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AT&T boss hints at work on Apple's new SIM card format

post #1 of 40
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AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega said in an interview this week that a smaller SIM card is a "no-brainer" and his company is looking into it, but declined to make the direct connection to Apple that the France Telecom CEO made last week.

When asked by All Things D's Ina Fried whether AT&T is interested in the smaller SIM card that Apple and France Telecom have reportedly agreed upon, de la Vega acknowledged that the carrier is "working with the industry" to look at the possibility of smaller SIM cards. "I think that probably will happen," he said.

In late May, France Telecom CEO Stephane Richard said in an interview that Apple and wireless carriers had reached a compromise to use a smaller SIM card format instead of an embedded SIM chip that Apple had expressed interest in. According to Richard, the next iPhone will be "smaller and thinner," partially due to a reduction in the SIM card footprint.

According to another executive at Orange, a subsidiary of France Telecom, Apple in May submitted a new requirement for a smaller SIM form factor to a European standards institute. The iPhone 4 and iPad currently utilize a micro-SIM solution.

Like Richard, de la Vega expressed a preference for a smaller SIM card over an embedded SIM. "We think that making the card smaller and shrinking the size is a no-brainer and we should be able to make that happen," he said, in response to a question about the possibility of an e-SIM.

During the interview, de la Vega expressed disappointment at Windows Phone sales. We actually like [Windows Phone 7] very, very much, he said. It hasnt sold as well as Microsoft or us would want it to.

Despite the lackluster sales, the AT&T chief remained optimistic about Microsoft's prospects. "I think for the first thing out of the chute it is pretty good, he said. I think they just need to make it better Giving customers more application choices, having a bigger app store with more functionality on the phoneI think that is all that it needs.

For de la Vega, the iPhone and Google's Android have been "positive surprises," while sales of Research in Motion's devices have dropped off. "Android and Apple are really the hot products right now," he added, noting that customers have been "choosing other products rather than traditional BlackBerries."

The executive also challenged tablet makers to continue to raise standards in order to compete with Apple's iPad. According to de la Vega, all the manufacturers who make smartphones are also offering AT&T tablets. "The question is which ones of those are good enough to stand up to the iPad. Thats a very high bar," he said.

Speaking at the D9 conference earlier this week, de la Vega confirmed that AT&T is working on a shared data plan that would allow users to pool minutes and data plans between devices.
post #2 of 40
Maybe I'm missing something, but the SIM card is already pretty tiny. Even if you cut its size in half, it's not going to make THAT much difference.
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post #3 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Maybe I'm missing something, but the SIM card is already pretty tiny. Even if you cut its size in half, it's not going to make THAT much difference.

Exactly I feel like I'm on crazy pills.
What is this really about?
post #4 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Maybe I'm missing something, but the SIM card is already pretty tiny. Even if you cut its size in half, it's not going to make THAT much difference.

The surrounding hardware (card reader) probably takes up more space on the inside when all is said and done. It's also possible that making it smaller allows a better internal arrangement of components.

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post #5 of 40
This is what passes off for 'insight' from the CEO of a major company!?

Anyone learn anything new?
post #6 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Maybe I'm missing something, but the SIM card is already pretty tiny. Even if you cut its size in half, it's not going to make THAT much difference.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wookie01 View Post

Exactly I feel like I'm on crazy pills.
What is this really about?

For the amount of data they store they are quite large, and you also have to consider the components it connects to inside the device. Have you see inside an iPhone?

Why does the plastic have to be that thick? Why so much extra plastic around the metallic points? Why are the 6 pins so spaced out?
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post #7 of 40
I know some people in some countries are going to hate this. In Thailand, for example, they just introduced the micro-SIM very recently due to the launch of iPhone 4. Now you throw in yet another SIM card standard... let's call it the pico-SIM, I have to imagine some foreign carriers are about to lose their minds already. LOL.
post #8 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

For the amount of data they store they are quite large, and you also have to consider the components it connects to inside the device. Have you see inside an iPhone?

