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back to article Multi-network iPhone SIM rumours at Apple

Rumours are circulating that Apple intends to produce a future iPhone with a special SIM card - probably integrated into the handset rather than swappable - which would permit a user to swap at will between cellular networks. The plans are reported on by GigaOm but not officially confirmed by Apple. According to the website, the …

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May help combat theft...

This could be quite attractive to the operators as it means that the SIM would be presumably non-replaceable and a single entity (Gemalto) would be responsible for blocking of the integrated SIM's, this would make it difficult to resell a handset that had been stolen as it would be blocked from attaching to any network, given that Gemalto knows the Physical SIM within the handset relates directly to a stolen handset, not matter where it is, anywhere in the world.

The inability to connect to a network also prevents activation and therefore makes the device about as much use as a paperweight until returned to the operator or Apple who are the only people who have the facility to ask Gemalto to release the lock out.

It will be interesting to see how iTunes would manage transfer of a Network SIM identity from one handset to another in the event that a handset is swapped out due to fault or theft.

I might also suggest that in the case of a roaming user, the Integrated Gemalto SIM might have the concept of virtual SIM's that could be set up for a roaming user, so that when the user enters another country and the handset identifies it's location using GPS, the handset could automatically use a Network SIM identity that the user has set up for that country and the user gets billed at a local rate by the local network.

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GPS?

Wouldn't really need GPS as your phone always knows your country from the cells themselves.

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FAIL

Why would you need GPS?

Networks automatically provide identification through network signalling.

Better to use network signalling as you at least know the handset is within operational coverage areas.

Automatic roaming will not be acceptable to some governments as users are required to identify themselves through passports and/or visas before service is permitted. In Cambodia no foreign visitor is permitted to use cell services.

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But...

Networks can already block IMEIs, and they know which ones are marked as stolen, rendering reported lost phones useless already.

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Anonymous Coward

I think

that that last bit is unlikely - it's probably what Apple has highlighted to telcos as advantage - that people won't be able to swap sims when roaming.

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Grenade

No foreign Cell in Cambodia?

Then I guess I can take Cambodia off my tour list LOL!!!

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Various analysts have speculated that...

The any-network iPhone could "cut the carriers out" of the phone business, and suggest that the new tech could herald a major upheaval.

Are these the same analysts who were going nuts over the nexus one?

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really...

Those will be the analysts that don't use their phones to *actually call* people.

Phone service, requires PHONE NETWORKS. Come on Gartner et al, get your sh*t together.

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Yeah right

"Various analysts have speculated that the any-network iPhone could "cut the carriers out" of the phone business..."

Sounds more like another way for operators to tie you into stupidly long contracts and extract the maximum amount of money from you.

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It's don't think it's about bypassing the carriers

This is going to be a software configurable SIM, the provisioning of which would have to involve two parties – Apple and the carrier. There’s no way to provision a SIM onto a network without that service provider being involved in the transaction.

I see three advantages to Apple in this approach, none of which are to do with bypassing the carrier;

1) Supply chain/channel

A single skew can ship globally. At present Apple has to ship hardware with subsidy locks in place into each channel. This is hugely expensive, and challenging for the channel whenever Apple releases a new model. This could also enable Apple to retail subsidised phones and iPads through Apple Stores.

2) Hardware

A hardware SIM embedded on the motherboard will be cheaper to manufacture, and take up less space. It also removes one more aperture from the outside of the case, which is clearly in line with Apple’s design philosophy.

3) Removing a reason to Jailbreak

Apple gets ongoing revenue from carrier. Thats why the iPhone price plans are different to those offered for other devices.

The primary reason for jailbreaking is to take the hardware to another network. An embedded SIM stops this dead. More phones stay on the carrier and plan that Apple wants, and there’s very little reason for the average user to attempt to Jailbreak. In fact the only reason left now is to install apps that you can’t get through the iTunes app store. This will be marginal.

IMHO this does little to threaten the carrier beyond what Apple already achieves through ownership of the Application and content ecosystem.

Nick

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Go

Additionally

Seems like this would make theft less likely as the SIM and UDID would be intrinsically linked, although TBH seems like there's enough in place to do this already.

I'd expect there won't be a recognisable SIM in it at all, either just an extra chip on the MB or the whole thing handled by the CPU.

