2018 iPhones could hurt US carrier ties

The iPhone X, iPhone X Plus, and LCD iPhone have almost all been leaked to death, but one new speculation could stir up the hornets' nest. This year's iPhones might be the first of their kind to sport eSIMs, rewritable components that don't need a SIM tray or an actual SIM card for that matter. But while the feature may open the door to many benefits for consumers, it could also sour Apple's relationships with carriers. And that might actually be what Apple is aiming for.

Apple has actually used eSIM technology in the past, particularly in the Apple Watch. That said, it still requires a carrier line on a paired iPhone to work. This eSIM iPhone rumor, in contrast, came together with the equally dubious rumor of dual SIM iPhones. But if they do pan out, US carriers might be in a bit of bind, says Barron's.

You will still need a subscription with a carrier for the iPhone to work, of course, but an eSIM scenario would deemphasize the role carriers play and weaken the hold carriers have on iPhone users. Under the existing system, consumers would have to first choose their carrier and buy the iPhones from them, especially if they want financing options. with eSIMs, the carrier choice can come after and consumers have a bit more freedom in switching between carriers, especially if they only have to go through Apple.

It's almost like the situation with purchasing unlocked phones, with or without financing options. There are, however, two important differences. One is that Apple can do it, unlike other OEMs who bend over backward to get into carriers' good graces. The other is that Apple is in almost complete control.

In fact, Apple has been moving to shift the bulk of control away from carriers and into its own hands. It started by offering its own installment program and then an upgrade plan. Having eSIMs where users will have to transact with Apple directly is just another step in that direction.