Why does the plastic have to be that thick? Why so much extra plastic around the metallic points? Why are the 6 pins so spaced out?

Exactly, the SIM card stores almost no information compared to the memory components in a mobile device. A flash chip on on an iPod Touch stores 64GB! The SIM is a hangover from the old days that the cellphone industry should shake off. But of course, an electronic SIM would mean a single phone could be dynamically made to shift carriers, and the carriers wouldn't like that would they? In my opinion it shouldn't even exist.

Next best thing? Tiny SIM.
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post #9 of 40
It just occurred to me. We've heard rumors of a smaller iPhone coming, with others contradicting it. We're also hearing about an iPhone with a slightly larger screen.

What if it's both. What if the pictures of the iPhone with the 'larger' screen are just pictures of a 'smaller' iphone with the same size screen? I think I'd actually dig it more, the iPhone feels a bit big sometimes, even the 4.
post #10 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by KingKuei View Post

I know some people in some countries are going to hate this. In Thailand, for example, they just introduced the micro-SIM very recently due to the launch of iPhone 4. Now you throw in yet another SIM card standard... let's call it the pico-SIM, I have to imagine some foreign carriers are about to lose their minds already. LOL.

Welcome to Apple's world!

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post #11 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by KingKuei View Post

I know some people in some countries are going to hate this. In Thailand, for example, they just introduced the micro-SIM very recently due to the launch of iPhone 4. Now you throw in yet another SIM card standard... let's call it the pico-SIM, I have to imagine some foreign carriers are about to lose their minds already. LOL.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Welcome to Apple's world!

Yup if Apple isn't making carriers, big companies, consumers and retailers pull their hair out (due to new SIM formats, cables, adapters, lack of stock, etc.) then something's not right at Apple!
post #12 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

This is what passes off for 'insight' from the CEO of a major company!?

Anyone learn anything new?

I've learnt that small and thin means fat an ugly to Apple, no matter how small and thin things get.

I'm forgiving, I'd say for the next few years let the world standardise on MicroSIM.

But if they do somehow come up with a new SIM card format, let it be something which doesn't require a SIM at all! There's no point making anything physical that is smaller than a MicroSIM, you still need a SIM tray and a hole to push it out and plastic and metallic contacts.

If any of the carriers had some real guts they'd go for a totally SIM-free solution. But then everything sounds great when you're an armchair CEO.
post #13 of 40
Is this the same AT&T CEO who thought people can buy an unlocked iPhone from AT&T?! He probably don't know that the iPhone uses MicroSim card now.

Anyway, maybe in the next few years all cellphones will have NFC chip and there will be no need for a SIM. You can setup and transfer your number from device to device using it in combination with a password. Maybe I should patent this!
post #14 of 40
Too many SIM formats in too short a time frame.

Users need to be able to mix and match to suit their needs.

Many of the most important software concepts were invented in the 70s and forgotten in the 80s.

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post #15 of 40
The telcos want ANY sim card keeps control in their hands
Apple should use imbedded sim their pTent describes
Giving consumer choices
We could jump from
Carrier to carrier based on which costs less
Apple should become MVNO
I'd love that pay through iTunes
Telcos are just data pipes
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post #16 of 40
It really astounds me that the SIM area is roughly the same size as the A4 chip!

However what I really want is the iPhone to officially and happily hold 2 SIMs at the same time - it wouldn't bother me how they do it.

Currently I have a 3GS from work and a 4 for myself - each on different carriers. It would be great to just have a single handset that could deal with both numbers at the same time. Work policies prevent me from using some the unofficial adaptors/add-ons/methods that are available to achieve this.

It strikes me that it is ridiculous for carriers to put barriers in place to restrict hardware development. Apple should just go SIM-less and be done with it. The carriers that want the customers would get on the bandwagon pretty quickly if they didn't want to loose their market share.
post #17 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by WilliamWallace View Post

However what I really want is the iPhone to officially and happily hold 2 SIMs at the same time - it wouldn't bother me how they do it.

