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Backed by iPhone, eSIM smartphone shipments to double in 2020

eSIM technology has gained traction over the last couple of years. Apple incorporated it in its Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular variant and an increasing number of wearables are opting for this technology

twitter-logo Nidhi Singal        Last Updated: March 18, 2020  | 01:33 IST
Backed by iPhone, eSIM smartphone shipments to double in 2020

As the shipments of eSIM phones quadrupled from quarter of a million in 2018 to 1.5 million in 2019, it is further expected to double in 2020 touching 3.5 million units. According to a new report by CyberMedia Research (CMR), the rise in eSIM shipments have been backed by Apple's iPhone. Apple accounted for nearly 98 per cent of the eSIM phones shipped in India.

Anand Priya Singh, Analyst - Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), CMR, "eSIM-capable smartphones have slowly gained traction over the past two years, with 2019 clearly emerging as a landmark year wherein eSIMs gained prominence in India. This can be traced to the success Apple enjoyed in India with its recent iPhone launches, including the XR and iPhone 11, among others."

According to the report, in 2019, shipments of eSIM-capable phones accounted for a mere 1 per cent.  Of which, Apple had a 97.7 per cent market share. Google accounted for close to 1.8 per cent market share, with Samsung having a 0.5 per cent share of the eSIM phones shipped in 2019.

The adoption eSIM technology allows manufacturers to launch dual-SIM smartphone even with one regular nano-SIM slot. In late 2017, Google embraced this technology with the launch of Pixel 2 and Pixel 2XL. But as always, it was Apple's iPhone that popularised this feature. Apple's 2018 iPhone lineup including the iPhone XR, XS and XS Max - supported eSIM technology. Even the 2019 models - iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Max have embraced this technology. Even Samsung has opted for eSIM for its uber-premium Galaxy Fold, and other flagship smartphones, including the Samsung S20.

Prabhu Ram, Head - Industry Intelligence Group, "With Samsung embracing eSIM technology, and introducing it in the Galaxy Fold, and other smartphones, and Apple building on its recent momentum in India, we foresee a dramatic spike in eSIM-enabled phone shipments in 2020. On the back of Apple and Samsung's support for eSIM-capable phones, other Android OEMs will also aim to launch phones with eSIM capabilities. This, should in fact, be on top of OEM agenda alongside 5G phones."

eSIM technology has gained traction over the last couple of years. Apple incorporated it in its Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular variant and an increasing number of wearables are opting for this technology. Other consumer electronics products including tablets and convertibles are also opting for eSIMs. As millennials and the always-on professionals continue to choose more connected devices, it will lead to mainstream adoption of eSIMs.

However, eSIM will not replace traditional replaceable SIMs anytime soon. The technology will ride on the back of dual-SIM functionality. Over the long term, the eSIM ecosystem will potentially grow, basis the realignments and refinements on the supply side, including on manufacturing, logistics and supply chain, and, on the demand side, focused on creating consumer awareness.

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