The quick and easy guide to eSIM on Apple’s iPhone 14

Apple’s move to eliminate the SIM tray in US models of its new iPhone 14 could be a bigger move than its decision to abandon the old headphone port with iPhone 7. The obvious questions: what does eSIM offer and how do you provision devices?

Apple’s journey to eSIM

Apple first introduced electronic Subscriber Identity Module (eSIM) support in the iPhone XS, but it was optional — the handset also had a SIM tray for use with physical SIM cards. But Apple’s newly introduced iPhone 14 line-up has no SIM tray in the US, which means carriers must provision the device exclusively using an eSIM. (The new iPhones arrive on Friday.)

It’s likely the company is trying to accelerate eSIM adoption with the move even though Apple smartphones sold outside the US will continue to host SIM trays.

What is an eSIM?

An eSIM is a built-in programmable identity module placed inside the iPhone itself. It’s like a hard-wired SIM, but must be provisioned by the networks, who must also upgrade their own systems to accommodate their use.

Just like a physical SIM card, an eSIM carries a 17-digit code that shows your country of origin, carrier, and unique user ID.

Apple’s decision to move to the eSIM is fine if your carrier supports the technology, but the decision to make it mandatory could prove  challenging for a small number of US customers whose carriers don’t. I received several messages apparently from readers in the US on smaller carriers complaining about Apple’s decision when it was announced. Hopefully, the carriers will play ball.