Is a vague comment from the CEO of SoftCard (formerly ISIS, the AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile mobile payment effort) that his group is “actively working with Apple” to be permitted onto the iPhone in 2015 “using integrated secure SIM-based hardware” an indication of a future iPhone design change?
Setting aside the fact that Apple explores and considers many possibilities that it never deploys or at least delays for a very long time—for how many years was Apple supposed to deploy NFC before it actually did?—the reason to take this possibility seriously is that it falls in line with a 2008 Patent Apple was granted, according to a report from Patently Apple.
Note that six years is a lifetime in the Apple world and comments that Apple told the Patent Office back then may have little relevance to what it is currently preparing for 2015. That said, the Patent speaks of a “drawer or ejectable tray (that) could accommodate not only a nano SIM but also an integrated circuit card, which is at the heart of Apple’s iWallet,” the story reported, adding that “the system may include connectors coupled to circuit boards of the devices and trays that can be loaded with removable modules, inserted through openings in the housings of the devices, and into the connectors for functionally aligning the removable modules with the circuit boards.”
The filing—as Patent filings tend to do—offered a variety of alternative ways this could be deployed. “A removable module may take on a variety of forms, including, but not limited to, integrated circuit cards (ICCs), chip cards, memory cards, flash memory cards, microprocessor cards, smart cards, such as subscriber identity module (SIM) cards, or combinations thereof, containing electronic circuitry from which the device may read data and/or to which the device may write data,” Patently Apple said. “The card could be inserted into a number of Apple iOS devices including an iPhone and iPod touch via an ejectable tray or assembly. That makes sense being that a user may, from time to time, wish to load a different ICC (Visa, Master Card, American Express) depending on what’s needed locally or when on a business trip or vacation. That also explains Apple’s added verbiage of ‘or combinations thereof’ because technically Apple may have to create a double tray to accommodate two cards: one for a SIM card and the other for a bank card relating to the iWallet. Because both consumer cards will wildly vary from person to person, there’s a need to be able to access a tray accommodating two micro cards on a single device.”