eSIMs in India: The New Norm For Smartphones By The End Of 2020 [STUDY]

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Things move blazingly fast when it comes to technology and functionality related to smartphones. Such is the case with the new and emerging eSIM functionality which is being projected to penetrate India and take over physical sim cards with the increased shipments of eSIM capable smartphones.

On Monday, projections by the CyberMedia Research (CMR) revealed that the shipment of eSIM based smartphones is set to double to a whopping 3.5 million in 2020. This dramatic increase in the projected shipments come after the fact that Samsung, in a full-fledged fashion, has now started to embrace the eSIM technology after it was made popular by Apple and Google.

The term “eSIM” simply stands for ‘embedded SIM card’ which means that are no physical SIM cards involved and no physical swapping over required by the consumer. An eSIM, therefore, is basically a small chip inside the phone and works in a similar way to the NFC chip that’s used for payment technologies such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.

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The information on an eSIM is rewritable that allows us to change the operator with a simple phone call. They’re really easy to add to a data plan, therefore, connecting devices with eSIMs to a mobile account can be done in minutes. eSIM is backed by the GSMA, the association of mobile networks and that organisation has defined the standard for eSIM worldwide.

In a statement, Anand Priya Singh, Analyst, Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), CMR, explained how the eSIM-capable smartphones have been slowly gaining momentum for two years with 2019 being its year of inception for eSIMs to start gaining a stronghold in India.

She also further added that it is mainly because of the smartphone manufacturer Apple which first achieved success with their iPhone XR and iPhone 11 among other launches that the whole eSIM movement has been able to slowly take off in India.

In 2018, from a quarter of a million to a whopping 1.5 million in 2019, the shipments of eSIM saw a dramatic increase with Apple being one of the top contributors in it.

Apple, with every 3 out of its 5 smartphones which are eSIM enabled, accounted for the shipment of nearly 98% of eSIM supporting devices to India.

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Google was the first to launch eSIM enabled smartphones in late 2017 with their Pixel 2 model. However, it was only after the launch of Apple’s premium range of smartphones such as the iPhone XR, XS and XS Max (these smartphones feature the dual SIM technology with both a Nano-SIM and an eSIM) that the whole eSIM ecosystem took off in a full-fledged manner.

Now the new smartphone entrants such as the Galaxy Fold and the S20 by Samsung have also embraced eSIM capabilities thus further solidifying the fact that India will most certainly see a growth in the shipments of eSIM capable smartphones.

The Future of eSIMs In India

Prabhu Ram, Head of Industry Intelligence Group – CMR, believes that India will surely witness a dramatic increase in the growth of the shipments of eSIM enabled smartphones in 2020.

He also added that other Android OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) will follow suit to launch eSIM capable smartphones on the back of Apple and Samsung’s support for the same.

On the consumer side of things, the current slow rate of adoption which is due to the fact that this functionality is only being introduced on high-end smartphone devices as of right now will slowly fade away as more and more smartphone manufacturers decide to include this functionality in introductory budget smartphones as well.

For the last few years, India has been recording an astounding growth in the shipments of smartphones. Over 152 million smartphones were shipped in India during 2019 and the figure was expected to go up earlier. However, the recent outbreak of Coronavirus has already put smartphone manufacturers in a tough spot. Many have either deviated from their plans or postponed the launch of many path-breaking devices with innovative features. Hence, it would be interesting to see if the projected market of eSIMs in India meet a similar fate or remains unaffected completely.

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