• Apple’s new iPhone 14 lineup doesn’t have a physical SIM card tray, meaning eSIM is the only option.
  • eSIM technology allows virtual SIM cards to be assigned to iPhones without requiring little pieces of plastic to be inserted into them.
  • Experts believe eSIM technology is a better option for many people, but there are concerns for those who travel internationally and might now be faced with roaming charges.

Cropped Image Of Hand Holding Sim Card

Apple's new iPhone 14 lineup is eSIM-only, a move that has experts both excited and skeptical.

With the announcement of the iPhone 14 lineup on September 7, Apple confirmed that none of the devices sold in the United States will feature a SIM card tray, meaning there’s no way to install a physical card, as has been the case historically. Instead, a virtual card, called an eSIM, will be used. And while that could be beneficial for most people, there’s a concern that anyone who travels might find themselves stuck with sizable roaming charges—or unable to connect entirely.

“Whenever I visit a new country, my first order of business is picking up a local SIM card in order to avoid hefty roaming charges,” Jeremy Scott Foster, CEO of travel company TravelFreak, told Lifewire via email. “If certain countries aren’t able to pivot away from physical SIMs—which are often bought at local shops or gas stations—the absence of a physical SIM card tray might mean I won’t have the ability to tap into local telecom networks.”

The Case for eSIMs

Apple’s switch away from a physical SIM card for iPhone 14 shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise. Rumors circulated that an eSIM-only iPhone could be in the cards as far back as December 2021, for example. But why make the move at all?

Speaking via YouTube, analyst and long-time Apple-watcher Rene Ritchie suggested that moving to a virtual SIM card would be a boon for people with accessibility issues. With an eSIM, Apple ensures that those people no longer have to do battle with fiddly SIM card ejector tools or, once those tools have invariably been lost, an unfurled paperclip. 

It also removes any potential for a physical defect to cause iPhone features like SMS to fail, which benefits everyone. Ritchie shared details of one such problem happening to a family member, an issue that wouldn’t have happened if they’d been using an eSIM.

The Case Against

As great as eSIM sounds, however, some experts have yet to be convinced, not so much about the benefits of eSIMs, but whether the loss of physical SIM card benefits will prove to be too much to bear.

The ability to place a local SIM card into an iPhone when traveling is something many experts have highlighted as the main reason they’re concerned about this move. Analyst Michael Gartenberg, writing via Twitter, was quick to voice his worries by saying that “the removal of a SIM card is a pretty big deal beyond just changing phones,” adding that “going overseas and popping in a cheap local SIM just got a lot harder.”

Not being able to use a local SIM might leave some without connectivity, while others will be forced to pay their home carrier's expensive roaming charges. Using a local carrier by using a physical SIM card bought from a local store solves that problem right now, but that won't be possible for iPhone 14 owners because there's no place to install it. 

…the absence of a physical SIM card tray might mean I won't have the ability to tap into local telecom networks.

They could pick up an eSIM, though. And while some worry that international eSIM support could be spotty, others argue that, in their experience, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

If early pre-order reports are any indication—especially for iPhone 14 Pro models—none of this seems to be impacting demand for Apple’s latest flagship devices. In fact, the pre-order period was so hot that Apple’s systems couldn’t cope. But some experts are already saying the SIM situation is enough to give them pause.

"As someone who works in travel (and while I'm traveling), the ability to connect is of paramount importance," added Foster. "If the removal of physical SIMs means I won't be able to connect abroad, unfortunately, an upgrade to the iPhone 14 simply won't be feasible." 

Albeit a bit of a niche problem, it's still a fair concern for people to have, but with Apple unlikely to bring the SIM card tray back in future models (remember how the headphone jack didn't return?), those people may need to change their minds rather than wait for Apple to. Or simply settle for the phones they have.

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