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back to article Apple applies to patent a SIM you can't remove

Apple has been filed a US patent application on an embedded SIM capable of switching between mobile network operators under command from Cupertino, assuming the operators comply. The patent places an embedded SIM within the secure element which one would expect to see managing electronic payments, which is why it was spotted by …

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Stop

Sounds awfully like an accident waiting to happen

It's back to the 80's folks. Welcome to the world of cloned phones and goodbye to your (electronic) cash.

Considering the phones will undoubtedly be made in some country where the data protection is somewhat more lax, I would expect there to be a certain leakage.

Oh dear!

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Wot he said!

GSM communications have remained remarkably secure since their introduction when you consider just how many of us are rabbiting on the things and the physical aspect of the security model - the SIM card - has played no small part in this. Giving Apple the secrets is tantamount to giving them to all government agencies and the mafia/triads/yakuza.

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Anonymous Coward

Secure?!? You must be joking..

Since 9/11, phone manufacturers have been blackmailed into leaving out an important feature which is supposed to be part of the GSM standard: the phone reporting that it has switched to unencrypted mode. The result is that it costs less than $1000 to build a fake base station using OpenBTS (the cost is the software radio you need) that will happily record all conversations in the vicinity, provided it has been fitted with enough of a trunk to route the calls it picks up.

To pick up SMS only is even easier: it takes a couple of hacked Motorolas and you're in business.

Don't think your mobile calls are in any way, shape or form secure. They almost trivial to intercept unless you take counter measures (various good ones available now - I do this for a living :-) ).

However, look a bit beyond the one-provider model. Apple would be in a position to offer a dual/triple/n-SIM capable which could nuke your travel phone bill, aka the reason the phone company still makes absolute buckets of money.

Let me predict what Apple's next move will be: they will provide you with a global phone number.

You heard it here first.

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Er, my 2007 SonyEriccson W300i handset did report it was in unencrypted mode when I tried to call under such mode. Which handsets axed that reporting?

We can manage to use PAYG sims on our phones w/o problem. Giving away the GSM SIM smartcard is just plain stupid.

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Anonymous Coward

Trust me, they can hear pretty much everything if they want

People should know and realize that Intercepting communications of any format is trivial to people who have the right training, like what they do at Corry Station. Any Army 35S or 35P, Navy CTR or CTI, or Air Force 1N2X1 or 1N4X1 can breach any type of perceived "security" extremely quickly. These people are extremely good at what they do.

The jobs that actually do interception and the units that do interception can see, hear, and interpret pretty much any signal you emanate, from a 800Mhz "walkie talkie" type radio like the Taliban and Haqqani use (the Police in North America and Europe usually use the same infrastructure, Motorola and Harris make a killing in that market) to a very high end SHF satellite.

They can also intercept every packet your computer, phone, and router emanate. They usually listen upstream, as was evidenced in what AT&T was doing at 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco in Room 641A.

My point here is that you are not secure, if they want to listen to you they can and they will.

They hear SW like the numbers stations and such but thats mostly HUMINT craziness and DIA and CIA are interested in that stuff. Usually they're orders for operatives. Russians do it all over the place, the Chinese do it at all of the National Labs here in the US (the Yosimite Sam signal's transmitted just South of Albuquerque, we do it in the Middle East from Cyprus.

The point is, don't think they can't listen to you if they want to. Don't make them want to, and you're straight. And if you work with them at any point in your life, assume they're always listening to you.

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I sure hope so..

.. otherwise I'd been saying all these fun things for nothing :-).

The thing is, I'm on the side of the interceptor if he/she/it is there for a legitimate reason. I hate getting blown up as much as the next man, but the issue is that they're not just limiting themselves to what people have democratically agreed to allow to protect society.

This creates two problems: distrust of those that should be busy with protection (you know, the job we pay them for) which doesn't help them either, and diversion of resources from where they *should* be.

I would mind them listening to me because I know they are thus wasting their time.

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Stop

apple pressie to the telcos

+100 The telcos will be delighted, they'll roll over and have their tummies rubbed by the the pomme. Never mind the bull we'll get about competitive pricing, thus a license to print money. Barry, France

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FAIL

I already have a global phone number. +44 114 281 xxxx.

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"The thing is, I'm on the side of the interceptor if he/she/it is there for a legitimate reason. "

The problem is, of course, that the interceptor always thinks they have a legitimate reason. Just as the police only arrest people they think are guilty (wel..., you know what I mean) and think a trial is a waste of time and money.

Politicians who rail against red-tape and regulations on what the security forces do should remember that we generally started with no rules back in the 19th century and added the rules when it became clear what went wrong without them.

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Pirate

Shirley

No-one in their right mind would buy into such a lock-in?

Oh - Apple you said - point taken.

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FAIL

I'm sorry ...

The embedded SIM would be preloaded with gateway credentials for all operators. Please could illustrate where the lock-in is? Oh, silly me: it's Apple, I see what you did there.

