Orange’s iPhone 4 Pricing Reveals Micro-SIM lock-in

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

The micro-SIM cards used in Apple’s iPhone 4 and iPad are more restrictive than was feared, according to Orange’s price plans

Apple has confirmed that users will not be able to share their micro-SIM between an iPhone 4 and an iPad, as the cards are not interchangeable between the devices.

Concerns have been raised that Apple is using smaller SIM cards to limit users’ options. In January, it was revealed that the Apple iPad used a micro-SIM. Although the micro-SIM is an approved standard, it is smaller than conventional SIMs, and means that even if they “jailbreak” their device and remove software locks, users can only go to an Apple-approved operator for their contract.

Two Contracts

The Orange pricing reveals, in a Q&A on the FAQ pages, that the lock-in extends to two micro-SIM devices supplied by the same operator: “Are iPhone 4 and iPad micro-SIM cards interchangeable? No. Your iPad micro-SIM card will not work with your iPhone.”

The news will disappoint Apple users who had been hoping to use any spare data allowance from one device on the other machine. It also means that a user who has both an iPhone and a 3G iPad will have to sign up to two separate mobile contracts. Apple has also ruled out tethering the iPad to the iPhone, since both devices are USB “peripherals” and tethering requires a wired USB connection.

Some determined users will probably get around the micro-SIM problem. Last month users were shown how to make a traditional SIM card fit into an Apple iPad, after a British man obtained an iPad 3G from the US, and trimmed down a conventional SIM card (with a cleaver), so it would fit the device’s micro-SIM slot.

Speaking to PC Pro, an O2 spokesperson said that the reason for the lack of interoperability is that  the SIMs are quite different.

“Both use a mini-SIM, but the iPad micro-SIM is not, for example, provisioned for voice, and focuses on flexible data,” O2 told PC Pro. “The micro-SIM for the iPhone is set up for voice and other functionality.”

Orange iPhone 4 Tariffs

The iPhone 4 has been selling fast, with the news that Apple has stopped taking pre-orders for the 24 June launch of its iPhone 4, and Tesco has joined the list of companies selling the phone in the UK.

Meanwhile Orange has become the first UK operator to reveal its UK tariffs for the iPhone 4 and the UK operator has decided to undercut Apple’s official UK prices, albeit somewhat modestly.

Apple has already said that the unlocked iPhone 4 (16GB) will cost £499, whereas the larger 32GB device will cost an eye watering £599. However Orange is offering the 16GB model for £480, with the 32GB model costing £570. It is worth noting that these handsets would be locked to Orange’s network.

However, Orange’s iPhone 4 will be available on three different plans, including the contract based pay monthly plan, a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) handset, and business tariffs.

Users should be able to get the 16GB iPhone 4 for free, providing they commit to a 2 year contract at a hefty £75 a month. This options allows for unlimited texts and calling, with a bonus 100 minutes and 20MB roaming in Europe.

Meanwhile for an eighteen month contract on the £75 tariff, users will pay £100 for a 16GB handset or £140 for a 32GB model, both with 3,000 minutes and 500 texts.

Business iPhone customers will be able to get a 16GB iPhone 4 for just £24.68 on a 24-month £40 per month contract that offers 1,200 inclusive minutes and 200 texts.

Interestingly, every tariff seems to offer unlimited browsing, despite clear signs that mobile networks are feeling the strain from data usage, Orange users will be limited to 750MB of data, a move which follows O2’s announcement that it no longer supports unlimited data – a move which has sparked a protest next week.