'iPad Day' is all but over, with Apple announcing two new tablets with the usual amount of hoopla. But one feature of both new iPads that Apple didn’t hype up in its presentation is the inclusion of a new, specially designed ‘Apple SIM’ that will hopefully make it much easier for customers to switch between carrier plans.
The Apple SIM will come pre-installed on cellular-ready models of the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, and will allow customers to change mobile networks without having to swap over their SIM card. This is kind of a big deal, especially in the US where it’s not so easy to move between carriers.
Apple states that the SIM can be used to connect your device to a short-term data plan, so customers can avoid being locked into contracts and can buy and use cellular data as needed.
The SIM will also reportedly come in handy for travellers looking to use data abroad, by allowing you to purchase plans from participating international carriers.
Why it's awesome...
Being free to jump between networks sounds great in theory, but it all depends on how many carriers sign on to be included.
So far, only three US carriers are available with the card – that’s AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile – and UK telco EE is the only non-US participant. Verizon Wireless subscribers will still be able to use both the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, but they’ll need to purchase a Verizon-only model.
The SIM opens up a lot of possibilities for customers tired of being chained to a single network, especially if Apple plans to include the card in future iPhones.
The feature isn't a total shock to anyone with an interest in tech, as rumors about a carrier-free iPhone SIM began circulating way back in 2010. But it is curious that Apple didn’t make a bigger deal about the card’s inclusion in its latest tablet line-up.
...as long as it's removable
Perhaps that’s due to the potential downsides of the idea – that Apple’s motives are less about customers and more about increasing control over co-operating carriers. It also creates issues if the SIMs are non-removable, as it eliminates the freedom of being able to switch between devices and networks at will.
The plans available to purchase will also depend on which carriers Apple can get on board, which could mean potentially less options for customers (particularly when overseas or in regional areas).
Overall, we’d love to know how Apple convinced big US carriers to agree to this at a time when competition is high in the mobile industry. We’re looking forward to seeing if the Apple SIM succeeds, and eventually finds a place in next year’s iPhone – or if cellular providers can maintain their control over the options available to customers.