Qualcomm revealed this week during MWC 2023 that it will add the “world’s first commercially deployable iSIM” (Integrated SIM) to Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform.
In other words, Android phones with this chipset will ditch swappable SIM cards, opting instead for a hardware solution. Qualcomm has achieved this (opens in new tab) thanks to some help from French electronics company Thales Group, a name most people probably won’t recognize but may be familiar with its technology. This is because Thales is the same company behind the eSIM (Embedded SIM) that is present in the iPhone 14 series. Essentially, Qualcomm is bringing Apple’s technology to Android. The difference with this new hardware is that it will be integrated (hence the name iSIM) into the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor rather than existing as its own chip on the motherboard.
On the surface, moving the location of the internal SIM card may seem rather arbitrary. however, according to a Thales publication (opens in new tab), there are many benefits. For starters, it “saves space by eliminating the need for a separate component” giving phone makers the opportunity “to create smaller, more compact devices.” The result is a structurally sound phone that’s more resistant to damage from dust and water, while also being “easier to carry.”
The other big benefit that Thales offers is increased security. It claims that since the iSIM is built right into the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, bad actors or anyone else will have a harder time trying to gain unauthorized access to a device. The technology also reportedly enables “over-the-air delivery, making it easier for mobile operators to manage their customers’ devices”.
However, not every Android user can welcome this news.
There is the potential problem of iSIM phones not working in other countries. People traveling abroad they often buy prepaid SIM cards (opens in new tab) so they can keep using their phones without having to pay a ton of money to their mobile provider for roaming charges. Obviously, you can’t do this on eSIM phones, as the chip is directly connected to the hardware. So what if the same thing happens on iSIM devices?
The post says the technology can connect to multiple carriers. a feature that Thales specifically calls “useful for customers who travel frequently internationally.” It claims users will be able to “switch providers as needed without buying a new SIM card.” However, this depends on iSIM support from other countries. For example, if you look at regions and carriers that support Apple eSIM (opens in new tab), not much to choose from. The United States offers the most widespread support with many agencies supporting the technology. However, across Europe and Asia, the support team is much smaller.
It is unknown when and where the first iteration of the iSIM will be released. Qualcomm says it expects “global iSIM shipments” to reach 300 million by 2027, so perhaps within the next four years or so. Hopefully, by then, support won’t be so limited.