Embedded SIMs (eSIMs) are not expected to start appearing in smartphones from tier 1 manufacturers until 2019. This is based upon recent research results from IHS Markit. As a direct result of the suggested 2019 mainstream smartphone expansion, IHS also predicts that the number of devices shipping with an eSIM by 2021 could reach a total of 986 million. This would be up from the 108.9 million devices noted for 2016.
While there are some devices that do already come equipped with an eSIM (like Samsung's Gear S2 Classic) IHS sees this initial market still largely being occupied by Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and tablets in the near term. IHS actually expects some smartphones to start coming equipped with the technology as early as next year (2018), although these smartphone options will likely come from less prominent manufacturers as a means to offer something new, as well as acting as the test bed for the commercial smartphone market. With the expectation that tier 1 manufacturers will likely hold off a little longer and start to include the technology on their devices at some point in 2019. With IHS further pointing out that once one of the "top three" (Samsung, Apple, and Huawei) introduce the technology, the others will likely follow very quickly, as will the market in general – resulting in an overall shift away from removable SIMs.
However, while IHS expects a fairly rapid shift from removable SIMs to eSIMs to commence once the main smartphone manufacturers start to include the technology, IHS does not expect removable SIMs to go away anytime soon. If anything, IHS expects the decline of removable SIMs to be a slow one, with the blog posting noting that by 2021, removable SIMs could still feature in as many as 5.1 billion devices – which the posting equates to 83.9-percent of the market. Although, while removable SIMs will still likely occupy well over three quarters of the market by 2021, that 83.9-percent marker would still represent a fairly large drop compared to now. For reference, the same blog posting from IHS notes that 98-percent of devices included a removable SIM in 2016. You can see a more detailed breakdown of how IHS expects the SIM/eSIM market to slowly unfold over the news few years below.