This Android 13 feature could be the beginning of the end for SIM cards

SIM cards are the beating heart of our mobile and connected lives. These small modules allow users to receive calls, send messages and connect to all kinds of Internet services. They’re such an integral part of phones – feature phones and smartphones – that manufacturers have to find a way to cram them in, regardless of space constraints. As a result, we’ve seen the form factor shift from full, to mini, to micro and finally to nano SIM. These days, some phones even have built-in SIM cards (eSIM) that can replace traditional cards. Unfortunately, eSIMs have a few issues that could prevent them from fully taking over – but it looks like Google might have solutions ready in Android 13.


The main issue here is how to offer something similar to dual SIM support with eSIM chips that only work with one subscriber line at a time. Google’s solution uses something it calls Multiple Profiles Activated (MEP) to allow multiple active SIM profiles on an eSIM, as detailed by Esper’s Mishaal Rahman. In other words, a single eSIM item will be able to connect to two different carriers simultaneously.

What makes Google’s MEP method interesting is that everything happens at the software level. Multiple logical interfaces serve as independent communication channels between a SIM profile and the phone’s modem, while maintaining only one true physical connection between the components. Google is adding API classes to AOSP that will allow carrier applications to obtain information about logical and physical interfaces alongside the SIM profiles stored there.

While eSIMs can currently store multiple profiles on a single chip and support switching between them, only one profile can be active at a time. In other words, the only way to get dual SIM support with existing solutions is to buy a device with multiple eSIMs, multiple physical SIM cards, or one eSIM and one physical SIM card.

So why not just use two eSIMs, you say? This kind of undermines the whole technology, because having two eSIMs would still limit the available space, even on a smaller scale than physical cards.

Everything points to Google introducing this supercharged eSIM support on Android 13. Rahman’s report notes that AOSP refers to the technology, while the Android developer website suggests that Android 13 might bring it. Some new MEP APIs are even already present in Android 13 DP2. Right now, we’re just waiting to see a remnant of it finally go live – good thing the A13 betas are right around the corner.

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