Dual-SIM on eSIM-only devices

Dual-SIM has been around forever, well, at least for a really long time. It allows you to use two separate cellular plans, from either a single carrier or two independent ones. With this you can, for example, use one number for business and another for personal calls or get a local data plan when you travel outside your home region.

It’s a feature that has become standard for basically all mobile phones that support eSIM in combination with a physical SIM as we discussed in a previous post three years ago. But how can Dual-SIM be implemented, when the SIM slot gets finally dropped during the move towards eSIM-only designs? Two different approaches have emerged along these lines that set the Apple universe apart from the world of Android.

Apple, having control over the hardware, started to implement two eSIM chips with the release of iPhone 13 at the end of 2021 in preparation of its first eSIM-only device, the iPhone 14 for the US market, released a year later.

Android, on the other hand, chose a different path, called MEP or Multiple Embedded Profiles. It has been standardised in GSMA’s latest specification for consumer eSIM SGP.22 version 3 (see more info in our related post) and a detailed description of its implementation is available under the Android Open Source Project (AOSP).

Essentially, MEP avoids the need for OEMs to add a second eSIM chip (eUICC), though it does require cooperation of manufacturers with their SoC and eSIM chipset vendors to integrate the feature on their devices. Google, which has supported the dual use of physical SIM and eSIM in Pixel phones going back to the Pixel 3a in 2019, is expected to be the first manufacturer supporting active Dual-eSIM with an update on its Pixel 7 model in 2023.

It’s a significant development since it opens the door for eSIM-only designs beyond the premium segment towards medium and low-price devices.


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