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Android 13 could kill the SIM card — here's how

android 13 logo on a pixel 4a
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While the eSIM has been a part of commercially available tech for six years now, adoption still isn’t exactly what you’d call universal. 

The advantages of killing off the physical SIM card altogether and switching to eSIM — a secure element embedded in the device’s motherboard that can download carrier information — are obvious. You can ditch the SIM tray to make the device less porous, or free up space for a larger battery or other components. While nanoSIMs used nowadays are tiny, that space could still be used for other thing. Every little helps.

But so far, while there are plenty of phones which support eSIM technology, almost all of them have it in addition to the SIM card tray, which limits the appeal. That’s partly because not every carrier supports eSIM, though that picture has become far more rosey in the last few years (opens in new tab), due to Apple’s adoption of the tech. The iPhone 13 supports dual eSIMs already (opens in new tab), and now Google is reportedly seeking to follow suit in Android 13.

Esper’s (opens in new tab) Mishaal Rahman — a fan of digging into Android 13 code to uncover upcoming features — believes that Google is set to offer a way of letting multiple carriers connect to a single eSIM in the next OS update. 

Currently, those wanting to connect more than one carrier to their Android devices have a few options, and none of them are particularly elegant. They could buy a phone with space for two SIM cards, buy one with both a physical SIM card slot and eSIM support, or use eSIM only, but have to constantly juggle between carriers.

According to Rahman, references to “multiple enabled profiles” (MEP) have been spotted in the Android Open Source Project and Android Developers website, indicating adoption could be on the way in Android 13. 

The company had previously published this solution in a patent back in 2020, and it works by splitting a physical interface between different digital connections. “No rewiring is needed, so existing devices with a single eSIM chip wired to a modem can theoretically support MEP,” explains Rahman.

“Google has started to implement the new APIs for MEP in the latest version of the SIM Manager app included in the Android 13 developer previews, but they have not enabled MEP support yet on any Pixel devices as far as I can tell,” Rahman continues. 

He adds that it’s possible it will come to Pixel devices in a future beta “possibly gated behind a feature flag.”

Adoption of the eSIM has been slow and the nanoSIM remains the norm for now. But while not everyone wants multiple carriers on their phones, this could be a significant step towards a day when fiddling with SIM card removal tool becomes a thing of the past.

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.