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Qualcomm Introduces World’s 1st GSMA Compliant iSIM for Smartphones

by Ken Hyers | Mar 01, 2023

World’s 1st GSMA Compliant iSIM Certified on Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform

Qualcomm, in partnership with Thales, announced at Mobile World Congress 2023 the certification of the world’s first commercially deployable iSIM on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform.


The advanced integrated Subscriber Identification Module (iSIM) would replace the Electronic SIM (eSIM) currently found in premium smartphones from Apple, Samsung, Google and a few others.  The eSIM itself replaced the old-fashioned physical SIM card that has been around since 1991 when Giesecke & Devrient produced 300 for Finnish mobile operator Radiolinja.

Replacing a physical SIM card with a programable one, whether eSIM or iSIM, offers greater flexibility for consumers who can with the aid of an app quickly switch from one mobile operator to another.  Smartphones with two eSIM (or one eSIM + 1 physical SIM) have the ability to use two different mobile networks.  This gives consumers the ability to switch networks as they move from one geography to another, or to use one network for one service (such as voice and messaging) and the other network for a different service like 5G data.

iSIM, like eSIM, also supports remote provisioning, and offers yet another advantage, though it is mostly for the smartphone vendor, rather than the consumer.  The eSIM is integrated into the smartphone, but still takes up valuable space within the device, as it is a separate component.  An iSIM, which is part of the phone’s main processor, frees up the space that would have been taken up by a separate eSIM.  This potentially means slightly lower component costs for the smartphone OEM while making it easier to implement than eSIM on devices. 

However, consumers may benefit in other less obvious ways from iSIM.  The interior of a smartphone is space-constrained, with ever more processors, memory, antennas, sensors and other components packed into a small space.  While small, the interior real estate freed up by removing the eSIM (much less the physical SIM and SIM tray) in a device allows more room for things like bigger batteries and other components.  This will in turn provide a better user experience for the device owner.

TechInsight’s Device Technology (EDT) channel projects eSIM enabled smartphone shipments to rise by 15% annually in 2023.  While iPhone will continue to dominate the eSIM smartphone segment in 2023, its share of this division of the smartphone market will actually decline to 65%, reflecting greater participation of other smartphone vendors.

The development of iSIM for smartphones is not expected to have an immediate near-term impact on eSIM smartphone sales.  This is because Qualcomm’s implementation of iSIM is on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform, which is a premium smartphone solution.  We expect the first smartphones offering Qualcomm’s iSIM implementation will arrive in the second half of 2023, potentially in ultra-premium smartphones such as Samsung’s Galaxy Z foldables. 

An open question at this point is whether China’s telecom regulator will allow iSIM enabled smartphones to be sold in China; currently eSIM smartphone sales are prohibited in China and presumably iSIM ones would be as well.  There are signs that China may end restrictions on eSIM smartphones soon.  If this occurs, it could open the door to both eSIM and iSIM enabled smartphones with vendors such as Xiaomi and Honor quick to support the new solution.

Clients of TechInsight’s Device Technology (EDT) channel can learn more about eSIM, iSIM and other smartphone technology here.

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