Without announcing it, Apple has quietly rolled out a new SIM card on its iPads (but not iPhones) that allows users to “jump between AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile without having to swap it out or, more annoyingly, track down/purchase a new SIM card when you want to switch carriers. Instead of swapping the card, you just pick a new carrier through the device’s on screen settings,” reports TechCrunch.
News of this did not go over well with watchers of Gemalto, which makes mobile smart chips, as Gemalto’s shared plunged 10 percent on Friday (Oct. 17). The news could also be troubling to mobile carriers, who have seen the SIM lock-ins as giving them a controllable segment of the mobile payments pie. No carrier SIMs means no carrier control of the NFC secure element. The fact that this isn’t being offered for iPhones—for the moment—should minimize initial damage, but the fear is there.
Apple describes the change as a win for consumers. “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. So whenever you need it, you can choose the plan that works best for you — with no long-term commitments. And when you travel, you may also be able to choose a data plan from a local carrier for the duration of your trip.”
TechCrunch detailed some other limitations of the new SIM effort.
“The Apple SIM doesn’t seem to be something you can buy separately for now (I’d totally buy one for my older iPad Mini), but it comes out of the box in the cell-enabled iPad Air 2,” the story said. “This one SIM is currently compatible with AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile in the U.S., and EE in the UK. That list will presumably expand in time, as carriers realize that not being one of the available options is probably bad for business.”