Smartphones have completely changed how we interact with each other and our surroundings, but there’s one feature in our little mobile gizmos that feels inescapably archaic: the SIM card. Why, in 2015, are we shackled to these little plastic widgets? Why isn’t there a software-based alternative?
Well, Apple and Samsung are working on a solution. According to a report in theFinancial Times, the two rivals are engaged in negotiations with various mobile carriers to implement a new type of SIM card. The report claims that the new device, called an e-SIM, would remain inside your phone—unlocked—and allow you to change network carriers through your mobile OS.
That sounds like it would save a lot of headaches, but don’t hold your breath just yet. SIM locking is an advantageous feature for wireless carriers, as it discourages—or at least complicates—casual network swapping. Regardless, a number of major carriers have apparently already shown some degree of interest in switching to e-SIM, including AT&T, T-Mobile, Vodafone, and Orange.
Still, don’t expect to see one of these next-gen SIM cards in a mobile device anytime this year. The FT claims they won’t emerge until 2016.
In the meantime, iPhone users may have another option: Apple SIM. This technology, which allows users to switch between a few major carriers from within iOS, is currently available in the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3, and a similar version may appear in future versions of the iPhone.
Whatever the solution, it couldn’t come sooner.