SIMs Are a Terrible Idea, and Apple Is Mercifully Doing Away With Them

Don’t let the SIM card tray hit you on the way out

  • The US version of the iPhone 14 has no SIM card slot 
  • The SIM card is useless legacy tech with few—if any—advantages. 
  • eSIMs are easier to use, and you can use several at once.
Smart phone and sim card on blue background

simon2579 / Getty Images

If you were to try to think of the most useless piece of technology you use every day of your life, it would be hard to think of a better candidate than the SIM card. 

Today's SIM, or Subscriber Identity Module, is tiny compared to the credit-card-sized originals, but considering what it does, its mere presence is ridiculous. The card's only purpose is to carry the data that lets you connect to the cellular network. In the past, it would also be used to save the phone numbers of your contacts, but that's rarely necessary these days. Thankfully, the SIM's days are numbered. It still has some advantages, as we shall see, but they don't justify this digital waste of space. 

"When Apple introduced micro SIM and nano SIM, everyone followed. It is only safe to assume that the utilization of eSIM is the future of the mobile phone industry," Rajesh Namase, technology writer and co-founder of TechRT, told Lifewire via email. "Further, it can grant cell phone manufacturers to [use] more components to add more features to their handsets since the eSIM tech is relatively smaller [and frees up] more space to other components for better functionalities."

SIMply Dead

You know when you buy a SIM card and push it out of the surrounding plastic card? That surrounding card used to be the SIM card and could be inserted into a slot on the bottom of a phone. Over the years, it shrank and shrank again, but the electronic part has long been the same size. Thus, as Apple forced the adoption of the micro- and nanoSIM sizes, you could buy a tool that punched out the smaller size from a bigger card. 

Now, the US iPhone 14 and 14 Pro do away with a SIM slot altogether. This means that any carrier dragging its feet over adding support for eSIMs won’t have access to those primo iPhone buyers and had better get with the game ASAP. 

Outside of the US, eSIM adoption is slower. I live in Germany, where only a couple of carriers support eSIM activation, according to Apple's list. This is probably why non-US iPhones still have a SIM card slot. 

The advantage to Apple is that it can reclaim precious space inside the iPhone and use it for something else—more battery, for example. 

One interesting fact is that the US model still has space for a nanoSIM. The internal SIM tray section is gone, but the gap is filled with a plastic spacer. This shows Apple really wants to force carriers' hands here.

eSIM Advantages

For users, eSIMs are great. Instead of fiddling with a SIM card and a SIM tool (aka a bent paperclip), you can just scan a QR code or even sign up for a plan within the iPhone's settings app. Transferring an eSIM to another phone is similarly easy—if you're going from iPhone to iPhone.

"Using eSIMs gives people so much more flexibility. You can be just about anywhere in the world and add data to your device instantly. No need to visit a store or mess with SIM cards," Justin Shimoon, CEO of eSIM data app aloSIM, told Lifewire via email.

The other big advantage is that it's easy to use multiple SIMs. Phones exist that have dual SIM slots, and recent-vintage iPhones can use both an eSIM and a physical SIM simultaneously. Multiple numbers lets you keep receiving calls on your regular number and use a local data SIM while traveling, for example. 

It should also be easier to quickly switch a SIM between an iPhone and an iPad, so you can more easily use your data plan. 

sim card and card tray next to tablet

Brett Jordan / Unsplash

There are some possible disadvantages, however. One is that eSIMs are not universally supported, but that will surely happen eventually. Another is you can’t use them with older phones or with devices that use SIMs, like GPS dog collars. 

And what about anonymity? Anyone can buy a SIM from a store for cash, slip it into a phone, use it, and then discard it. Anonymous eSIMs exist, but then we’re getting into the realm of guessing whether it’s really anonymous and whether erasing an eSIM from your phone really erases it. 

These might seem like the activities only a movie criminal would engage in, but there are legit reasons for wanting to stay off the radar. An eSIM makes it harder to stay safe.

Regardless, eSIMs are coming, and there’s little we can do about it. And in most cases, it’s good to see the back of this absurd legacy tech.

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