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Apple Global SIM Could Drive Connected Cars

Dan Jones
12/18/2014
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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.)


For all the insight into where service providers fit in the IoT, register to attend Light Reading's Carrier IoT: Making Money From Machines event in Atlanta on February 10, 2015.


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

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Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
12/24/2014 | 6:55:14 AM
Re: Connecting
SachinEE, 

That's how Apple's CarPlay works in Volvo cars.

-Susan
Kruz
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Kruz,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/24/2014 | 3:51:05 AM
Re: Connecting
While simplifying its supply chain might be a secondary effect of the global SIM, it remains Apple's attempt into the IOT world.The IOT market is billion dollars business and is expected to grow considerably in the upcoming years and Apple will want a share and another foothold in controlling the user experience.

Car makers and other IOT players might well have to pay royalties to Apple as they cannot be the technology provider Apple is and create the needed solutions(think about CurrentC rediculiuously trying to match Apple Pay's offering)
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/23/2014 | 10:05:14 PM
Re: Connecting
@Susan: Merging telco sector with automotive sector isn't a really simple thing. Apple could have only had the CarPlay system on which things could be IMPORTED from your iPhone, but now they made it too complex. 
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
12/22/2014 | 4:03:07 PM
Re: Connecting
Not quite sure why you'd want an Apple phone number exactly but yeah they do sem to be pushing in that direction....
nasimson
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nasimson,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/21/2014 | 7:05:09 AM
Re: Connecting
@mhh5: While supply chain flexibility is there, APPLE SIM is much more than that. In five years time or even less, there may be iPhone with Apple sim and Apple phone number and option of choosing the data plans from among the operators. The days of current telco business model as we know it are numbered.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
12/20/2014 | 10:20:57 AM
Re: Connecting
mhh, 

Sometimes simplicity is the best choice. Making its supply chain simpler Apple can focus its attention elsewhere instead of keeping  track of networks and compatibilities, as you said. The same goes to connected cars. The IoT will get too big. Keeping it as simple as possible will be the best.

-Susan
mhhf1ve
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mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/19/2014 | 4:48:43 PM
Re: Connecting
I think Apple is just trying to cut its own costs by making its supply chain simpler -- if they can make just one version of the iPad (or iPhone) and have it activate on any network, then they've saved the hassle and trouble of keeping track of which iPads are compatible with which network and maintaining inventory for each different model, etc..

Apple is ahead of the game.. but it's not like no one else can create a switchable SIM. I suspect if automakers wanted to use a switchable SIM, they'd use some other standard that doesn't have the "Apple tax" of licensing and the MFi rules.
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
12/19/2014 | 2:59:09 PM
Re: Connecting
Yeah, really long design cycle too. Usually 5 years from drawing board to road... sometimes more...
kq4ym
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kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/19/2014 | 1:15:00 PM
Connecting
It still seems that although Apple may try to get a competitive advantage with the switchable SIM, it's still going to be up the the auto (and IoT) industry to sort out who and what to include in their new dashboards. Device manufacturers are still scrambling to get into the major manufacturers planning, which may or may not include Apple in as many vehicles or other devices as they might want?
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