The SIM card as we know it may be about to disappear. According to the Financial Times, Apple and Samsung are in discussions with mobile carriers to help develop and implement a new SIM card standard that could make it easier to switch between service providers. The report refers to the new standard as an embedded SIM — or an e-SIM — which would remain inside the phone and give consumers the ability to switch carriers without getting a new card, rather than locking them into a specific carrier, as they do now. That means no more swapping SIMs to switch phones or carriers; it would all be done through an interface on the device.
The new standard is expected to be ready sometime in 2016, but we've already seen Apple take a step toward this type of card. Last year, it introduced LTE iPads that included something called the Apple SIM, which offered people a choice between multiple carriers and in some cases the ability to switch carriers when they liked. Getting rid of the SIM card tray, if not also the SIM card itself, would give Apple and other phone manufacturers the ability to make their devices a bit thinner, which is something they'll like however slight the difference is. The Financial Times reports that it doesn't expect the Apple SIM to disappear just yet — it's entirely possible that it could show up in an iPhone before the e-SIM arrives.
The GSM Association, an industry group that represents mobile operators, tells the Financial Times that "the majority of operators" are on board with the shift over to e-SIM. That reportedly includes AT&T, T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, Telefonica, and Orange, as well as other international carriers. The association confirmed Apple and Samsung's participation in developing the new standard, but the companies' involvement may not yet be final. The association says of Apple: "While we are optimistic, a formal agreement with them is still in progress."
It'll be interesting to see how the embedded SIM plays out, as the big carriers aren't likely to love it. Already, we've seen AT&T interfering with Apple's Apple SIM plans, while smaller carriers like T-Mobile and Sprint seem to embrace how easily it allows iPad owners to switch providers, giving them a better chance of luring away competitors' customers. Apple is likely a large presence in all of this: it's wanted to see the SIM disappear for some time now, and it seems that it has the power — for the most part — to get carriers on board.