OPINION: For regular international travellers like me, the death of the SIM tray in the US iPhone 14 models creates a dilemma that isn’t easily solved
Apple’s decision to ditch the SIM tray in American models has made me second guess an iPhone 14 upgrade. I live in the United States and often travel back and forth to the UK for work and to see friends and family. Part of my travelling routine is switching out my SIM-cards as the plane comes in to land.
Out goes the Verizon Wireless SIM and in goes my Three Mobile PAYG SIM as the plane approaches touchdown in the UK, and vice versa as it approaches the runway in Miami. I like to do it in the air because I want to let everyone know I’ve landed safely ASAP. I’ve done the journey probably 75 times in the last decade, but my mum still worries you see.
Not only will buying an eSIM-only iPhone 14 erase this rite of arrival on UK or US soil (that I kind of enjoy), it will also create a headache.
Do I carry a second phone so I can continue using my UK SIM card? It’s not the biggest pain, but then I wouldn’t get to use my flashy new iPhone 14 Pro Max for photos and videos. It would also means I can’t trade in the iPhone 12 Pro Max for a few quid off the upgrade. Bummer.
What about an eSIM?
What about just registering a UK eSIM? Afterall, the iPhone 14 can support up to eight of them. Well, there’s another snag. According to its website, Three mobile doesn’t currently offer eSIMs (unless you had a trial), but says it is working on offering them again soon. So, when this happens, I guess I’ll be able to get one using my PAYG number.
Until then, it means registering with another provider. EE, Vodafone, O2 and Virgin offer eSIMs, but only as pay monthly options rather than PAYG (h/t 5G.co.uk). Well, the last thing I need is another rolling 12 month contract. Even then, I‘d still have to go through the hassle of moving over my UK number to the new SIM.
So, what else? Buying one of those pre-paid eSIM data plans you get at the airport? That’s fine for the majority of travellers who just want a bit of data to get them through their vacation. (As an aside, Apple makes this process quite achievable via scanning a QR code in settings, but less tech savvy folks will have nightmares trying to set the eSIM up compared to a plug-and-play solution.)
For me, a pre-paid eSIM means losing my UK number where people know to get ahold of me for work, play – or heaven forbid – emergencies.
The fourth option? Buy an iPhone 14 Pro in the UK where it still has the SIM tray? I could, I suppose, but I’d be paying a lot more for the privilege ($1099 vs £1199 – thanks for nothing weak pound) and I fret over potential cellular network compatibility issues in the country where I’m present for nine months of the year.
Finally, how about just using the international roaming offer from my US provider? No thanks. My wife does this and Verizon charges $10 a day for the privilege, the absolute shysters.
Creating hassle, not relieving it
During the event yesterday, Apple pitched this as a feature that would relieve users of some hassle, but for a small group of people it just creates some where there wasn’t any.
I can see where the benefits from this will come eventually. SIM cards break and get lost, you need to carry an additional little tool (or improvise with a paper clip) to get at them, and they’re super fiddly to handle. Heaven knows how many times my insistence on switching them on the plane has left me scratting around trying to find it under my seat.
Eventually it’ll be fine, like that smooth iPhone 14 design that no longer has a random ejectable bit of plastic down the side. Apple will be able to do more with the space too, like give us larger iPhone batteries. It’ll all work out eventually
This is like the iPhone 7 when the headphone jack fell by the wayside, before Bluetooth headphones were fully ubiquitous and we had to deal with the pain in the arse of using another dongle. Trouble here is, there’ll be no dongles for SIM tray, so no intermediary fix. In time it’ll be fine, but it isn’t now.
I guess I’ll be sticking to the old faithful iPhone 12 Pro Max. Shame, I am very fond of that Dynamic Island on the iPhone 14 Pro too…