no need for a requisite reader, tray and other associated components. Further, a SIM card slot is a point of water ingress, meaning Apple would have to design a proper seal, taking up even more internal headroom.

As for the rest of the research note, most of what Rolland says makes sense. Reiterating rumors from months ago, he claims the device will get its own modem, saying Apple is developing ways to integrate wireless features without sapping battery life.

"Apple may be employing VOIP and data across a CAT-M1 connection for superior battery life," he writes. "Apple will tout interoperability with the companys AirPods (now on back order till May) to make and receive phone calls (perhaps a small win for Maxim with amps in each ear bud)."

Deep AirPods integration would be a boon for a cellular-connected Apple Watch. Apple pushes wearers to use alternative controls when interacting with the small-screened device, from the physical Digital Crown to Siri. Though Watch has always boasted a touch screen, the small form factor makes for a fussy UI experience and user fingers often obscure onscreen assets.

In any case, an LTE Apple Watch is almost undoubtedly in the works. Aside from a wider industry push toward cellular-capable wearables, consumers are clamoring for an enhanced feature set -- standalone LTE -- after Apple "only" tacked on internal improvements like GPS functionality to the Series 2.

While a concrete launch timeline has yet to surface, noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo last year said he anticipates a LTE support to land some time in 2017.
«13

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 50
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 455member
    Given L shaped battery rumours the next iPhone won't have a Physical SIM.
    Why would the watch ever have one?
    Metriacanthosaurusrepressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 50
    How about a barometer to enable steps/altitude training?  Been on my Casio 20 years!
    tmaybrian greencyberzombierepressthis
  • Reply 3 of 50
    Just hoping the next Apple Watch will be available as a (Product)Red version.
    repressthis
  • Reply 4 of 50
    SoliSoli Posts: 2,823member
    mattinoz said:
    Given L shaped battery rumours the next iPhone won't have a Physical SIM.
    Why would the watch ever have one?
    I don't follow. What does an L-shaped battery have to do with preventing a physical SIM from existing. There still has to be a logic board, and the notion of an L-shaped design makes me assume the logic board would be in the area not used by the battery and still have edge access.

    Personally, I can't wait until we finally move to only have virtual SIMs, but that day doesn't look to be here because of the carrier's reluctance. At least with the Apple Watch they may have a way of gaining some traction with it.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 50
    SoliSoli Posts: 2,823member
    How about a barometer to enable steps/altitude training?  Been on my Casio 20 years!
    I have to assume that's been on Apple's radar from the start, but keep in mind that Apple has decided not to add sensors that they don't meet a certain standard. So how accurate would the barometer be in an Apple Watch? Would it still be accurate after being used for swimming or do they need to also have a way or removing water from that sensor, like the speaker? What would they have to do to add it (i.e.: make the device larger, or remove or reduce another component)?
    brucemcMacsplosionStrangeDaysrepressthislolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 50
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 455member
    Soli said:
    mattinoz said:
    Given L shaped battery rumours the next iPhone won't have a Physical SIM.
    Why would the watch ever have one?
    I don't follow. What does an L-shaped battery have to do with preventing a physical SIM from existing. There still has to be a logic board, and the notion of an L-shaped design makes me assume the logic board would be in the area not used by the battery and still have edge access.

    Personally, I can't wait until we finally move to only have virtual SIMs, but that day doesn't look to be here because of the carrier's reluctance. At least with the Apple Watch they may have a way of gaining some traction with it.
    The logic board is already tightly packed. Devices gets thinner,camera and speakers want more space also push logic board tighter so where does the volume for extra battery come from?
    sure the big chips might get a tad smaller, they might do like the watch and get everything closer with a package on board. Still is that really going to get you to an l shaped battery without getting rid of the sim carrier. Which is the next biggest waste of volume after the headphone socket which already gone!
    anton zuykovrepressthis
  • Reply 7 of 50
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 3,383member
    This is just another example of some analysis being told about some prototype Apple is using too do testing and development work and extrapolating it out to be a product.
    lkrupprepressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 50
    SoliSoli Posts: 2,823member
    mattinoz said:
    Soli said:
    mattinoz said:
    Given L shaped battery rumours the next iPhone won't have a Physical SIM.
    Why would the watch ever have one?
    I don't follow. What does an L-shaped battery have to do with preventing a physical SIM from existing. There still has to be a logic board, and the notion of an L-shaped design makes me assume the logic board would be in the area not used by the battery and still have edge access.

