iOS 12.1 brings Apple SIM to iPhone XS & XR

Apple has released the first major update to iOS 12, adding support for eSIM technology that allows owners of an iPhone XR, iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max to use a software-based SIM card alongside their normal physical SIM card.

‘Apple SIM’ has been included in the iPad range since the introduction of the iPad Air 2, while the Apple Watch 3 also supports it. However, these are the first iPhones to support the functionality.

Many Android devices already support eSIM, but just as has been the case with previous innovations like Near Field Communication (NFC), the combination of Apple’s hardware and software encourages mainstream adoption.

iOS 12.1 Apple SIM

Its inclusion will allow users to switch between work and personal numbers without having to physically change SIM cards, while international roamers will be able to choose a tariff from a local provider – provided they support Apple SIM.

This is not only convenient as it negates the requirement to carry multiple handsets or SIMs, but it can also save money as mobile customers can shop around for the best deal when travelling, or test out a network before committing to a long-term deal.

EE is the only UK operator to have confirmed support for Apple SIM on the iPhone – it is already supports Apple SIM on the iPad and on Apple Watch.

Meanwhile, Truphone offers an eSIM that can be used across 33 countries.

However there have been teething problems in the US. Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint were all due to offer Apple SIM from day one but have delayed launch due to a number of compatibility issues. Of the three, Verizon has the biggest issues with PCMag reporting that when a Verizon SIM is pushed into the ‘secondary’ position, coverage reverts to 2G.

This means no data services and in some places no coverage at all as 30 per cent of Verizon cell sites are 4G-only.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.