With the furor this year about the consumer benefits of the Apple global SIM card arriving in the iPad, the implications for future connected car and Internet of Things (IoT) applications with the card haven't been so highlighted.
A Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) is a smartcard used to store a subscriber's number and plan details and identify the carrier associated with the card via the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) details. They're typically locked to a particular carrier.
The Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) Global SIM in the iPad 2 and iPad Mini 3 is supposed to let users switch between different carriers in the US and the UK through software on the card. In the US, however, that whole process got a bit borked: Verizon Wireless isn't participating, and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) locks the card to its network when the service is activated. (See iPad Air 2 Lets Users Switch Carriers Any Time.)
But what if the point of Apple Global SIM goes beyond offering consumers a brief whiff of choice when using their shiny new iPad?
Consider the other players currently offering global SIM cards that switch between carrier networks. These are the big operators like AT&T and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), and they are offering them for machine-to-machine (M2M) applications. (See AT&T Adds 500K Connected Cars in Q3 and AT&T Releases Global SIM That Supports Multiple Operators.)
This is because it is labor-intensive -- and therefore expensive -- to change SIMs in connected devices that move between networks, particularly as some devices might have a lifespan that goes way beyond the average smartphone.
An automobile manufacturer, in particular, might benefit from a global SIM that is installed at the factory and can be connected to a carrier when the vehicle arrives in the country or region it will be sold in.
Apple has been vocal about getting its iOS operating system into vehicles this year, and even inked a deal with General Motors to use its applications in its connected car offerings. Apple is also hiring to upgrade the in-car interface and apps.
Offering a global SIM as part of the package might help Apple to further develop its relationships with the world's automakers.
We also don't know what exact role Apple will play in the expanding IoT market. IoT is the concept whereby many millions more inanimate machines will talk to the network and even each other, from smart home security systems to trash bins to fridges. (See NYC: Inside the Internet of Bins.)
It seems logical that Apple will want to position the iPhone or iPad as the control panel for a raft of smart home applications. If the company gets further into the IoT market, however, then having a global SIM could become very useful.
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading