The SIM card in its current form has outlasted almost every other smartphone component we can think of, but even that stalwart’s time has slowly been winding down. We’ve seen eSIM technology first do away with removable SIM cards, instead embedding the SIM within the phone’s circuitry.
Qualcomm iSIM technology goes one step further, placing the SIM information on the chipset. Qualcomm has been pushing toward that for years, but it’s only now that they’ve been able to get an iSIM working on one of their chipsets with certification from the GSMA.
The GSMA is the industry-wide arbiter of cellular connectivity tech — their approval means Qualcomm has made their iSIM secure enough to actually go into consumer devices. That iSIM solution is working on their flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, which has a physical module on the chipset dedicated to keeping data and devices secure.
Along with Thales, a European company involved in connectivity tech, Qualcomm has gotten that module to house SIM information securely enough for the GSMA to trust it with the job of getting devices connected to carriers over the air, no discrete SIM card required.
While its design will make the Qualcomm iSIM more secure than an eSIM or traditional SIM card, we might not notice the biggest iSIM push within phones. While iSIM tech definitely will benefit phones, smaller connected devices might benefit the most — as the iSIM takes up the least space in a device of all three SIM solutions, cellular-connected devices like smartwatches can be made much smaller, lighter, and thinner without a SIM slot or a larger eSIM, making them more comfortable to wear.
All that said, we won’t necessarily see a lot of this tech soon. Carriers still need to come on board and get their networks working with Qualcomm iSIM technology, and even then, it might be just the major players. But, part of the appeal of a traditional SIM is the ease of swapping one out for another, especially when traveling.
Even when working Qualcomm iSIMs do start appearing in more devices, it might be some time until phones go exclusively iSIM (like the iPhone did with eSIM) — at least until enough networks get on board. Even then, it’s likely the traditional SIM won’t be going away altogether anytime soon — as long as there are networks small and large around the world that don’t use eSIM or iSIM (including many low-cost MVNOs like Cricket here in the States), there will be a comfortable removable slot in the smartphone world for the old standby.