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There might be one hot new iPhone 8 feature we didn’t see coming

Published Dec 14th, 2016 1:22PM EST

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Apple has never made an iPhone with expandable storage or dual SIM support. While we’re probably never going to see Apple allow microSD storage on an iPhone since it would dramatically impact iPhone ASPs, the company may offer us a dual SIM iPhone in not-so-distant future.

The move may sound counterintuitive considering the things Apple has been doing recently with its iPhone line. Apple is looking to reduce the number of ports and other openings on the iPhone for a few reasons, including water-resistance. Not to mention that internal space is a high-prized commodity for the iPhone, which is getting slimmer and more compact as time moves on. So adding support for a second SIM card sounds unlikely. Yet there’s a brand new patent that indicates Apple has been studying the matter, and the company might have a clever way to pull it off.

USPTO Patent No. 9,521,563 was awarded to Apple on Tuesday, and it describes a System, apparatus, and method for controlling access to multiple antennas in mobile devices having multiple SIMs.

As is the case with any other patent, this newly discovered documentation merely proves that Apple has been investigating this particular technology. But it certainly doesn’t mean the iPhone 8 will have dual SIM support next year. That said, dual SIM support would be a very appealing feature for the upcoming iPhone in many markets.

What’s interesting about the patent is that it seems to indicate this type of dual SIM technology, including signal processing and prioritizing, may be needed in the future to handle new and even traditional communication standards.

“Wireless communication systems are rapidly growing in usage. Further, wireless communication technology has evolved from voice-only communications to also include the transmission of data, such as Internet and multimedia content,” the patent reads. “As wireless communication systems evolve, successive generations of wireless communication technologies tend to be developed. Adoption of a new generation wireless technology may be a gradual process, during which one or more previous generations of a similar technology may co-exist with the new generation technology, e.g., for a period of time until the new generation wireless technology is fully deployed.”

Does that mean Apple envisions a future where 5G and 4G will be used to handle different types of wireless communication? We can only speculate, as next-gen communication standards aren’t even here. However, Apple still acknowledges that you may want to use a SIM for personal communications and a separate one for work.

“Some mobile devices have the capability of using multiple SIMs (subscriber identification modules), e.g., allowing users to maintain different wireless services, such as for business and personal use,” the patent says.

apple-iphone-dual-sim-patentImage source: Apple via USPTO

What’s even more interesting to note is that the patent was filed only in mid-April 2015, so whatever dual SIM tech Apple is cooking must be pretty new.

Finally, we’ll also point out that Apple has been rumored for a while now to be planning to replace the physical SIM card with virtual SIMs. That hasn’t happened yet, but in case it’s in the works for future iPhones, then Apple could offer all prospective iPhone customers dual SIM support without worrying about using extra space inside the phone for an additional SIM card.

The patent also makes note of this proposed eSIM technology in drawings, which suggest the phone might have a regular physical SIM card and an electronic SIM card working together. Apple explains that eSIMs might be either soldered or removable, referring to them as smart cards. “Each of the smart card(s) 310 may include components such as a processor and a memory; instructions for performing SIM/eSIM functionality may be stored in the memory and executed by the processor,” Apple says.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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