I'm guessing Steve asked why we have to poke tichy little cards in our phones and the answer was something like "Well originally..."

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The answer is

"Because what I'm buying from the network is the service, and the device I use to access it is my own fucking business, thanks". But your scenario is more likely. Sigh.

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Erm

Current iPhones range from £419 to £599. The iPhone 4 16GB is £499 which is not equal to £600.

Sounds a lot but it is a lot cheaper than they used to be unlocked (£700 or more). Freedom does come at a price as well, you can also sell your phone 12 months later when the next model comes out and get back a reasonable amount of money. You can also take advantage of new PAYG operators like GiffGaff who offer 150 mins, unlimited texts and truly unlimited data for £10 a month.

I got about £130 for my old 8GB iPhone 3G two years after I bought it.

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FIA

erm

Just for comparison, a 16GB Samsung Galaxy S was £470 if bought SIM free. (About 2 months ago when I got my iPhone).

People often don't realize what these things actually cost. :)

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My Money is on...

An Apple contract service which would work on all carrier networks...

This would be another customer tie in (more golden chains! bling bling) and could result in one monthly bill for service, apps and itunes bills etc.

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This could benefit more than just iPhone users

This addresses a big issue for a number of users, namely the crippling data charges when roaming. By simplifying the process of switching to a different carrier when overseas and, therefore, benefit from more favourable rates.

This in turn could put pressure on providers to reduce roaming data charges, which would be nice.

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Sorry, (almost) all wrong I think

This is all about Apple closing various loopholes - they control the SIM which mean they can control who you connect to. You can't do anything that Apple doesn't approve of. It means Apple can do deals with operators, and operators can easily enforce only using iPhoneys on certain tariffs - being able to prevent you using one on their cheapest tariffs is likely to be attractive to the networks.

Also, even if that doesn't stop you, for me there's the practical issue that I can't take the SIM out of my phone and put it in something else. At the moment, when I want internet on my laptop I put my SIM in a 3G dongle - does the iPhoney do tethering and data sharing ? Another situation I had recently was when I needed to do some work on the roof - and as I didn't want to risk dropping my expensive phone and killing it, I put the SIM in an old phone for the duration (I did need to take a phone as I needed to be able to phone down to the office so someone could check if the wireless kit was working)

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Apple control

It squarely puts Apple into an MVNO status. They make the deals with the carriers and they can move their users from network to network based upon which network they make the most money on. So one day a user might have excellent coverage and the next day, not so good.

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Boffin

Multi-sim support

What would be really useful for me, and I suspect a lot of others, would be the ability to essentially have two SIMs in the same phone and receive calls on each plus make calls on whichever is appropriate. I have to carry a cruddy work mobile where the SIM is not data enabled and that's what stops me buying a smartphone of any type. If I could have one device that supported my work number and a personal number, allowing me to use the personal for data and personal calls and the work one for work-related calls I'd be on it like a shot. I know you can buy dodgy Chinese phones that support two SIMs and you can get adaptors to hack two SIMs into one, but I'm amazed that none of the major suppliers support this out of the box - if Apple's magic SIM gave me a way to do this I'd buy today.

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Would be great

I've been desperate for a decent phone with multi-sim support for ages as I have an Irish and a UK number; there are a few winmo phones that do it (its a popular option in Asia) but nothing from the "quality" smartphone market. The other problem is that smartphones are generally battery hogs, and dual SIM would make that even worse.

I'd guess Apple would be just about the last manufacturer to consider this option as they'd rather there were no external ports, plugs or slots at all.

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Just how much of a market is there?

I was a very satisfied Orange 'Line Two' user for many years as it gave me exactly what you're looking for: a simple means of separating Business and Personal numbers (Diverts, Bills etc.). With both lines active even 'Call Waiting' worked between them if needed.) It was only since my employer changed from Orange to O2 that I've had to join the masses and carry two phones around.

Ideally of course one could actually use two SIMs as you describe, giving flexibility between networks; I can only assume that 'reputable' handset makers are too cowed by the operators to allow this as I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd be prepared to pay a premium for the convenience of only carrying one phone.

Nokia are at least dipping their toe into the market with C1-00 ( http://www.gsmarena.com/nokia_c1_00-review-517.php ) but not only is this not a SmartPhone, more important is the following: "Only one SIM card is active at a time".

