eSIM – What Makes Apple Watch 3 A Big Deal

I bet most people were waiting for new iPhone revealed on Apple’s Launch Event in fall this year. Although iPhone X has brought us Face ID as Tim Cook said that he was going to “reveal the product that will set the path for technology for the next decade”,  but that revolutionary product was not the iPhone X, as planned.  The new Apple Watch is more likely the revolutionary, path-defining product.

Before this launch, Apple Watch more depended on iPhone than stood on its own. Without connection with iPhone, most functions are disabled in Apple Watch which makes it more like an accessory, not an independent product.

But now, Apple Watch 3 totally makes on its own! By cutting the tethers to the iPhone, Apple Watch becomes the smallest platform in Apple’s new computing ecosystem. Imagine that the free-standing Apple Watch as the hub of a body-area network that includes health and fitness assistance, all your big and little data processing such as messages, calendars, calls, and Watch-Based AI Siri to offer you life assistance.


What makes Apple Watch 3 a big deal instead of iPhone X? The answer here is eSIM. 

eSIM stands for Embedded SIM. Embedded SIMs differentiates itself from traditional SIM cards by integrating the identification technology of the plastic card into the device’s processor or modem itself.

So what are the advantages of eSIM by getting rid of “physical card”?

  1. Convenience – Customers can switch to any carrier any time without changing the physical cards. Imagine the time you have spent on visiting stores of the carriers,  waiting for new SIM cards when you switch the carrier. Also, eSim makes it possible to activate your phone service online.
  2. Cost – eSIM technology offers a potential to achieve zero charge on international phone services, which brings carriers a new competitive feature to their customers.
  3. Safety – the data saved in SIM cards now can be reached if your phones were stolen or lost. Without a real card, your data could be protected by your device codes.
  4. Smaller and Lighter – Along with Bell’s Law, eSIM is 90% smaller than the current SIM cards which save the space inside smart devices, leaving designers more choices to make devices lighter and prettier.


Even though eSIM looks perfect for bringing us a super easy product, carriers who have to support it to provide data services seem to be unhappy for the reason that eSIM technology takes their control of the customers. Without a physical card, it would be very hard for carriers to retain their customers only if they provide much cheaper services, finally form into a price war. It would cut down carriers’ profits apparently.  Therefore, for a long time, all the phone carriers show their attitudes against eSIM which made its development stopped.


However, with GSMA (GSM Association) claiming that eSIM will be the future and releasing several standards of eSIM features, more and more hardware manufacturers and carriers started to cooperate for eSIM research. We can see that Apple Watch 3 is kicking off the progress.

So far, T-Mobile, AT&T and about 20 providers worldwide have said they’ll work with Microsoft to let eSIM-connected PCs buy data from the Windows Store. What that process will look like isn’t clear yet. Microsoft said it’s working on making the carrier-selection process part of the Windows 10 interface. It could be as easy as picking a wireless operator the way you select a WiFi network, then going to the Windows Store to buy the amount of data you think you’ll need.

We can see there is still a bright future for eSIM.

Here is the forecast of eSIM market from McKinsey:


But still, eSIM depends on each party in this value chain pushing together, not just manufacturers. Now the technology is done, it’s time for carriers to find out a new way to do the businesses with eSIM not resisting it.



  1. s_courtney18 · ·

    This is a very interesting blog post, Yvette! I know very little about the Apple Watch in general, let alone the newest version and why it’s different from the previous models. The advancements with eSIM definitely seem like they will be applied to smartphones in the near future–hopefully Apple and other phone manufacturers aren’t as pressured to maintain loyalty to phone carriers as much as they are loyal to customers, which will give consumers a one-up in terms of low switching costs to different providers.

  2. I think most people focused on the presentation of the iPhone X during Apple’s recent product launch event, but thanks for bringing the Apple Watch into the spotlight – it really does seem like the Watch is the groundbreaking product that will change the dynamics of the telecommunications industry in the years to come. As you mentioned, my biggest skepticism of the Apple Watch was the fact that it was so dependent on devices like the iPhone. Now, with stand-alone mobile network connectivity, the product seems a whole lot more appealing. The market share CAGR of the e-SIM forecasted by McKinsey looks promising, and I think the Apple Watch will be one of the IoT devices that will spearhead this growth. It may take many more years for the developing markets to adopt E-SIMs and for physical SIMs to become obsolete, but the trend does seem to be shifting.

  3. Great post. I said from Day 1 that it would be Gen 3 (or 4) until Apple really figured out if apple watch would work. We’ll see sooner rather than later now. eSim is the key step forward. Still too small though, IMHO

  4. juliasmacdonald · ·

    Hi, Yvette! Great post! Previously I’ve always thought of the Apple Watch as a “nice to have” accessory but now it seems that eSIM will allow it to function as its own device. This isn’t the first attempt to bring out a smartwatch with cellular connectivity, but Apple’s reputation for reliable, user-friendly, and stylish products will most likely make this one a success. Although I have to say, personally I find the red dot to differentiate the cellular enabled model not particularly “stylish.”

  5. maririera19 · ·

    I have actually been debating on whether or not I should get an Apple Watch and your post might have just convinced me.. Being able to use the watch separately from your iPhone is a huge value added. e-Sim is Moore’s Law in action, now if only the price would follow it also.

  6. ericiangesuale · ·

    I generally follow technology news, but I have to stay I’m surprised that I haven’t heard enough about eSIMS! I do agree that the Apple Watch has finally evolved into a product in a league of its own, not simply an iPhone accessory. However, I think you’re right in analyzing that eSIMs are one of the true breakthroughs here. By removing the physical connection to the carrier, users will one day be able to switch carriers from the comfort of their homes. While I’m sure this deeply frightens carriers (for the price war reason you mentioned), this is much needed advancement in mobile technology that has been pushed off for some time now.

  7. emmaelennon · ·

    Cool highlight on new, potentially industry-shattering technology! Will have to follow this closely, as it has the power to entirely disrupt the telecomm industry, as you mentioned! Should be interesting to see how they respond.

  8. I do think that Apple does a fantastic job and playing to convenience for their consumers. It’s impressive how you can just use the new watch to call someone without having your cell phone next to you. I’m still waiting for the day they can include Facetime!

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