Come next month, Samsung will release a new 3G model of its Gear S2 Classic smartwatch, and it will be the world’s first device to make use of an eSIM, or a programmable, electronic replacement for the physical SIM card. The specifications for eSIM were just approved by GSMA, allowing them to be used in devices like smartwatches, tablets, and fitness trackers.
The biggest improvements with eSIM are that they aren’t tied to any specific carriers — so users can switch at any time, and since there’s no card to be physically removed, manufacturers can devote a bit more space to batteries instead of card slots. The other advantage is that eSIM-equipped devices are no longer reliant on connecting with a smartphone, since they have their own individual connection to a 3G network.
While the just-approved standards for eSIM don’t apply to smartphones, the GSMA says that will be coming in June. And since the specification is supported by manufacturers including Samsung, LG, and Huawei, as well as US carriers AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon, this could be the beginning of the end for physical SIM cards.
The fact that Apple isn’t mentioned on that list, combined with the company already using its own programmable Apple SIM in iPads, doesn’t mean they won’t take advantage of eSIM. The GSMA has said that Apple has been involved in the development of standards, and they continue to work towards a formal agreement with the iPhone maker.