iPad Air 2 Lets Users Switch Carriers Any Time

Apple took another chip at the carrier business model Thursday, allowing users to change carriers for wireless connectivity anytime, for any reason at all, on new iPad Airs.

Previous generations of iPads allowed users to sign up for short-term pay-as-you-go contracts for periods of one month or a quarter. But the user had to select a carrier at the time they purchased the iPad -- tablets made for the Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) network, for example, wouldn't work on any other.

But the iPad Air 2, introduced Thursday, includes a universal chip that allows users to choose one carrier one month, and another carrier the next month.

Apple calls the chip the Apple SIM, and explains:

The new Apple SIM is preinstalled on iPad Air 2 with Wi-Fi + Cellular models. 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.

In other words, if your customer doesn't like you, he can go to your competitor just about anytime.

Participating US and UK carriers are AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), T-Mobile US Inc. and EE . Conspicuously absent from that list: Apple partner Verizon.

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Apple has been chipping away at the loyalty that connects US consumers with their wireless carriers since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. Until the iPhone, most consumers picked a carrier, signed a contract, and got whatever phones the carriers had for sale. But the iPhone reversed that relationship -- many consumers wanted iPhones and selected whichever carrier would give it to them.

This new development from Apple diminishes customer loyalty even further, and means carriers will have to work harder to keep customer business.

On the other hand, carriers have sold a ton of iPhones and iPads, service plans to go with them, and launched the smartphone era with its proliferation of products and services for carriers to sell. This latest development will be good news for carriers who win customers with quality service, and bad news for carriers who rely on contract lock-in to generate revenue.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

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Susan Fourtané 11/2/2014 | 1:41:10 PM
Re: A Global Tablet Dan -- Thanks for the link. So, it's not so simple as it appeared to be at the beginning. Maybe the Apple SIM will never arrive on the iPhones if what carriers do is blocking the SIM after customers activate them. Hmm. :/ -Susan
DanJones 10/29/2014 | 3:41:00 PM
Re: A Global Tablet This may be less disruptive than it first appeared to be. The Apple SIM won't be arriving on iPhones anytime soon: http://www.macworld.com/article/2840339/apple-downplays-disruptive-potential-of-apple-sim-while-carriers-rush-to-protect-turf.html
nasimson 10/25/2014 | 1:11:54 PM
Beginning of the end Telcos are stuck in Telco 1.0 business models: seeking rents for their investments with minimum possible customer service.

If this SIM gets into iphones and Samsung copies it. And the AppleID, Android ID becomes dialable. And people start dialing these instead of phone numbers. This will be Beginning of the end.
nasimson 10/25/2014 | 1:03:37 PM
Re: Soft SIM ? > or is it this ?

> http://www.gsma.com/connectedliving/embedded-sim/

I have heard of Embedded SIM in the context of M2M where sim switching is extremely expensive. So integrators want to switch providers remotely.

Not sure if Apple SIM is the same.
nasimson 10/24/2014 | 11:16:24 PM
Re: Opening choice leading to one choice > This basically trades one lock-in for another. On the one hand, you have a choice of
> carriers. On the other hand, you can't remove your SIM from one device and stick it
> in another

Thats a question of which refresh cycles are longer. Device's or Carrier's. Most customers keep carriers longer than their devices that last only for 1-2 years. 

But with the reversal that Apple has introduced this may change. 
Joe Stanganelli 10/21/2014 | 11:09:49 PM
Re: Opening choice leading to one choice @Mitch: Exactly.  That's why it's so brilliant for Apple.  They've managed to change the conversation -- from that of the choice of carrier to one of the choice of device.

Now, they've created a single line of devices that is ubiquitous among carriers and highly in demand.  Android devices as a whole vastly outnumber iOS devices, but I'd wager dollars to donuts that the iPhone is one of the top devices -- at least in North America -- hands down.
Mitch Wagner 10/20/2014 | 11:50:15 PM
Re: Opening choice leading to one choice This basically trades one lock-in for another. On the one hand, you have a choice of carriers. On the other hand, you can't remove your SIM from one device and stick it in another. 
Joe Stanganelli 10/19/2014 | 5:55:59 AM
Opening choice leading to one choice This is something that Apple has been concerned with for a long time.  They even have a patent on technology that would allow an iPhone user to shop for a carrier in real time on their phone.  Between that and other steps they have taken to make their devices more flexible (universal compatibility, downmarket routes in the form of the iPhone 5c, etc.), Apple has been steering the conversation away from what carrier consumers should be using and more toward the choice of device -- that choice being iPhone and iPad.
buzzkill2000 10/18/2014 | 10:45:45 AM
Re: Soft SIM ? or is it this ?


buzzkill2000 10/18/2014 | 10:43:07 AM
Soft SIM ? Does any one one know for sure if this a "soft SIM" ?

Hard (plastic) SIMs have the same smart chip that you see on credit cards these days. 

Plastic SIMs are married to an Operator's HSS/EIR.

So, Either Apple implemented a "programmle" Soft SIM OR Apple actually became a MVNO with their own HSS/EIR infrastructure.

Which one is it ?
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