Apple has included a software SIM card in the iPad Air 2, potentially changing the way users select data plans
Many of the features included in the iPad Air 2 were unsurprising to many, but the inclusion of an embedded SIM was barely mentioned during the launch of the tablet, something which could have a major impact on the mobile industry.
Apple SIM allows users to select from a range of short-term data plans directly from within iOS, giving users greater flexibility and the ability to sign up with a foreign operator when they are roaming.
AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have been named as partners in the US, as have EE in the UK, and it is suggested that it could improve competition in the telecoms industry by making it easier to switch operator.
The Apple SIM is currently removable, allowing users to insert SIM cards from other operators or use their SIM in another device, but if it was extended to the iPhone or made non-removable, it could make people less likely to switch to another device manufacturer. Additionally, operators would have to negotiate with Apple to be including, shifting the balance in power towards Cupertino.
“Apple SIM is the biggest strategic challenge to mobile operators for years,” says Ian Fogg, a mobile analyst at IHS. “Like FaceTime, Apple is starting small, but just like Apple’s VoIP efforts this is just the initial small step in a longer term Apple strategy.
“For now, the impact of Apple SIM is modest because it is only offered on the iPad and not the iPhone which is Apple’s key product for mobile operators.
“Near term, Apple SIM offers benefits for consumers and for Apple, such as greater consumer convenience when abroad, freedom of a carrier choice and make the purchase much easier for carrier iPad plans through Apple stores which at the same time could boost the volumes of cellular iPads, and in time iPhones, sold direct from Apple rather than through operator-owned retail channels.”
However Fogg says operators will still have a vital role to play in the sale of iPhones and iPads, as they have a significant role in subsidising expensive Apple hardware and are important for marketing these devices to consumers. This, he claims, will help them when negotiating to be part of the Apple SIM ecosystem.
Apple also revealed the iPad Mini 3, the iMac with Retina Display and an updated version of the Mac Mini during its launch event, and revealed that OS X Yosemite would be available to download immediately, with iOS 8.1 arriving on Monday.
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