Apple has been bending over backwards to court the Chinese and Indian markets, even their governments, but its iPhones continue to lack one thing critical to these markets: support for dual active SIM cards. But based on several patents filed in different countries, that might be changing soon and the iPhone of the future might start supporting more SIMs at the same time. However, it might not come in a form that most users will be familiar with.
It’s a convention alien to the US and the UK but is almost natural in China, India, and many emerging markets. Users in these regions usually have separate SIM cards, one for work and one or more for personal use. Sometimes those SIM cards don’t even come from the same carrier. As such, phones with dual SIM card slots or, more recently, hybrid traya have become en vogue there, as many Android device maker can attest to.
Apple, however, has never been one to jump on fads quickly, sometimes preferring to create trends of its own. It has so far resisted adding that feature but it might no longer be able to afford to ignore it. And patents show that Apple is at least open to the idea. But, unlike almost all smartphone makers, it is eternally obsessed with how it is implemented.
Space has always been a premium on iPhones and a dual SIM card tray would have forced Apple to rearrange its innards and bulk up the iPhone, taking it in a direction opposite its current one. Instead, Apple seems to be toying with alternative methods to support two SIMs in the same space. A possible answer would be eSIMs or embedded SIMs, which it already uses on the iPad Pro. These are basically reprogrammable chips which, in theory, could switch between different configurations. That, however, would revert to the inconvenient “dual standby” technology of old.
But while Apple might have a valid business motivation to add support for dual SIM card slots, it has an equally strong business reason to keep the status quo. While large and lucrative, China and India aren’t Apple’s only markets. In other countries, it already has equally strong deals with carriers, who would prefer to keep their iPhones locked to their networks. And Apple might not be able to afford producing and maintaining different models whose only difference lies between single and dual SIM support.