The electronic SIM would resolve that. Just like a gift card you buy at a grocery store you can pay for minutes/data and input the secret number into the device. This could be done for multiple carriers and countries. It could also be intelligent enough to change the SIM usage between countries without having to turn off your device, take it half apart, switch SIMs, put it back together and restart it. One day.
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post #18 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

This is what passes off for 'insight' from the CEO of a major company!?

Anyone learn anything new?

This weasel is an expert at saying absolutely nothing. They all are. And Ralphy-boy isn't the CEO of at&t. He's the president of at&t Mobility. The CEO of at&t is a slime ball known as Randall (don't you call me Randy) Stephenson. There are so many levels of management at this outfit that it looks like the Smith family tree.
post #19 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

For the amount of data they store they are quite large, and you also have to consider the components it connects to inside the device. Have you see inside an iPhone?

Why does the plastic have to be that thick? Why so much extra plastic around the metallic points? Why are the 6 pins so spaced out?

I have seen the inside of two iPhones, but I wasn't paying much attention to the SIM hardware. A little more concerned about making repairs.
I think the main idea is for compatibility. The adapters from mini to regular are dead simple too, I made a couple in less than 15 minutes, so it's easy to switch between the two different SIM receptacles, and it's been reliable too.

Another thing to consider is human factors engineering. If you're comparing the size of the SIM and those of the other chips inside a phone, keep in mind that SIMs are designed to be handled, most chips are not without special precautions. The thickness of the card isn't much in my opinion, especially considering a chip designed to be handled.

It does look like Apple's SIM carrier can be shrunk a bit, and you can reduce the chip area by 30 to 50% and still maintain pin compatibility. But that's pushing the human factors part of the problem.
post #20 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

I have seen the inside of two iPhones, but I wasn't paying much attention to the SIM hardware. A little more concerned about making repairs.
I think the main idea is for compatibility. The adapters from mini to regular are dead simple too, I made a couple in less than 15 minutes, so it's easy to switch between the two different SIM receptacles, and it's been reliable too.

Another thing to consider is human factors engineering. If you're comparing the size of the SIM and those of the other chips inside a phone, keep in mind that SIMs are designed to be handled, most chips are not without special precautions. The thickness of the card isn't much in my opinion, especially considering a chip designed to be handled.

It does look like Apple's SIM carrier can be shrunk a bit, and you can reduce the chip area by 30 to 50% and still maintain pin compatibility. But that's pushing the human factors part of the problem.

I think that is the problem. I shouldn't have to handle anything that goes into the internal guts of my phone to use it. The carriers are still holding onto an archaic model. SIMs can be spoofed. The data is extracted to the baseband for use. There is nothing that can't be done with other technologies if Apple (or some other company) can move enough carriers to a better standard that benefits the users.
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post #21 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I think that is the problem. I shouldn't have to handle anything that goes into the internal guts of my phone to use it. The carriers are still holding onto an archaic model. SIMs can be spoofed. The data is extracted to the baseband for use. There is nothing that can't be done with other technologies if Apple (or some other company) can move enough carriers to a better standard that benefits the users.

I think that makes sense, but I wonder if the optimism is misplaced. It would seem to me that any attempt to create a new system would be bogged down in attempts by carriers to lock it down even more thoroughly to make you go to the issuing carrier for permission to switch to another carrier.
post #22 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

I think that makes sense, but I wonder if the optimism is misplaced. It would seem to me that any attempt to create a new system would be bogged down in attempts by carriers to lock it down even more thoroughly to make you go to the issuing carrier for permission to switch to another carrier.

I don't think it's so much a new system than simpl6 using a current system more prominently over their old system. By that I mean the prepaid phone card system. Every carrier I know allows that.

