First successful test of iSIM, the standard that removes the cell phone chip to activate a line
It seems like a joke: couldn’t they find another name for it? SIM, eSIM, iSIM… We had enough with Mini SIM, Micro SIM and Nano SIM, although for most people that is already a thing of the past, luckily.
But hey, here we are: 30 years after the SIM was invented, that plastic with a metal chip that we put inside a cell phone so that it has a connection to a telephone network, and that we change from an old equipment to a new one to keep the same telephone number, that little square that sometimes stops working, and that not so many years ago changed size to become tiny, now it will directly disappear. Not bad.
Today’s devices with mobile connectivity (typically a cell phone, but also tablets, laptops, smart watches, and cars, to name a few) use a chip to identify that device on the cellular network and access provider services (calls, SMS, mobile internet, etc.). Thirty years ago that chip was relatively large in size; Over time it was reduced to the current version, the Nano SIM, which has a size that is barely larger than the metal plate that we put inside the phone (and that has not changed in size in these 3 decades) and that began to become popular about five or six years ago.
Shortly after the eSIM was born (in 2016), which involves putting that chip soldered directly onto the device’s motherboard. This makes it possible to dispense with the little tray where the nanoSIM is inserted and free up that space in devices where every centimeter counts: in a smart watch to which we want to put 4G, for example; Apple and Samsung have been offering it for years. on a phone enables the possibility of using two lines without having to add two plastic cards; instead, a conventional nanoSIM is chosen and, for the user who requires it, the eSIM is enabled; Depending on where the phone is purchased, it will offer a series of options of telephone companies and subscriptions to contract; if they are not on the list, a simple QR will add the desired option. Although it is still a premium function, there are several phones that include eSIM, from the Pixel 3 (pioneers) to the iPhone since 2018, and the Galaxy S of recent years, through the Motorola Razr and other Huawei and Oppo models. . In Argentina, both Claro and Personal and Movistar allow the use of eSIM since 2019.
Not happy with the eSIM, someone at Arm had the idea, in 2019, to go one step further and completely eliminate that eSIM chip, which no longer requires allocating space on the device for the tray where the plastic of the chip is placed. operator, but which still occupies a place on the device’s motherboard, and switch to iSIM: that the identification of the device in a mobile connectivity network and the enabling of services based on a contracted subscription be a function built into the computer’s central processor, the CPU, that chip that makes the computer work, runs the operating system and applications, etc.
Arm is the company that makes the basic design of the processors used by most of the world’s phones, so it has some influence. Y this week they joined Qualcomm (main processor designer for high-end equipment, behind MediaTek in number of chips sold), which together with Vodafone (giant operator in Europe) and Thales (one of the biggest SIM manufacturers), which they demonstrated on a Galaxy Z Flip3 how iSIM can work, using the secure enclave of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 chip to mount a Thales iSIM by software.
According to these companies, the iSIM allows, beyond dispensing with the physical chip, to simplify the offer of subscriptions and services for any device (and allow a multiplicity of lines in the same equipment), and will enable new services by linking the iSIM with the rest of secure features built into the latest processors.
¿why do we care? Because this new standard makes it possible to manufacture equipment that, by not having that tray for the physical chip, can be more compact, or more resistant to water and dust, or make it easier for travelers to contract lines in the countries they visit. It should also nullify the theft of lines (the attack known as SIM swapping), although we will have to wait for the real and massive implementation to see how it unfolds.