An iPhone 14 without a SIM card is good news for the Apple Watch

If Apple's dropping the physical SIM in the iPhone 14, that means more networks will have to up their eSIM game

iPhone 13 - the last iPhone to have a physical SIM?
(Image credit: Apple)

It looks like the notch isn't the only thing disappearing from the iPhone 14. The odds-on favourite for our best phones guide in 2022 may also be losing the SIM card too. That's according to MacRumors, whose anonymous tipster shared Apple's instructions to US phone networks: prepare for eSIM iPhones in 2022. A separate leaker told the site that the leak is legitimate. An eSIM does the same job as a SIM card; it just does it in software rather than hardware.

Apple going all-in on eSIMs is not a huge surprise. Apple already sells the iPhone 13 without a physical SIM card included if you buy from Apple online or an Apple Store, and the cellular version of the Apple Watch has always used an eSIM exclusively too. If the imminent Apple AR headset is going to have cellular connectivity, eSIM would make sense for that too.

Everything starts with an E

The reason Apple is removing the physical SIM card is simple: it needs the space. A traditional SIM card isn't huge when you look at it by itself, but when you see how much of an iPhone 13 it takes up you can see why Apple wants it gone: it's a bit indentation into space that could be used for battery or other new features. 

The only reason it hasn't gone already is because eSIM take-up has been relatively slow, and some networks don't support it yet: for example in the UK, major network Three won't launch its eSIM support until 2022. That's why you can't use the Apple Watch's cellular connectivity on every UK network just yet. If Apple's pushing networks to adopt eSIM, that could change this year and make the GPS+Cellular version of the Apple Watch Series 8 much more tempting for more people.

It's possible that Apple may remove the SIM slot from some but not all iPhones, for example by taking it out of the Pro and Pro Max models but keeping it in the standard iPhone 14. That makes sense to me: it means Apple's biggest selling iPhone would still be available on the most networks worldwide.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).