‘iPhone X Plus’ – eSIM or dual SIM slot?

There has been much speculation as to whether one of the new iPhones that are due for launch in September will be fitted with either an eSIM or provide a dual SIM slot or neither.

There is no doubt that eSIMs are the future and that at some point all handsets will be fitted with one. However the GSMA consumer standard for eSIMs has experienced a bit of a set-back recently with the US Department of Justice investigation. This concerns the push by some operators to build into the standard a method of locking the phone so that it will only work with the SIM card with which it was supplied.

Phones that support 2 physical SIMs via a dual-SIM slot are extremely popular in the Asian market with most Chinese manufacturers ( e.g. Huawei and Xiaomi ) offering them. There are 2 different kinds of dual SIM phones. One is called ‘dual-SIM standby’ ( sometimes referred to as DSS ) and the other is called ‘dual-SIM active’ ( DSA ). DSS allows only 1 SIM to be active at any time while DSA has 2 radios that allow both SIMs to be active at once. It is thought that Apple will be supporting the DSS method of operation.

Much of the rumour has been fuelled by the discovery of references in iOS 12 Beta 5 to ‘second SIM status’ and ‘second SIM tray status’. The latter would infer that Apple intends to provide 2 physical SIMs rather than a regular SIM plus eSIM. However it is unlikely that Apple would incorporate 2 separate physical SIM trays. All of the Chinese manufacturers use the neater solution of having a single large tray that takes 2 SIMs.

Apple is rumoured to be launching 3 phones, a 6.5 inch OLED screen iPhone X Plus, a 6.1 inch LCD screen iPhone and a 5.8 inch revamped iPhone X. One theory is that the dual SIM slot will only be provided on the cheaper 6.1 inch LCD version and that this will only be supplied to the Chinese market. Although it would be odd if Apple was to make the cheaper version more attractive in the Chinese market than it’s most expensive flagship OLED version.

One must ask why dual-SIM handsets are very popular in the Asian market and almost non-existent in Europe and North America! It is unlikely that the preferences of European subscribers are totally different from those of Chinese end users. One may become persuaded that the dearth of dual-SIM phones in one region is due to once again the insistence of some operators to lock the phones to the SIM. If there was a second SIM then this may become used more than the primary SIM. It will be very interesting to watch how Apple market dual SIM phones, whether they have 2 physical SIMs or a single plastic SIM with eSIM.

We will have more news soon.