Do you hate SIM cards? The hassle of switching your number if you lose your phone or trying to work out if the mobile you’re buying will lock you to a single operator? Well, here’s some good news: Apple’s got your back.
It wasn’t mentioned during the company’s unveiling of new tablets and computers last night, but Apple’s new iPad Air 2 (the world’s thinnest tablet incidentally) will come with a reprogrammable SIM card that lets users switch mobile plan at the touch of the button – not by juggling fiddly little cards.
It might not sound like much a big change, but tech experts say it could be the first step towards freeing mobile devices from restrictive and sometime unfair mobile contracts, allowing users to switch carrier just by selecting an option in settings.
“The Apple SIM gives you the flexibility to choose from a variety of short-term plans from select carriers in the U.S. and UK right on your iPad,” writes Apple on its website. “So whenever you need it, you can choose the plan that works best for you — with no long-term commitments.”
There’s only a few participating network operators so far (AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile in the US and EE in the UK) but the reprogrammable Apple SIM will allow, for example, travellers to switch to a local provider just by signing up to a short contract – without having to wait for a physical card.
A reprogrammable SIM card (which sits in the usual place and will be available to buy separately in Apple stores for $5) isn’t going to kill those annoying long-term contracts but it does point the way towards a SIM-less future, at least for Apple.
As The Verge has pointed out, the company’s clout in the market means that it has been able to dictate terms in the past regarding SIM standards, pushing through the introduction of both the micro-SIM and nano-SIM despite objections from other manufacturers. Introducing the Apple SIM with the iPad Air 2 is a warning to its rivals that it’ll also be coming to next year’s iPhone.
Ian Fogg, an analyst for IHS said that the Apple SIM moves the company "into a mediation position because for operators to be present [they] must negotiate terms direct with Apple."
"Mobile operators' business models centre on the SIM card," said Fogg. "It anchors the user into the carriers' billing system, acts as a source of identity, and is the security token which authenticates the user onto the mobile network."
But perhaps most importantly for a company obsessed with sleek lines and simple designs, getting rid of the SIM card would mean getting rid of that fiddling little tray that you have to tease out with a paperclip every time you get a new phone – an unwanted aberration in the sleek sides of the iPhone. As TechCrunch editor Matthew Panzarino put it:
Jony Ive is gonna smoke a cigarette after he gets to eliminate the iPhone's SIM slot.— Matthew Panzarino (@panzer) October 17, 2014