I find it quite frustrating as I know the technology is available, I'm sure there's a market and I have the readies waiting...

(Apparently Line Two is actually part of the GSM standard but only Orange ever implemented it.)

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Roaming.

I would expect the whole reason for this is down to Roaming and especially Data Roaming.

Smartphones require a data connection to operate effectively. From e-mail to calendar, navigation and data exchange. Works great on your home network - even the measly 500MB given for many smartphones in the UK is enough for general smartphone use (i.e. not watching video, downloading CDs, tethering etc). You become accustomed to the always online experience.

However, you travel abroad and suddently your phone stops being smart. You disable data and only attempt to surf when you get WiFi. All due to costs.

Orange for exampe: UK 500MB = £5 : Europe 1MB = £3!

That's 30,000% more

There are some special deals but these only save about a £1 and have restrictions that may make you spend more.

Text messages can also be 500% more as well as calls costing 600% more (although often massively more due to phone plans)

So as any long term traveller knows, you just buy a PAYG SIM (for your unlocked phone) in the country you are visiting. You are then back to quite low rates for very little outlay.

This Apple deal seems like you wouldn't have to do any of this. You will always pay the low carrier local rate with Apple/Gemalto taking a service charge and redirecting your calls to your new SIM. Maybe it could even be extended to in-country roaming which might be very useful in America where you could use any network if your home network loses signal (similar to the Orange/T-mobile deal in the UK). Good news all round.

So this would now allow you to use a smartphone as a smartphone wherever you are without racking up multi-thousand pound bills.

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Or...

Exactly what you're talking about except you're locked onto your home network with no option to change. And no ability to put a different SIM in. Expensive roaming, here we come.

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Jobs Horns

Jobs: Just a closer walk with Me

Knowing Jobs it is to put the hackers out of business so all phones have to be activated for use on approved carriers. No more jail breaking.

Jobs is about control, not customer convenience.

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Err CDMA?

Isn't this just a CDMA phone for Verizon?

CDMA carriers in the US don't use a R-UIM (the CDMA equivalent of a SIM/USIM).

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@Nick22

"Removes the reason to jailbreak"

Disagree, people jailbreak them to get the functionality and personalisation features that Apple don't want you to have, certainly thats the main reason that I hear/see cited for doing so.

I agree on the fact this is a software configurable SIM though.

I don't think the average punter would want such a feature. Ok so if you switch networks you press a few buttons, rather than swapping a sim card, big deal, its not like its something you do every day is it. So, it must be easier for the carriers then, i.e. no benefit to the punter at all.

Apple aren't doing this for fun, they are doing this to make money, assuming that the carriers are not losing out that means the punter is going to end up paying more.

Probably charging you to "re-program" the SIM to switch networks, which of course there will be a charge.

Sounds like Steve is a) money grabbing and b) trying to control the punters even more.

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Black Helicopters

@Mark 179

I think he's just trying to make it all self contained. No removable battery, no removable storage, and now no removable SIM. In five years time all phones will be implants, but you won't be able to remove the Apple branded one...:P

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Surely....

... this would be a risk as integrated SIMs like this would have to be programmable by the device to set up the relevant phone number for your chosen operator(s)? One clever hacker and you've got a device that can be easily reprogrammed to any number and operator.and disable as required.

Or maybe they are thinking the SIM would be set to one number & operator but able to roam onto any network for reception purposes. In Europe this kind of misses the boat as a lot of operators are already merging networks now making this kind of technical solution redundant.

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Multi-SIM simultaneously

You can get phones that take two sims and connect to 2 networks simultaneously, but the networks here don't like them (obviously!)

If the iPhone could do this, so I can have a single phone with both my UK number and Spanish number then I would buy one at the drop of a hat.

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Bod
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Orange

Orange UK have had support for two lines on one SIM for a long time. Maybe other have too, I don't know.

I've never used it as they both have to be Orange lines, and my only need is to have different operators, and that really is only for reception purposes.

And as I mentioned earlier, this goes away soon as many operators are merging their networks. Currently there are interim measures allowing you to roam networks (Orange & T-Mobile are doing an opt in roaming now, though they are both one company now anyway and will from next year merge the networks completely).

