How Android, the world’s most popular mobile OS, is preparing for eSIM

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[ This article was originally published here ]

< 4-minute read.

In a previous blog, I’ve discussed how Apple’s eSIM-ready iPhones would change the mobile industry. In this one, I’m going to look into how the world’s most popular mobile operating system (OS), Google’s Android, is getting ready for eSIM.

First, let’s have a look at the forces at work.

  1. The heavyweight of the consumer mobile device OS industry.

Google’s Android is –by far– the world’s most popular mobile OS among consumer connected devices.

In the smartphone market, Android literally atomized the mobile OS competition consigning Symbian, BlackBerry and Windows Phones to oblivion. More than 85% of the smartphones shipped in 2018 run Android. What a journey since its 3.9% market share when it first launched back in 2009! 1.2 billion new smartphones were sold in 2018. This figure is predicted to rise to 1.35 billion by 2022.

Logically, Android gets an indisputable position in terms of installed base with 2.7 billion smartphones equipped. This is more than 4 out 5 smartphones in circulation!

Frankly speaking, I wouldn’t have bet a cent for such a success for the little Green Robot when it first started… My apologies (in French, we say faire amende honorable).

Android is the world’s most popular mobile OS among consumer connected devices.

In the tablet market, Android wins the crown too: it holds a 58% market share with 105 million units sold in 2018.

In the wearable market, Android–when combined with Wear OS–is expected to take the lead by 2022 with 37 million smart wristbands / smartwatches sold. Wear OS, also known as Wear OS by Google and previously called Android Wear, is a version of Google’s Android operating system designed for smartwatches and other wearables.

Such an impressive hegemony has been made possible thanks to the largest supporting OEM and ODM device manufacturer community which includes companies such as Samsung, Nokia, Huawei, LG, HTC, Sony, Xiaomi, Motorola, Lenovo, Oppo, Vivo, Google, OnePlus, BlackBerry, Asus, Alcatel, ZTE, Casio, Kyocera, Dell, Philips, Toshiba, CAT, Micromax, Acer, Panasonic…

Google is also very active in the Home and Connected Cars markets.

Android logically leads the race in a number of countries for #1 mobile OS position. In particular, Android is known for being massively used by people in developing and fast-growing economies, such as China, India, Africa, South-East Asia South America. A recent survey suggests that there is a correlation between the GDP per capita of a country and that country’s respective smartphone OS market share. Google’s app store Android Play has the largest free app rate and the lowest median price for paid apps compared to Apple’s App Store.

Android eSIM support is a fantastic driver

for increasing eSIM and adoption

among consumer device markets worldwide.

  1. Android eSIM support: a major accelerator for the eSIM

Starting with Android 9 Pie, Android now supports eSIM: the Android framework provides standard APIs for accessing eSIM and managing subscription profiles on the eSIM. These eUICC APIs enable third parties (e.g. mobile operators) to develop their own carrier apps and Local Profile Assistants (LPAs) on eSIM-enabled Android devices.

Let’s go deeper for a second:

An eSIM-equipped handset must embed a Local Profile Assistant (LPA), standardized by GSMA Remote SIM Provisioning specifications. Directly built into Android Pie OS, the Pie’s LPA exchanges with the Subscription Manager (SM-DP+) and the eUICC while the mobile operator-branded Carrier App provides the User Interface to allow the user to request eSIM profile downloads and optionally switch between them.

If Android can’t claim to be the first mobile OS to introduce an eSIM (Samsung’s Tizen-based smartwatch), Pixel 2 was the first major smartphone with eSIM (even though it was a closed and non-GSMA compliant version, intentionally locked to only work with Google’s own Project Fi).

We can expect massive waves of new Android eSIM smartphones in 2019 – 2020.

With Android Pie, the Android eSIM device expansion has definitely begun. Announced in October 2018, Google’s Pie-based Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones include open GSMA-compliant eSIM technology, in addition to a nano-SIM, and thus work with eSIM-ready mobile operators like Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T to name just a few.

After Apple’s eSIM support announcement for its iPhones, Samsung is a serious contender for the next large device manufacturer likely to launch an eSIM handset–followed by Huawei, LG, Xiaomi or even OPPO, according to ABI Research. At World eSIM 2019 Summit held in February 2019, Samsung’s Senior Chief Engineer Suresh Kumar Narasmihaiah summarized the eSIM key attributes: embedded, ease-of-use, secured.

Indeed, with the help of Android’s worldwide footprint, Android eSIM support is a fantastic driver for increasing eSIM and adoption among consumer device markets worldwide among developing economies in particular. A country like India is the perfect example: Android addicted and eSIM early adopter. Imagine when affordable eSIM-ready Android smartphones come!

In parallel, mobile operators across all continents are getting ready to welcome the eSIM as well as eSIM-compliant Android devices. According to a recent eSIM survey by Gemalto, more than 250 eSIM management platforms are already deployed  worldwide, which represents 25% of all mobile operators. Operators have started to transform their mobile connectivity lifecycle management policy to fully embrace the eSIM potential.

As turning things on is part of the eSIM DNA, the eSIM will foster the emergence of new categories of Android devices that are easily mobile-connected. The eSIM can also simplify the overall user mobile journey, in particular at the early step of eSIM activation.

Have I missed anything important? Let me know if so in the comments below and I will update this blog and cite your comment (and send you a small gift via courier). You can also tweet us @GemaltoMobile!

Feel free to read my other blogs on eSIM here:

Note: Special thanks to my colleague François Perticara for sharing his insights about Android Pie eUICC APIs. 😉