So the Computex trade show just wrapped up in Taipei, Taiwan, and if you believe Engadget the age of the embedded SIM is upon us. The world’s four biggest PC vendors—Lenovo, HP, Dell and ASUS—have all pledged to build Windows machines (presumably laptops) with eSIM support. It’s a bit odd if you think about it; while an embedded SIM makes sense in a tight space like a smartwatch a laptop would has plenty of room for a traditional SIM card. But apparently Intel is developing an eSIM that provides a persistent gigabit data connection over LTE.
So are eSIMs inevitable for smartphones as well? I sure hope not. My problem with embedded SIMs is that they force the user to cede control of their data connection to someone else.
For the last decade or so every mobile phone I’ve owned has been free of carrier locks—meaning that right out of the box I could insert my SIM card of choice, and as long as my carrier’s bands were supported I’d be good to go. As an added bonus I’ve also been able to remove said SIM card and gift or sell my hardware to someone else when I’m done with it, so that they can do the same.
With an eSIM the user has to select and/or change their carrier through software, which doesn’t sound like a big deal but is nonetheless an additional barrier between you and your connection. A software interface gives a third party the power to block a carrier or even a specific plan from your electronic property. At best an eSIM provides multiple, competing interests a means to make your device worse. Don’t believe me? Look no further than the Apple SIM; when it launched in 2014 AT&T used it to lock users to that network, while Verizon banned it altogether. That dream of having carriers competing to give you a data connection didn’t exactly pan out.
It might be a minor inconvenience having to deal with APNs, SIM card trays and ejector tools, but I’m still a big fan of physical SIMs. In fact, I’d take dual-SIM support over an eSIM any day of the week. 😎