    Personally, I can't wait until we finally move to only have virtual SIMs, but that day doesn't look to be here because of the carrier's reluctance. At least with the Apple Watch they may have a way of gaining some traction with it.
    The logic board is already tightly packed. Devices gets thinner,camera and speakers want more space also push logic board tighter so where does the volume for extra battery come from?
    sure the big chips might get a tad smaller, they might do like the watch and get everything closer with a package on board. Still is that really going to get you to an l shaped battery without getting rid of the sim carrier. Which is the next biggest waste of volume after the headphone socket which already gone!
    The shape of the battery has no bearing on the whether an SIM card slot can be placed on a logic board. There are many ways to increase the density of energy in the logic board, an "L-shape battery doesn't even mean the logic board has to reduce in length if other components or shrunk or if the battery is slim enough to be wafered around other components, even if the logic board is reduced in length to allow an L-shape it doesn't mean that it didn't get thicker, that other logic board components have shrunk, that they didn't figure out how to stack more components more densely, or create a double-stacked wafer. There's simply zero correlation between an L-shaped battery and making it impossible to also include a physical SIM card. In fact, the rumor of the OLED display, which will allow for the removal of a separate backlight, is the reasoning behind the L-shaped battery because Apple can effectively halve the logic board's footprint by double stacking it in the rumored iPhone 8.

    And no disagreement that the physical SIM card and its housing are a huge waste of space that could covered by a chip the size of a pinhead that could hold dozens of SIM numbers for various countries and carriers that the user could dynamically switch between, as needed, without playing "musical SIM cards" as your train goes from one European country to the next, but this has been the case for the nearly the entire history of the cellphone—remember when they were literally the size of credit cards?—but the carries have been very, very slow to adopt what is clearly the future of the cellular connected device. Even with the virtual SIM options in iPads, there's still a physical SIM card slot because so few carriers are on-board.
    edited March 28 GeorgeBMacmattinozwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 50
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 558member
    Last October I posted "It's 2016, why are we still using physical SIM cards?" and got downvoted but nobody posed a response. I still think it is stupid to have physical cards for something that can be done purely in software (and elegantly).

    http://forums.appleinsider.com/discussion/196143/apple-starts-sales-of-sim-free-iphone-7-7-plus-handsets-in-us/p1 (reply #13)
    GeorgeBMacchiarepressthismattinozwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 50
    SoliSoli Posts: 2,823member
    linkman said:
    Last October I posted "It's 2016, why are we still using physical SIM cards?" and got downvoted but nobody posed a response. I still think it is stupid to have physical cards for something that can be done purely in software (and elegantly).

    http://forums.appleinsider.com/discussion/196143/apple-starts-sales-of-sim-free-iphone-7-7-plus-handsets-in-us/p1 (reply #13)
    I didn't post on that article, but I've been in favor for the vSIM for many years. Long before Apple even had a solution in place.

    The most common anti-vSIM argument I received is that it would make it impossible for people to input new prepaid SIMs into the device—which is foolish. Nothing could be easier. You'd buy a new SIM like you would a gift card. You then type in the specific code or use the camera to scan it in. You then you number (and then any data allotments that are associated with it).

    I already mentioned you could switch between SIMs without having to do a manual switching for those that travel between countries in Europe frequently (another common reason it would be impossible), but it could be made intelligent enough that when you cross over from say Vodafone in the UK to Orange in France via the Chunnel, it could automatically switch to the new SIM (or at least ask you if you want to switch) since the tower will have an identification, just like how it knows you're roaming. All the components are there, they just need the carriers to play ball.

    PS: It's staggering how many people still think their address book contacts are still stored on the SIM.
    edited March 28 repressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 50
    well first of all, there is no real legitimate reason to include LTE in a watch. all you need is 3G. AT&T says for a watch you do not need more then 50 mb a month! second of all, if they go apple sim, then that means its just going to be like the iPad. and Verizon will want none of that. and no one on verizon will be able to use it. so you will need to have a regular sim card slot. you are free to express your own opinions on your insider website , but lets deal with the facts. and lets be realistic.
    GeorgeBMacMetriacanthosaurus
  • Reply 12 of 50
    Soli said:
    mattinoz said:
    Soli said:
    mattinoz said:
    Given L shaped battery rumours the next iPhone won't have a Physical SIM.
    Why would the watch ever have one?
    I don't follow. What does an L-shaped battery have to do with preventing a physical SIM from existing. There still has to be a logic board, and the notion of an L-shaped design makes me assume the logic board would be in the area not used by the battery and still have edge access.