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Boffin

Dumb, dumb and dumber

The whole reason the SIM card model evolved was to allow easy transference of the users account if the phone breaks or is upgraded. Going backwards to a "welding in SIM card", which is what this would be doing, makes what would normally be something anyone can do in seconds into a hassle taking a lot of effort on the part of everyone involved.

Buying an iPhone is like buying a car whose hood is welded shut, has a governor on it so you can only drive as fast as the car maker allows, can only use fuel purchased from the car dealer, and that can only run on special tracks owned by the car dealer. Who would put up with that? iPhone users do every day, which is why I dumped my iPhone.

At one time, Apple exhorted its customers to "think differently". Today, it's "think only what we allow you to think".

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We are talking about Apple

When has Apple done anything that was really for the user? They say what apps can be installed, have rejected quite a few. You have to jailbreak it to get what others phones support by default. It is all about Apple and not the consumer. So why should they care about the SIM. In the US, you needed an iPhoney SIM anyway for the phone to operate properly.

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I thought

a removable sim was an integral part of the GSM standard? I seem to recall some companies even started gluing them in, as they were technically still removable.

I can't see any user benefit to these, it's another way for apple and the networks to control things. Currently, the phone and sim are completely independent, you can use any sim in any phone, subject to some network restrictions, but any o2 sim will work in any o2 phone, for example. This extends that, suddenly you can't just put a sim in, you have to have the phone transferred to another contract in some way.

How long before we get "I'm sorry sir, we can't transfer your phone to that contract as it appears to be registered under a different name" to stop the trade in second hand phones?

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Some benefits, but weary of Apple's grand plans

From a telco perspective - this could reduce cost through lower SIM distribution costs and a reduction in box breaking (ie a handset is sold with a SIM included, handset gets shipped overseas, SIM goes in the bin).

From a users perspective, assuming all networks were made available greater selection could result in improved price transparency and greater competition as lesser known mobile operators like giffgaff.com would be able to be included in the list. Also as InITForTheMoney mentioned perhaps some protection if the device is lost/stolen.

Regarding roaming/ switching to get best deals - it will be interesting to see their plans to tackle number portability. However if the plans to have porting within 2 hours comes into play, it might not be such a hassle to switch?

It would certainly change the 'affiliate'/ SIM distributors business models.

I'm on the fence - can see the benefits for the consumer, but equally I'm weary - surely Apple has their eye on revenue share options.

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FAIL

"permit a user to swap at will between cellular networks"

Bullsh1t!!!

- The fact that this can already be done - its called number portability (and their are reasons it cannot be done at will)

- That this is not needed to allow you to roam on a local operator (They are the ones who are choosing to treat you like an inbound roamer or a local user - and some offer you the ability while roaming to actually buy a local prepaid balance to use while roaming already with yoour current SIM!)

- The above are defined by a standards body for network equipment interoperability and often national standards bodies (e.g. controlling number ranges and ported numbers)

- That increasingly operators are globally being held responsible to know who their subscribers (even prepaid) are (think equivalent to bank account address verification)

For this to happen will require:

- the standard bodies like 3GPP to change their specifications for registering and authorisation of a SIm into a network + roaming support

- the equipment vendors (including Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola, ZTE who all compete with Apple) to support these changes and be prepared to change their equipment

- the operators to pay for the changed equipment

- the operators to change their own processes for subscriber activation, number portability and roaming

- the operators (and software vendors) to pay for provisioning, inventory and number management systems to be changed

... and all for Apple? Yeah right!

It aint going to happen unless the industry wants it to ... it is going to cost operators and equipment vendors BIG bucks to do and it is not in their interests. Maybe (maybe) embed a SIM, but anytthign more is fantasy.

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Not iPhone

Seems more likely to roll this out into the 2nd Gen iPad.

Then I can buy my data in pre-defined bundles from any network.

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Low Tech Alternative

Push a matchstick in the hole and replace your SIM card with another one...

Cost - FREE!

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From experience with CDMA....

...I'd really fight this. I'm sick of having to call a busy toll-free number or log into a slow, unfriendly website and read off a 12 - 20 digit ESN in order to swap a number to a different handset. Add to that the website will half of the time respond telling you that you can't swap from THAT handset to THIS handset because one or the other supports different features, forcing you to call the toll-free line and wait on hold for 20 minutes.

Removable SIMs are far superior to ESN numbers

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