To be clear, I'm not saying that iPhones should be prepaid, i'm suggesting the data on a SIM can be placed on a card that requires NFC for initial setup, manual input, and/or some other method to activate the device. This is the electronic SIM.

The biggest complaint from users for an electronic SIMs seem to revolve around traveling between countries, but I say that is the best usage of it. At the most it would require a restart of the phone to chose the new carrier setup and at best it would auto-switch when you jump borders and carriers. No more carrying and shuffling little plastic picks.
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post #23 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

For the amount of data they store they are quite large, and you also have to consider the components it connects to inside the device. Have you see inside an iPhone?


Yes, but you're ignoring several factors:

1. Even if there was no SIM, the percentage of space savings would be tiny. The SIM and hardware together can't make up even 1% of the inside of an iPhone - probably a lot less. While it's always worth making incremental improvements, anyone thinking that a smaller SIM card would do anything is probably dreaming.

2. At some point, it gets so small that it's more difficult to handle. Of course, telcos could argue that it's not meant to be handled - in which case I would say "then get rid of it".

Seems to me that it would be better to simply get rid of it entirely rather than spending time and money on shrinking it. And there's no inherent reason why it would reduce the telco's lock on the phone - in fact, it might strengthen their hold. If Apple were to include the SIM information in the firmware using good encryption, then it would be impossible for users to change it. With the SIM card, any user can insert a different card. So why are the telcos complaining about loss of the SIM?
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post #24 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Seems to me that it would be better to simply get rid of it entirely rather than spending time and money on shrinking it. And there's no inherent reason why it would reduce the telco's lock on the phone - in fact, it might strengthen their hold. If Apple were to include the SIM information in the firmware using good encryption, then it would be impossible for users to change it. With the SIM card, any user can insert a different card. So why are the telcos complaining about loss of the SIM?

Where have I read that before?
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post #25 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by WilliamWallace View Post

It really astounds me that the SIM area is roughly the same size as the A4 chip!

However what I really want is the iPhone to officially and happily hold 2 SIMs at the same time - it wouldn't bother me how they do it.

Currently I have a 3GS from work and a 4 for myself - each on different carriers. It would be great to just have a single handset that could deal with both numbers at the same time. Work policies prevent me from using some the unofficial adaptors/add-ons/methods that are available to achieve this.

It strikes me that it is ridiculous for carriers to put barriers in place to restrict hardware development. Apple should just go SIM-less and be done with it. The carriers that want the customers would get on the bandwagon pretty quickly if they didn't want to loose their market share.

I was just thinking Nextel's Motorola iDEN network was doing this already a decade ago. And their Push to Talk had virtually no delay. I wonder what it was about iDEN that allowed one phone to receive on two separate numbers and if it could be adapted to GSM/UMTS/LTE
post #26 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by alienzed View Post

It just occurred to me. We've heard rumors of a smaller iPhone coming, with others contradicting it. We're also hearing about an iPhone with a slightly larger screen.

What if it's both. What if the pictures of the iPhone with the 'larger' screen are just pictures of a 'smaller' iphone with the same size screen? I think I'd actually dig it more, the iPhone feels a bit big sometimes, even the 4.

This is far more likely than Apple producing an iPhone with a bigger screen.

When has there ever been an Apple product where they come out after the first three years of adoption and say: "You know, we made a mistake when we made this thing so small, this years model is going to be much bigger."

When has there ever been an Apple product where after the first few three years of adoption have they ever said: "You know, our competitors products have got something right that we totally didn't, so we are adopting the larger screen size that they have on their product."

To assume they are going to have a bigger screen, you have to believe that the Apple engineers didn't really think too much about the screen size they started with and somehow just arbitrarily went with 3.5" at 4:3 resolution. I'm not saying larger iPhone screens will never happen, but it's really quite unlikely IMO and the entire history of Apple design would argue against it.
post #27 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Yes, but you're ignoring several factors:

1. Even if there was no SIM, the percentage of space savings would be tiny. The SIM and hardware together can't make up even 1% of the inside of an iPhone - probably a lot less. While it's always worth making incremental improvements, anyone thinking that a smaller SIM card would do anything is probably dreaming.