    Personally, I can't wait until we finally move to only have virtual SIMs, but that day doesn't look to be here because of the carrier's reluctance. At least with the Apple Watch they may have a way of gaining some traction with it.
    The logic board is already tightly packed. Devices gets thinner,camera and speakers want more space also push logic board tighter so where does the volume for extra battery come from?
    sure the big chips might get a tad smaller, they might do like the watch and get everything closer with a package on board. Still is that really going to get you to an l shaped battery without getting rid of the sim carrier. Which is the next biggest waste of volume after the headphone socket which already gone!
    The shape of the battery has no bearing on the whether an SIM card slot can be placed on a logic board. There are many ways to increase the density of energy in the logic board, an "L-shape battery doesn't even mean the logic board has to reduce in length if other components or shrunk or if the battery is slim enough to be wafered around other components, even if the logic board is reduced in length to allow an L-shape it doesn't mean that it didn't get thicker, that other logic board components have shrunk, that they didn't figure out how to stack more components more densely, or create a double-stacked wafer. There's simply zero correlation between an L-shaped battery and making it impossible to also include a physical SIM card. In fact, the rumor of the OLED display, which will allow for the removal of a separate backlight, is the reasoning behind the L-shaped battery because Apple can effectively halve the logic board's footprint by double stacking it in the rumored iPhone 8.

    And no disagreement that the physical SIM card and its housing are a huge waste of space that could covered by a chip the size of a pinhead that could hold dozens of SIM numbers for various countries and carriers that the user could dynamically switch between, as needed, without playing "musical SIM cards" as your train goes from one European country to the next, but this has been the case for the nearly the entire history of the cellphone—remember when they were literally the size of credit cards?—but the carries have been very, very slow to adopt what is clearly the future of the cellular connected device. Even with the virtual SIM options in iPads, there's still a physical SIM card slot because so few carriers are on-board.
    The carriers (both wired and wireless) are terrified of becoming another AT&T -- which was, in its heyday, a utility charged with moving voice data across its network.   While it was given a monopoly, it was also tightly constrained on what it could get away with.  The demand on it was:  near perfect quality at the lowest price possible.   Today's carriers want no part in such a scheme.  But, if/when the hardware manufacturers start calling the shots, the carriers become utilities just carrying the data...
    mattinoz
  • Reply 13 of 50
    Soli said:
    mattinoz said:
    Given L shaped battery rumours the next iPhone won't have a Physical SIM.
    Why would the watch ever have one?
    I don't follow. What does an L-shaped battery have to do with preventing a physical SIM from existing. There still has to be a logic board, and the notion of an L-shaped design makes me assume the logic board would be in the area not used by the battery and still have edge access.

    Personally, I can't wait until we finally move to only have virtual SIMs, but that day doesn't look to be here because of the carrier's reluctance. At least with the Apple Watch they may have a way of gaining some traction with it.
    Some people also need to switch between devices, so a physical sim card is more useful than a virtual one.
  • Reply 14 of 50
    MacProMacPro Posts: 16,189member
    On top of all the technical points raised above, there is also the huge sales advantage of Apple requiring the pairing of an Watch with an iPhone.  It's called a twofer I believe.
  • Reply 15 of 50
    noelosnoelos Posts: 80member
    mattinoz said:
    Given L shaped battery rumours the next iPhone won't have a Physical SIM.
    Why would the watch ever have one?
    I have no idea if that is true - but this year could be an opportunity to finally get some traction on a virtual-SIM iPhone. This was supposed to be in iPhone 1 (Steve Jobs really wanted not to have a physical SIM).

    This year Apple will probably be introducing an iPhone 7s and 7s Plus as well as a brand new premium model. This model looks like it will be a new design; finally getting rid of the SIM tray would free up room for battery, slimming down or something else Apple would like. Manufacturing complexities and higher price probably means it will sell in smaller quantities than the 7s and 7s Plus.