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embedded sim would probably only be loaded with operators for your country, meaning if you move abroad (or travel a lot) you would have to have multiple phones or rely on roaming.

of course it will wipe out the "unlocked" phone option too (yes you can use your phone on a different network, but I bet you will have to pay apple to switch it over)

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@Flashy Red

"All operators"? Or all *Apple Approved* operators? And don't forget that you will need to get the operators to *agree* to let you switch...

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This is good, in a way.

If only Apple can use the embedded SIM the Telco's will still have to supply SIMs for the rest of us with proper phones. It would have been worse if they had not patented this.

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Anonymous Coward

Can't remove the batteries... the SIM...

...what next? Audio from the speakers?

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On-off switch?

The next version of the Iphone is probably named HAL - "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't let you do that".

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Trollface

2001: A Space Odyssey

Must have been Jobs' favourite film - Looks like he got a few of his ideas from it.

iPad

Walled Garden - ""I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't let you do that"

I'm sure others can add more :)

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Anonymous Coward

Dang...

When I saw the title my first thought was that Apple had somehow patented 'Methods for removing and inserting SIMs from/ into mobile devices'.

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Patent?

How can anyone patent "two existing things without the plug and socket between them"?

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Joke

Yes, but at least that is less obvious than making a flat thing with rounded corners :p

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Facepalm

Its a little more than that, though still quite obvious

The super-SIM is actually simply a collection of other SIMs with a means to switch between them, or more simply implemented, the same crypto hardware with a bank of registers for the multiple secret keys.

The problem for Apple is that in order to get it into the GSM standard they will have to submit their patent into the GSM pool, and all other manufacturers will be allowed to use it as part of the GSM standard. No opportunity here for extortion, or spankies? Are Apple starting to grow-up, a bit?

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I really hope this doesn't happen...

...I like the fact that I can change my SIMs easily between several UK ones and even use my phone with a PAYG SIM when I'm abroad. Having to attach the phone to a PC with software to do this will make it impractical. No longer can I get a throw away SIM when I'm abroad. I really hope the GSM standard throws this out and it doesn't take off.

I hardly think a removable SIM card adds bulk and weight to a handset (especially a Micro SIM). If a Micro SIM is still deemed to add bulk then surely designing a new and better removable SIM is the solution. This doesn't necessarily mean make the SIM smaller (there's a certain practical limit with how small a removable SIM could go; something the size of a Micro SD card is about as small as you can go while still being somewhat practical to hold and insert). May be a new design allows the holder and supporting stuff in a phone to be a lot smaller. There are many clever people in this world who are able to solve this problem.

However, boo to Apple for trying to make this standard.

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Happy

"However, boo to Apple for trying to make this standard."

Don't you mean: "Hurrah to Apple for patenting this, ensuring that nobody else can do it and thus ensuring it can never become a standard?"

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Anonymous Coward

@technohead95

Going abroad and changing SIM? What is this weird and slightly suspicious behaviour you speak of?

Going abroad, I've never heard of anything so daft... That's almost as stupid as wanting to send SMS messages to groups, or picture messages.

Kind regards,

Zack Wanker

CEO Apple xenophobic design division.

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If sim's end up being a few bytes rather than a physical device containing a few bytes then it'll be even easier to switch sims.

If the device making designs a utility where you can virtually slide in a different virtual sim...

..which they probably wont.

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Limited market

I can see an appeal for embedded SIMs for a few people. Mostly to those that never go anywhere.

I'm much more interested in a dual-SIM smart phone - which will piss the operators off just as much, I suppose. But that's where I see value. Shame that they're mostly only available in Aisa or through dodgy Ebay peddlers. And an even bigger shame that there are no dual-SIM iOS, Android or WP7 phones.

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Mushroom

@AC 16:02

While you may have meant your comment as a snipe at crApple, it's probably closer to the truth than you think. Remember that a significant number of 'merkins do own a passport.

Most 'merkins don't see a need to visit a foreign country unless they are either 1) invading it, or 2) bombing it.

icon: 'merkin view of foreign countries.

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Dual SIm Android

There is a dual sim android from Viewsonic - V350 - but it seems underpowered for what it has to do!

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Anonymous Coward

@Field Marshal Von Krakenfart:

The established sequence is actually 2 (bombing) followed by 1 (invading). And preferably countries with an easy name, although that need seems to have parted along with the last president, hence Afghanistan..

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Anonymous Coward

"Most 'merkins don't see a need to visit a foreign country unless they are either 1) invading it, or 2) bombing it."

Well, maybe if we could leave the country without being raped by airport security.

I've been against the U.S. government's homicidal and criminal behavior in other countries all along, not that it's had much effect.

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Apple will soon be history...

... android is making the iPhone (iPad, iEverything-else,,,) less of a must-have device. So they will have to invent something else. And didn't you hear, that dude (jobsworth) who did all the inventing died recently.

Companies run by personalities don't last forever.

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FAIL

Typo!!!

