September 29, 2022

Brighton Journal

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

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SIM cards are the heart of our mobile and connected lives. These small units allow users to receive calls, send messages, and connect to all types of Internet services. It’s such an integral part of phones – feature phones and smartphones alike – that manufacturers have to find a way to cram it in, regardless of space constraints. As a result, we’ve seen the form factor shrink from full SIM cards, to mini, to micro, and eventually nano SIM cards. These days, some phones even have Integrated SIM cards (eSIMs) It can replace traditional cards. Unfortunately, the eSIM has some issues that could prevent it from taking over entirely – but it looks like Google may have some solutions ready in the pipeline. Android 13.

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

What makes the Google MEP method interesting is that everything happens at the program level. Multiple logical interfaces act as independent communication channels between the SIM profile and the phone modem, maintaining only one true physical connection between the components. Google has added API classes to AOSP that will allow carrier apps to get information about the logical and physical interfaces along with the SIM profiles stored on them.

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While eSIMs can currently store multiple profiles on a single SIM, and support switching between them, only one profile can be activated at a time. In other words, the only way to get dual SIM support with current solutions is to purchase a device with multiple eSIMs, multiple physical SIMs, or an eSIM and a physical SIM.

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

Everything indicates that Google is offering supercharged eSIM support on Android 13. Rahman reports that AOSP points to the technology, while the Android Developers site notes that Android 13 may integrate it. Some of the new MEP APIs are already in Android 13 DP2. For now, we’re just waiting to see some of its effects finally released – good thing A13 beta around the corner.


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