2. At some point, it gets so small that it's more difficult to handle. Of course, telcos could argue that it's not meant to be handled - in which case I would say "then get rid of it".

Seems to me that it would be better to simply get rid of it entirely rather than spending time and money on shrinking it. And there's no inherent reason why it would reduce the telco's lock on the phone - in fact, it might strengthen their hold. If Apple were to include the SIM information in the firmware using good encryption, then it would be impossible for users to change it. With the SIM card, any user can insert a different card. So why are the telcos complaining about loss of the SIM?

I think this sums up my thoughts also.

Anyone who had to clip their already tiny SIM card from the regular size to the small one knows that it's almost impossible to handle the things already. While the components could very easily be miniaturised smaller than a grain of rice, the size of the current microSIM is already pushing the limits of what can be efficiently handled by a human.
post #28 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Yes, but you're ignoring several factors:

1. Even if there was no SIM, the percentage of space savings would be tiny. The SIM and hardware together can't make up even 1% of the inside of an iPhone - probably a lot less. While it's always worth making incremental improvements, anyone thinking that a smaller SIM card would do anything is probably dreaming.

2. At some point, it gets so small that it's more difficult to handle. Of course, telcos could argue that it's not meant to be handled - in which case I would say "then get rid of it".

Seems to me that it would be better to simply get rid of it entirely rather than spending time and money on shrinking it. And there's no inherent reason why it would reduce the telco's lock on the phone - in fact, it might strengthen their hold. If Apple were to include the SIM information in the firmware using good encryption, then it would be impossible for users to change it. With the SIM card, any user can insert a different card. So why are the telcos complaining about loss of the SIM?

From that picture, how is the SIM card and the mechanical support for it less than 1% of the iPhone? Look at the board, that gigantic silver tray in the middle is the SIM tray.
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post #29 of 40
SIMs are stupid, IMHO. Give people a PIN that they can punch into the phone. No HW to swap.
post #30 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by mobility View Post

From that picture, how is the SIM card and the mechanical support for it less than 1% of the iPhone? Look at the board, that gigantic silver tray in the middle is the SIM tray.

Volume is different than area - it's probably more than 1% but certainly not as much as the footprint on the motherboard would lead you to believe.
post #31 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by cameronj View Post

Volume is different than area - it's probably more than 1% but certainly not as much as the footprint on the motherboard would lead you to believe.

The reasons Apple wants to eliminate the removable SIM and SIM tray are clear. The volume is irrelevant when the entire device has to be built around it. The concern isn't that it takes up too much space or adds too much weight. The concern that it's way too big and pointless. Connecting to the baseband, being on a area that is accessible from the outside, etc. I've seen gas station bathroom that were smaller.

I don't the weak connection points have been mentioned. The data might be minimal but if there isn't a solid connection your device won't function properly. There are more than a few articles that resolved what was perceived to be an antenna issue with a resetting of the SIM or a new SIM entirely. I wonder if some returns and replacements were just faulty SIM or connections. Even if under 1% of the returns were for that reason it's still a lot of reasons to want a better solution.
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post #32 of 40
Have you heard of a service called "Line 2"? It might allow you to use just one iPhone.
Quote:
Originally Posted by WilliamWallace View Post

It really astounds me that the SIM area is roughly the same size as the A4 chip!

However what I really want is the iPhone to officially and happily hold 2 SIMs at the same time - it wouldn't bother me how they do it.

Currently I have a 3GS from work and a 4 for myself - each on different carriers. It would be great to just have a single handset that could deal with both numbers at the same time. Work policies prevent me from using some the unofficial adaptors/add-ons/methods that are available to achieve this.

