We first got a taste of programmable sims when Apple launched the iPad Air 2 in 2014. The proprietary “Apple SIM” allows users to change their wireless carrier at any time via software without having to swap out physical SIM cards. Samsung, however, is going the industry-standard route by adopting the eSIM specification brought forth by the GSMA.
The first product to ship with the new eSIM will be Samsung’s upcoming Gear S2 Classic 3G smartwatch (phew, say that three times fast). Although Samsung has yet to provide any official specs or images of the Gear S2 Classic 3G, we can’t imagine that it will stray too far from the handsome, traditional looks of the Gear S2 Classic while adopting the calling capabilities of its Gear S2 3G sibling. It will be available March 11th on AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile wireless networks.
“We are excited to introduce Samsung Gear S2 3G classic as not only a starting point for more devices to be connected globally, but as a step forward in our commitment to support the development of the IoT market,” said Yunsang Park, SVP of R&D Office, Mobile Communications Business for Samsung.
The GSMA indicates that the eSIM specification is initially targeting wearables like smartwatches and fitness bands in addition to tablets. You might ask, well what about smartphones? The GSMA will finalize an eSIM spec for smartphones in June.
The use of eSIMs will not only make changing wireless carriers easier for consumers, but it also allows manufacturers to develop lighter and smaller devices that don’t have to be designed to accommodate a physical SIM. As manufacturers strives to make thinner and lighter devices and add Internet connectivity to the tiniest of devices courtesy of the IoT movement, this is a much-need breakthrough.
“This is the only common, interoperable and global specification that has the backing of the mobile industry and lets consumers with a mobile subscription remotely connect their devices to a mobile network,” said GSMA CTO Alex Sinclair. “This new specification gives consumers the freedom to remotely connect devices, such as wearables, to a mobile network of their choice and continues to evolve the process of connecting new and innovative devices.”
Hardware manufacturers backing the eSIM spec include Huawei, LG, Microsoft, and Samsung, while chipset vendors include big names like STMicroelectronics and Qualcomm. And you’ll also be happy to learn that all four major U.S. wireless carriers — Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint — are also onboard.