Apple on Wednesday unveiled the trio of successors to the iPhone X at its Gather Round event at Steve Jobs Theatre, Cupertino. Out of the three phones, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max received dual-SIM support, a first for any Apple device ever. However, instead of having two physical SIM-card trays, the iPhone XS and XS Max come with one slot for a physical SIM card and an in-built eSIM or digital SIM module.
What is an eSIM?
An eSIM, aka digital SIM and virtual SIM, is basically a SIM card that is embedded in the mobile device itself. You can think of it as a blank SIM card that can be changed to a carrier of your choice—without physically replacing the SIM card. The information on the eSIM can be rewritten by all compliant telecom operators over-the-air. This completely eliminates the need to buy a new physical SIM card while getting a new mobile number.
However, the Apple iPhone XS and XS Max are not the first electronic devices to use an eSIM.
Earlier, Apple Watch Series 3 featured an eSIM and so did the Google Pixel 2 (but only in the US markets).
Will all iPhone XS and XS Max devices receive an eSIM?
No. The iPhone XS, XS Max and even XR devices that will sell in the Chinese, Hong Kong and Macau markets will receive dual SIM smartphones without eSIM.
This is because of China’s resistance to eSIMs and also simply because of convenience issues—eSIMs are currently not widely supported by several Chinese telecom operators.
What is the Indian scenario?
Currently, only two mobile operators in India support this service — Jio and Airtel—which points to the same problem that the Chinese market faces.
Also, going strictly by first-hand experience, setting up an eSIM was a complete nightmare for me while setting up an Apple Watch earlier. The steps to set up the eSIM, especially for a prepaid connection, are not clearly laid out anywhere.
Further, the eSIM option is only available in the top-tier iPhones, and not the affordable iPhone XR.