It strikes me that it is ridiculous for carriers to put barriers in place to restrict hardware development. Apple should just go SIM-less and be done with it. The carriers that want the customers would get on the bandwagon pretty quickly if they didn't want to loose their market share.
post #33 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dunkster View Post

Have you heard of a service called "Line 2"? It might allow you to use just one iPhone.

Hmmm, thanks - I'll look into it. Don't know if work will wear it though
post #34 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dunkster View Post

Have you heard of a service called "Line 2"? It might allow you to use just one iPhone.


Orange UK used to have those service. I don't know what happened to it I presume take up rate was too low to maintain. That was some 5-10 years ago.


Quote:
Originally Posted by KingKuei View Post

I know some people in some countries are going to hate this. In Thailand, for example, they just introduced the micro-SIM very recently due to the launch of iPhone 4. Now you throw in yet another SIM card standard... let's call it the pico-SIM, I have to imagine some foreign carriers are about to lose their minds already. LOL.

I would imagine that if your country was late in the queue to get the iPhone, it won't change anytime soon so there won't be any hurry to change again.
post #35 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by cameronj View Post

Volume is different than area - it's probably more than 1% but certainly not as much as the footprint on the motherboard would lead you to believe.

I don't think it's so much the volume either. I believe the increased board space is a strong consideration though. Board space is more important than volume in electronic circuitry. Imagine being able to use that board space instead of storing a few k of information on a SIM, using that "freed" board space to get 64 or 128GB of storage or adding some other features.
post #36 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

I don't think it's so much the volume either. I believe the increased board space is a strong consideration though. Board space is more important than volume in electronic circuitry. Imagine being able to use that board space instead of storing a few k of information on a SIM, using that "freed" board space to get 64 or 128GB of storage or adding some other features.

I think far bigger than any consideration of space is the reduction in design freedom that results. Imagine Apple's designers at step one of the new phone design. Here we have the required components - RAM, SSD, CPU, all these things can be moved around pretty freely. The SIM slot has to be at the edge of the phone, and must be a thorn in the designers' side every time.
post #37 of 40
Can someone with technical expertise in this area explain to me exactly WHY we still need SIM cards? Contacts can be backed up to the cloud and if it's for ID purposes, can't the internal processor fill that role?
post #38 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by rtm135 View Post

Can someone with technical expertise in this area explain to me exactly WHY we still need SIM cards? Contacts can be backed up to the cloud and if it's for ID purposes, can't the internal processor fill that role?

There's no technical reason for SIM cards to be needed. It's something that's demanded by the telcos because they believe it gives them more control (erroneously, IMHO).
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post #39 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by rtm135 View Post

Can someone with technical expertise in this area explain to me exactly WHY we still need SIM cards? Contacts can be backed up to the cloud and if it's for ID purposes, can't the internal processor fill that role?

How about easily moving your subscription from one device to another without having to contact or approve the change from either device manufacturer? Just in case your phone dies on you or you want to upgrade/downgrade...

Cloud is nice and convenient, but many many organisations do not allow cloud services due to security reasons.

Regs, Jarkko
post #40 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

There's no technical reason for SIM cards to be needed. It's something that's demanded by the telcos because they believe it gives them more control (erroneously, IMHO).

I think Apple's goal is to implement the e-SIM, period. And the further miniaturizing of the physical SIM is just a convenient hook to hang the issue on.

Putting an e-SIM in iPhones will solve some of the hardware design issues mentioned by other posters, BUT it would also make it much easier for users to switch carriers and maybe use more than one carrier (ie, when traveling). The end result being: wresting some control away from the carriers and giving it to users and Apple. And if users went to Apple to setup wireless accounts, instead of directly to carriers, that would give Apple an added amount of influence.

I bet Apple has been putting this story out in the media on the sly, knowing that the carriers would not agree to implementing an e-SIM, but hoping to stir up public opinion in their favor and portray the telcos as standing in the way of innovation.
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