    So, imagine that they exclusively partner with carriers who are willing to play ball and to sell this premium iPhone. The carriers will realise the people buying this model will be the most lucrative segment of the market and supporting this device would drive people to their network. Which carrier would "only" want to carry the brand new 7s and 7s Plus? Or how long would they hold out when they see customers switching to the carrier that supports iPhone Premium. Even if this meant Apple didn't have a launch carrier partner in every country, it would still be okay for them (remember, they probably can't make enough of the iPhone Premium to meet world demand anyhow) as they still have a brand new model 7s/Plus to offer that takes traditional SIM cards.

    Leave that to run for a year and signal that in a couple of years NO iPhone will have a physical SIM and I think you'd see carriers around the world capitulate. I think that would be pretty great and a step along the road to Apple becoming a worldwide MVNO.

    What, I can dream, can't I?
    repressthis
  • Reply 16 of 50
    Nothing new e-sim Technology has been up and running in the States and Europe .
    Consider this Apple and Samsung first talked about it several years back.
    Samsung actually made it happen with the Gear S2 and now the Gear S3 Frontier. 

    Personally I use the Gear S2 Classic e-sim 4G/Lite .
    Perfect runs remotely independently of my Smartphone. 
    Yep I can leave my Smartphone at home go for a run Smartwatch only ...yet still receive calls /messages.etc
    chiarepressthis
  • Reply 17 of 50
    How about "deep W1 integration"?  Within the limits of the hardware, Apple should ensure BeatsX have the same feature set as the AirPods. 
  • Reply 18 of 50
    brucemcbrucemc Posts: 1,006member
    well first of all, there is no real legitimate reason to include LTE in a watch. all you need is 3G. AT&T says for a watch you do not need more then 50 mb a month! second of all, if they go apple sim, then that means its just going to be like the iPad. and Verizon will want none of that. and no one on verizon will be able to use it. so you will need to have a regular sim card slot. you are free to express your own opinions on your insider website , but lets deal with the facts. and lets be realistic.
    LTE utilizes a global standard (although across different bands in different countries), where as 3G was split between UMTS and CDMA (your Verizon example).  LTE is also more power efficient.  Given the LTE deployment state, there is no need for Apple to support the older 3G technologies on a device category like Apple Watch.

    No compelling reason for a cellular Apple Watch to support voice - data only would support 90+% of all use cases (supporting voice via VoLTE, FaceTime, Skype, etc...).
    chiaStrangeDayspatchythepirate
  • Reply 19 of 50
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 1,224member
    I really don't get the whole Cell Service garbage on a watch, why? So you want to pay another $120 or so a year just for your watch so you can do things on a TINY screen without your phone? No thanks! Wifi is more then good enough. Well that and Blue Tooth. I've left my phone in my office at work and get a call and forget I didn't crap my phone and my Apple Watch is ringing anyway and I can answer and chat and if it's going to be long to call me back in 5 minutes so I can get to my phone. I'm still getting my important Texts, and so on. Same when I'm home and place my phone someplace. I'm still getting data from the phone in other places at my house. Why do I need cell? So I can go jog and not carry my phone? Is that it?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 50
    jbdragon said:
    I really don't get the whole Cell Service garbage on a watch, why? So you want to pay another $120 or so a year just for your watch so you can do things on a TINY screen without your phone? No thanks! Wifi is more then good enough. Well that and Blue Tooth. I've left my phone in my office at work and get a call and forget I didn't crap my phone and my Apple Watch is ringing anyway and I can answer and chat and if it's going to be long to call me back in 5 minutes so I can get to my phone. I'm still getting my important Texts, and so on. Same when I'm home and place my phone someplace. I'm still getting data from the phone in other places at my house. Why do I need cell? So I can go jog and not carry my phone? Is that it?
    While I agree with you ENTIRELY about the non-existent need for cellular uselessly sucking battery on Apple Watch...

    ...the option most people have glossed over is: What if it has a Free cellular connection? It doesn't even need to be LTE. It just needs to function well enough to retrieve/send small messages, and maybe some tracking data.

    Seems to me like Apple wouldn't introduce a headache into Apple Watch. They would build in a simple 3G or 4G connection, that runs on some pre-defined carrier per region, and thats the end of it. Probably AT&T GSM in the US, with roaming abroad. Done. No monthly cost, since at most you may use 50 MB per month, if you're really trying to.
    watto_cobra
Sign In or Register to comment.