Should read: "Remember that a significant number of 'merkins do NOT own a passport."

Icon - mine

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@Colin Millar

Ah, calling Apple users idiots is the new "M$", for the fine honed sense of humour.

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"That's very annoying to Apple, which sees network operators as an irritating speed bump between them and their customers"

So why don't Apple just buy Vodafone. They've got about half the required money in the bank. Just think of the customer opportunities that would represent.

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Yeah

Instead of being a brand that tries to represent "only the best" they could run Vodafail...

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What, and be subject to regulation?

Do you have any idea of the amount of regulation telcos are buried under to try and stop them ripping off people (which still happens regardless)? Do you really think that Apple would allow anyone to curtail them?

Besides, buying Vodafone gives them just a segment, and competition to manage. Staying out of that game means they can take money from all of them..

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Remove choice from your consumers; and funnel those choices through your company = profit

For myself, I didn't like their opening moves and am definitely not playing now.

I like the 'it just works' ethos...that's what technology should be aiming towards. But not at that price.

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Undecided...

Not sure how the read this. On one hand you have a possible cost saving for the telecoms bods as they don't need all the production/packaging/shipping of SIM cards but on the other hand you just know that within a short space of time Apple will not only be getting all the customer info but as this goes through iTunes there will be a 'purely administrative' fee to change providers.

You have to be impressed at how the wonderful Patent Office has once again signed off on something which would struggle to be called progress and at the same time introduces security risks and is illegal in a number of countries. You couldn't make it up (although a surprising number of patent applications seem to).

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Anonymous Coward

but we didn't expect Apple to patent the idea too.

Why ever not? Business rule #1 patent everything. If apple knew you were partial to wearing odd socks they'd patent that too..

Perhaps the cr (of crapple) can now be replaced with a tr (from troll). #ItsATrap(ple)

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Unhappy

Only one beneificary...

Customers won't win, because they're locked into whatever contract they agree with Apple and no option to change.

Cell networks won't win because Apple can hold them to ransom for the chance to be able to sell their shiny wares.

Apple win because they hold all of the aces.

Lets hope it takes off like the MicroSIMs. :/

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Coat

Don't forget the First Rule of 21st Century American Business:

You are not the customer.

You are the product.

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Customers can benefit

From near instantaneous network changes.

Want to move from Orange to o2? Load iTunes; click "Change Network"; choose tariff or PAYG; Wait up to 24hrs; job done.

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Happy

You are, surely, jesting!

No consumer will benefit from this.

I have a GSM unlocked phone. Want to change operator? Ok.

1) Go to the nearest newstand.

2) Buy a SIM card of your choice

3) Change SIMs

4) Type in Your CPF (your registering number for taxes in Brazil), to tie the line to you

5) Done! About... 10 minutes?

Now, while You wait your 24 hours, excuse me. I have a call to make.

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@ Marcello

That time frame only applies in the UK if:

1) You buy an already active PAYG sim card - I know in Australia these tend not to be active.

2) you have no wish to keep your old number.

In practice activating a non active sim card usually takes about 10 mins as you suggest, but the official timescale you'll be given if you call one of the major mobile operators is 24hrs.

So the 24hrs I quoted could like your example be done in 10 mins (assuming no wish to keep same number).

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Go

I've had lots of SIM's, in all shapes and sizes

To fit the countless phones I've owned on various networks over the years. The only thing I've kept over the decades is my phone number, and some people dont seem to care about keeping even that.

Call me an idealist, but I always thought the future would be about signing in to a different phone and my number and stuff would be waiting for me, rather than fucking around with ever smaller bits of plastic.

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> Call me an idealist, but I always thought the future would be about signing in to a different phone and my number and stuff would be waiting for me, rather than fucking around with ever smaller bits of plastic

You mean like a Skype account?

(or Google Talk, or whatever messaging service floats your boat)

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Facepalm

Did you hear that noise?

Just as you typed "Call me an idealist, but I always thought the future would be about signing in to a different phone and my number and stuff would be waiting for me, rather than fucking around with ever smaller bits of plastic." there was a pitter patter of tiny feet. I think it was someone from Apple scampering down to the patent office...

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Anonymous Coward

Lovely. Ear infection anyone?

No thanks, I'll keep my bit of plastic. I know its mine and where its been.

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@Obviously!

"Bodies?" said the Captain again.

Ford licked his lips.

"Yes," he said, "All those dead telephone sanitizers and account executives, you know, down in the hold."

The Captain stared at him. Suddenly he threw back his head and laughed.

"Oh they're not dead," he said, "Good Lord no, no they're frozen. They're going to be revived."

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@McWibble

Well Skype won't do, mobile data networks are still way to flakey to rely on. I'd love to have google voice here in the UK, but even that is still going to require a SIM that before you know it will be so small youll need tweezers to install it.

Talk of the devil, this just in: http://www.gi-de.com/en/about_g_d/press/press_releases/G%26D-Presents-World’s-First-Nano-SIM-Card-g17024.jsp

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